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Monday, April 15, 2024

Meet the couple that empowers 10,000 artisans with Rs 27cr handicrafts business

Nitin and Jia Pamnani founded i Tokri to market handicrafts made by rural Indian craftsmen. Nitin wished to assist craftsmen by providing a venue for them to market their wares.

Nitin Pamnani  and his wife Jia returned to Gwalior in 2011 after more than a decade in Delhi, where he completed his degree and subsequently worked as a documentary filmmaker.

In Gwalior, the young couple, who had only been married for around four years, began researching business prospects and finally decided to open an internet store selling handcrafted products sourced from craftsmen all throughout India. The pair founded iTokri in 2012 with only four employees using a piece of Nitin’s father’s rice mill.

Nitin put Rs 20 lakh into the venture. Presently, iTokri employs over 10,000 craftsmen in approximately 500 artisan clusters across the country and has a revenue of Rs 27 crore in FY 2021-22.

Hand painted toys from Banaras, dhokra metal work and ikat weave from Odisha, hand painted toys and saris from Banaras, chikankari bags and kurtis from Lucknow, bhujodi weaving dupattas from Kutch, Bengal patachitra paintings, and suits and dupattas of phulkari embroidery from Punjab are among the other products.

The lowest item on iTokri is a Banaras hand painted pencil for Rs 30, while the most costly one is an Ikat silk sari for Rs 40,000.

Nitin considers iTokri to be more satisfying than his profession as a filmmaker. One of the key reasons for launching iTokri was the possibility it provided artists to sell their items and earn money, and that aim has finally been met.

Nitin adds that their business strategy is entirely procurement-based, which means that all of the things featured on their website have already been acquired and stored in their warehouse. The product is procured and delivered to the client after the order is received. On their website, iTokri lists 80,000 goods.

They have everything from apparel to home décor, jewellery, printed suit fabrics, purses, dupattas, neck-pieces, pillow covers, saris, stoles, antiquities, and a freshly introduced ready-to-wear clothing brand. They began in two rooms of his father’s rice mill and have now expanded to a 15,000 square foot warehouse in the same location. Currently, their products are being exported to various counties.

When a couple discussed their company concept, it was met with scepticism. Yet Nitin and Jia were well aware of what they were doing. Nevertheless, with 2012 being the early days of ecommerce in India and Gwalior missing the amenities of big towns, the couple faced huge obstacles. By 2015, iTokri had formed a partnership with Blue Dart and offered COD. They now also ship to communities.

Nitin and Jia share the company’s duties. The pair claims that while they disagree on business problems, they harness each other’s abilities to help the firm develop.

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