Abhishansa Mathur, in conversation with Raghav Gupta from The Rug Republic on taking his generation-old B2B Rug business to B2C E-Com!
What started in 1983 as a handcrafted carpet manufacturing unit in Meerut has now expanded to become an e-commerce floor fashion brand exporting to around 85 countries across 6 continents. The Rug Republic was founded in 2013 by Mr. Aditya Gupta, taking his family-owned small set up, Sharda Exports to a well-known brand. Mr. Raghav Gupta joined the business last year as a Director of e-commerce and we were in talks with him to explore the know-how of The Rug Republic and his vision on expanding their B2B business to an e-commerce B2C one.
Can you tell us something about you?
I hail from Meerut and have now been living in Delhi for ten years. I studied Mathematics from the UCLA and joined our family-owned business last year and since then heading the e-commerce wing of The Rug Republic. Apart from that, I love adventure activities, cooking, and playing chess and poker.
Please share the What, When, & How of The Rug Republic?
Our parent brand Studio Sharda was established in 1983 and was a pioneer in the Floor Fashion segment in terms of export. However, in 2013, we came with the idea of The Rug Republic. The main intention of the brand was to enable the smaller retailers to hold our goods because we did away with minimum order quantities per product, and, instead went on with the model of the minimum invoice value. So now the retailers dont have to buy 50 pieces of one design, they opt for one piece each of 50 designs. We also started keeping stock which allowed us to do quicker deliveries across the world. Now, we have active clients in 92 countries over 500,000 homes have our products.
Can you walk us through your journey so far?
We come up with a new collection every year, and every year we try to focus more on sustainability and innovation, not only in terms of design but also in terms of manufacturing. We always try to use most of the recycled materials. So, our journey is very much focused on sustainability and dedicated to making the world, a better place, along with making it the most beautiful place with our carpets.
Since I have joined, i am focusing on building and driving e-commerce for our brand. And it is a great time to get online. I feel e-commerce has had a growth of 10 years in just 1 and a half years because of the lockdown.
In fact, for any brand, it is the next logical step.
How are you taking your generation-old business ahead? Ideas/things you are carrying forward and things you changed or added after joining The Rug Republic?
I am focusing more on B2C. So, a lot of new things have been added. For example, social media is one such thing that I am focusing on for the business. What I have taken from the generation is the design ethos like “to sell only the handmade goods” and we never want to change that. We have always and will keep respecting Indian handicrafts.
What are some challenges that you faced while running The Rug Republic?
The major challenges are faced by the production and the shipping team. As it is very difficult to send out a container of good versus just one good. There are problems that we face in terms of process, timeline, invoicing, etc, but we try to overcome them. There are challenges every now and then, and we work on them. These are some challenges that have not changed but worked on them to add a dimension to the business.
Give us some background on your sourcing of materials and manufacturing of the final product?
Our materials are sourced from various places like wool from New Zealand and even some from Bikaner. Recycled denim materials are sourced from South Korea, the UK, and America, recycled saree silk from central India. We always look for the most sustainable materials, and now also focusing on sourcing from a lot of recycled plastic bottles. We buy the fiber which is made from the bottles and make it yarns and then into rugs. Most of the manufacturing takes place in the Meerut factory and also in UP belts like Varanasi, Mirzapur, etc.
Would you mind sharing The Rug Republic’s milestones to date?
A few years ago we entered the 6th continent, which was South America, so we are finally in all the continents and it’s a big deal for us. We are a part of 500,000 fashionable homes which is no less than a milestone. Recently, we also started B2C operations so that people can directly buy from us could also be another “marker stone” in our journey, if not a milestone.
How is working in the family(with your father)? How do find a balance working within the family?
I think it’s very important to make separate time for family. Both, my father and I try to not take our work back home. We also have an understanding in taking decisions where I take advice from my father but also don’t hesitate to back my own decisions. My father also has this notion to suggest but also trusts the decisions which I take firmly. Even when there is a gap in our generations, we tend to reach a common point for our decisions. So, we always try to find a balance.
What according to you makes The Rug Republic stand out amongst other brands?
Our design philosophy is very different and I would say it is “evolved”. Also, the fact that, unlike other brands, we make pure handicraft products, and that stands us apart. Our process sticks to Indian handicrafts and handmade but our designs are evolved from around the world, which is very rare. Most people who produce handmade products stick to the Indian looks and then, some people are very designed forward but don’t make handmade products. So, I think, we are a great combination of quality craftsmanship and evolved designs. So, we are not just a carpet manufacturer but a design house.
How are you using Social Media to promote your homegrown brand?
In today’s time, there is no B2C business without social media presence. So, we work very hard for our Instagram feed, and our Instagram promotion, along with using Facebook. Unlike many brands, who try to make a very pretty social media feed, I want to want to create a useful social media feed. The reason she that if someone comes to our feed, they get to learn a new experience and a new way of thinking about home decor. We have also included various conversations on our feed featuring me or my father talking about the right choices that customers should take. The aim is not to just place one product after the other on social media but to also tell people about how they should choose a product, in terms of colour, material, size, etc. It’s more on how your space will look after you pick your rug, and your cushions to bring out your style so that it all comes together in a symphony.
What is your 5-year plan for The Rug Republic?
We are getting more serious about our E-commerce operations in Europe, along with advertising and stock keeping. So, the plan is to expand it in Europe and India for the next 5 years through our e-commerce and then, take it to the rest of the world. And meanwhile, move towards making more goods from the recycled products.
Can you share your business model with us?
The recent segment is B2C which we have just begun through our e-commerce and is a very small fraction of our business right now but it is expanding with every passing month. And we are hoping for a quantum shift and hoping to have an equal share of both B2C and export over the next 5-7 years. Currently, we have our showroom in Delhi which is not open to B2C customers. We operate through our website, have a flagship office in Okhla and our head office is in Meerut, along with our factory.
One advice/suggestion you’d like to give aspiring entrepreneurs out there.
I would say that it is very important to discuss your ideas with so many people. Once you share the ideas, you get to understand even more. The second thing is to work on that idea. A lot of people do not work hard on their ideas which is why they fail. So, don’t feel complex in sharing your ideas and work hard on them.
If you are looking out to buy from The Rug Republic, check out their collection made out of recycled plastic bottles.