Social commerce is going big. The trend of customers buying after seeing a recommendation from a friend or colleague is increasing. And it makes perfect sense. Because for generations we have bought things once we hear about it from someone we trust. Word of mouth is the greatest asset any brand can have and in this quest of generating the word of mouth for a brand, Yes!poho is making rapid strides. Yes!poho is a social engagement platform where you can connect directly with the artisans of India. It’s technology based and you get access to a market you have never seen before.
Bangalore Insider got a chance to have a conversation with the founder Raghuram Kuchibhatla regarding Yes!poho. Here are the excerpts of the interview
Give a brief info about Yes!poho?
Yes!poho is a social engagement platform connecting India’s artisans directly with customers using Technology. The platform allows the customers to create and customize their own products based on their individual taste and preferences and also directly engage with artisans. We are a social platform aimed at improving artisans’ life through the use of technology and increased market access.
What made you start your company and what problem does it solve?
Yes!poho was launched in Oct 2017. After completing my bachelors in Engineering from Dindigul, I went to US for my Masters in EE. During my working tenure, I had initiated several startups and one such is commodity/Contract trading platform. This is around 2011, while presenting this product to several small to midsize companies, farmers traders in US, South America, I happened to give a demo to my Engineering college friend who hails from a weaving community. My intent was to onboard him for his raw material (Silk) purchases. Post the product presentation, he asked me to visit him in Walajapet, near Kanchipuram. During my subsequent trip to India, after meeting him, I happened to visit all the weaving villages in and around Kanchipuram, walajapet, Salem, Dindigul. I learnt that there is a much deeper and more common problem going on in the artisan community. At the same time, on my way back, we decided to shop a saree for family members, and that shopping experience was not great – we spent several hours in traffic going from the store. At around the same time, my cofounder, Meenakshi, was shopping for her family wedding and her shopping experience was not great either.
Both these incidences opened up an entirely new perspective where on one end customers are not satisfied, and at the same time artisan community on the other end is on the verge of extinction.
The real question is why are customers not satisfied?? And why is the artisan community on the verge of extinct inspite of all government programs, 100s of retail stores and ecommerce companies?
This is when we started to work on addressing the current problem and founded Yes!poho. Yes!poho is derived from Spanish word “Espojo”, which means mirror. The word is transformed for easy pronunciation and it means “Yes! I look good in front of the mirror”
Tell us about yourself, your previous jobs/ventures? What were you doing before this startup?
Prior to the launch of Yes!poho, I had initiated and successfully closed several startups. I worked at various financial and Agri businesses as well as startup firms which gave me extensive experience not only in management; but also provided insights into how to run startups. All of my work experience comes from the US.
My co-founder, on the other hand, worked for several small businesses and managed operations and aspects which helped her gain knowledge on operations.
Where is your company based? Why do you think that is the best place for you?
Our company is based out of Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. However, due to resource talent,we relocated to Hyderabad and presently we run all operations from Hyderabad.
As a startup founder, what are you paranoid about? What keeps you awake at night?
Global pandemic has taught us how to be agile and pivot the business and to keep it moving and growing. No matter how well we plan, our present conditions are not something we anticipated in any planning and that is what keeps us and our management team awake at night. During 2nd wave of the Pandemic, we lost serval artisans and their families due to lack of proper medical facilities and awareness within the artisanal communities. We had to pivot our business and our priorities shifted to take care of artisans and focus on their wellbeing.
Who are your competitors and how are you better than them?
We are a social engagement platform and we face competition from small retail stores to ecommerce and social commerce platforms. Our Value proposition stems from the use of technology to help artisans understand customer taste and preferences; provide a platform whereby artisans can engage and interact directly with customers and also allow for customers to create their own products.
How hard is it to have a work-life balance as a startup founder and how do you manage it?
I personally feel that everyone should balance work-life to increase efficiency and output. While founders normally spend anywhere between 60-100 hours per week, what is important is to be able to prioritize work and give oneself enough rest, both physically and mentally, so that we are charged up everyday to take on new challenges.
Have you raised funding? If yes, then we would like to know the details. If not then please tell us if you are looking to raise.
No. we are boot strapped and will be raising funds in the current financial year.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? Why do they have that? What’s the reality?
In the beginning, we were thought of as another ecommerce company and that is because of the way other ecommerce companies work. We are a social platform aimed at improving artisans’ life through the use of technology and increased market access. We work at the ground level to help improve the socio-economic conditions of artisans while at the same time use technology such as AI to understand customer taste and preferences and cater to the every changing customer trends.
What gets you excited about this company?
We are trying to address two core issues – how to improve artisans’ socio-economic conditions and improve their livelihood and at the same time provide a platform to understand customers’ ever-changing tastes and preferences. We believe that customers should get the right product that they truly deserve. Now I will Let you think back to the best gift you’ve ever given someone, a gift that was perfectly suited to the recipient, utterly responsive to what was to their personal taste. Now think of a gift you’ve given in the past that was one of a sheer obligation – “the Let’s stop and pickup something kind”. When opened that gift probably prompted an “Oh how nice,”, but where did it land up?
Landed up on the top shelf in a closet. There is one thing that essentially separates these two gifts: In the 1st case, it is the level of insight you have into the person and better the understanding the better outcome and the more likely the recipient is to think of you whenever he or she uses your gift. The same dynamics exist between us and our customers. The more insightful and understanding we are of them, the more we can deliver exactly what they want.
Tell us how a day in your life looks like? Your schedule for a day right from the time you get up till you hit the bed at night.
I start my day at 3:30 AM. 1st thing I do is meditate for a few minutes and by 4 AM, go outside for a nice 5-mile walk. I enjoy a freshly brewed South Indian style of filter coffee. Atleast 2 cups of Coffee I have before I leave for work. I leave for work at 7:30 AM (no traffic at that time) Once at work, we have a few Management and Business development calls followed by my daily routine of online meetings or face-to-face with our partners. I do leave work at 5 PM (it is a nightmare to drive in traffic, but that’s reality). Once home, have an early dinner and spend time with family talking and playing with kids. I do read atleast an hour to 2 hours every day before going to bed at 11 AM.
Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?
I met my co- founder Meenakshi Dubey, at an event and before we knew we started working together on Yes!poho as we share the same interests. I met another team member Mohammad Obaid via linked when we were looking for a CTO and he immediately joined the team. I also met Garvit Arora, who heads our marketing, via linkedin as well. Both Obaid and Garvit perfectly fit into the organization’s culture and the core team works together as a family.