The bootstrapped startup has served more than 2,850 customers since its inception and has a total of 70 SKUs across five product categories.
Besides, the startup has 15 B2B customers (resorts and designers) to whom Mittihub provides custom-made designs by leveraging the skills of its 50-artisan network.
Mittihub operates in an industry that is projected to reach $6.2 Bn by 2028
Back in 2021, business scholars Megha Joshi and Abhinav Agarwal could not have foreseen that their college project would eventually play a pivotal role in reviving and preserving the fading Indian terracotta industry. Years later, Joshi and Agarwal are now the cofounders of Mittihub. The startup specialises in making and selling a variety of terracotta products, including cookware, soap dispensers, decor, planters, tableware, exclusive decor items, and utensils, through its website.
In this process, the startup works with as many as 50 artisans, who meticulously handcraft these items. These products are then sold anywhere from INR 400 to INR 25K or above, ensuring that the hands that crafted them get the maximum monetary benefit.
For the uninitiated, terracotta holds cultural significance in India because it has been the medium for art since the Harappan civilization and has persisted for thousands of years. In this art form, artisans typically use rust-orange colour clay to create figurines, sculptures and other tangible items.
Now, coming back to the protagonists of our story, the duo started studying this space (majorly due to their interest) for their college project. As they were digging deeper to understand the scope of their project, a realisation struck them that a dearth of demand for terracotta products has the potential to make this space obsolete.
The deeper they dug, the more they could relate to the cause of preserving this art and the artisans who today are under the weight of saving this dying craft form and earning a livelihood from the same.
“These terracotta artisans in rural India carry double weight – as the custodians of the art form and creating a livelihood out of it. Consumerism has shifted to machine-made mass-produced goods, leaving behind uniquely crafted products,” Agarwal said.
The cofounders told Inc42 that after realising the situation of terracotta artisans, they knew what had to be done next, resulting in the incorporation of Mittihub.
According to the startup’s website, Mittihub is a ‘social venture’, which is trying to ‘bring in a change in the handicraft industry’ by ‘reviving the dying art form of pottery’.
Besides, the founders also started a pottery studio in 2022. Initially, they spread awareness among people about the efforts and time invested in crafting and creating each terracotta product. Soon, people started to join their cause.
“And this was just the start… Our studio soon became a therapeutic space for many who would join to discover craftsmanship in them, work on the pottery wheel and engage in creative tasks,” Agarwal said.
“Before we could realise, artisans associated with us were making 200% more than what they would generally make,” added Agarwal .
The bootstrapped startup has served more than 2,800 customers since its inception and has a total of 70 SKUs across five product categories. Besides, the startup has 15 B2B customers (resorts and designers) to whom it provides custom-made designs by leveraging the skills of its 50-artisan network.
These B2B customers aid in Mittihub’s brand exposure to their customers, furthermore helping in revenue generation.
According to Agarwal , the cofounders were not alone in their quest to save art and its custodians. They received constant support, mentorship and financial assistance under the Rajasthan government’s iStart initiative.
As a result, the startup was able to generate revenue to the tune of INR 30 Lakh in FY23. The founder duo is now aiming for a revenue of INR 70 Lakh in FY24, registering a growth of 133% year-on-year (YoY).
From A College Project To A Full-Fledged Business
The founders of Mittihub embarked on their entrepreneurial journey with a team of seven undergraduates, five artisans and an initial investment of INR 50K. However, as soon as they started, they discovered that there wasn’t much demand for these products.
To overcome this, the cofounders and their team planned a campaign to convince urban customers to buy terracotta products. As part of this, they started educating their target audience about the health benefits of using terracotta utensils, to start with.
Once they witnessed an uptick in the demand, another key issue was staring right at them. This challenge was related to 20% of goods getting damaged in transit, which was not only adding cost pressures but also impacting their goodwill in the market.
To resolve this, the Mittihub team soon pivoted to sourcing sustainable packaging, which helped the startup bring its damages under 1%.
Agarwal told Inc42 that since they started in 2021, Mittihub has strategically carved its market niche through unique marketing approaches. The duo conveys the artisans’ stories to emotionally connect with users, complemented by performance and influencer marketing on social media.
Further, as far as the customer retention strategy is concerned, they thrive on sending personalised cards and showcasing the customer’s impact on the startup and the lives of the artisans. Besides, the Mittihub team actively conducts soil testing to validate the authenticity of the clay, which is used to make cookware.
Exploring The Craft Behind Mittihub
Speaking with Inc42, Agarwal said that the Mittihub team gets the contact details of artisans from government sources. Following this, the team ventures to their locations to identify and gauge artisans’ skills.
Artisans with basic required skill sets are hired and Mittihub upskills them for two months, particularly in cutting work and ‘Kagzi’ pottery (involving creating design using paper cut out), along with refining techniques.
During these two months of training, artists learn everything from preparing the clay to furnishing the final product.
Agarwal said that Mittihub’s USP in the terracotta craft market lies in its utility-oriented product range. From cookware to serveware and home decor, the startup’s product spectrum caters to diverse needs.
Additionally, its products range from small pots to larger 40-inch varieties, offering a comprehensive selection to meet various preferences and purposes.
Agarwal said that there is minimal use of technology in product creation, however, tech plays an important role in helping it scale business online and delivering the products right to customers. Technology not only streamlines the logistics of delivery but also provides real-time tracking, ensuring customers can monitor their orders at every post-purchase stage. This transparency contributes to a more reliable and customer-centric delivery system, ultimately enhancing the overall satisfaction of the buying experience, claims Agarwal.
While talking about the B2B side of the business, the company partners with interior designers and resorts to create customised products for them.
Apart from selling its products on its B2C website, Mittihub’s products can be found on marketplaces like Amazon and Jaipur Rugs.
The startup earns 30% of its revenue from websites and online marketplaces, while 10% is generated from the pottery studio. B2B partnerships account for the remaining 60% of the revenue including hotels, offline stores and event management. Most 70% of Mittihub’s revenue is generated from Tier I markets, remaining 30% from Tier II and III regions.
Indian Handicrafts Get The Ecommerce Lifeline
Mittihub envisions several expansions in its future, with plans to extend support to artisans in the southern regions of the country where terracotta art holds potential. Currently, the focus is on limited raw products in these areas.
To achieve this vision, Mittihub plans to train and collaborate with artisans in these regions, enhancing their skills. Furthermore, the company aims to broaden its global footprint and collaborate with diverse stakeholders to boost revenue and elevate brand recognition internationally.
Agarwal believes that ecommerce has positively impacted the growth of handicrafts in India. “Ecommerce platforms like Jaypore, Swadesh and Aadyam play a pivotal role in the growth of handicraft items,” he said.
For the uninitiated, these ecommerce platforms provide a gateway for Indian crafts to reach a larger audience, offering consumers a variety of accessible art forms while empowering artisans to continue their craft from their villages.
Moving on, the government, too, recognises the potential of ecommerce in facilitating the growth of the fading Indian handicraft sector.
In April 2023, the Ministry of Textiles launched an ecommerce portal to connect over 35 Lakh handloom weavers and 27 Lakh handicraft artisans directly with buyers. The website allows consumers to purchase various handicraft products such as clothing, home decor, and jewellery, showcasing India’s cultural heritage.
Moreover, the platform provides a pathway for 62 Lakh weavers and artisans to become digital entrepreneurs, offering growth opportunities in traditional crafts while celebrating India’s rich cultural legacy.
In the context of terracotta, startups like Clay Mango, Terracrafts, and Mitticool are leaving no stone unturned to promote this craft.
Notably, the handicraft market was valued at nearly $4 Bn in 2022 and is projected to reach $6.2 Bn by 2028.