Thursday, July 9, 2020
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Nature, Culture and a Venture

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Since the time I landed 15 years before in Kerala, the sight of coconuts trees all around fascinated me. And when I saw a few artisans, a little north of Kozhikode, making amazing articles from coconut shells, coir and other coconut elements, I couldn’t resist myself to make coconut a center of my activities. Having worked as an engineer in electrical machines industry for over a decade, I surprised myself and everyone else when I decided to start a jewelry e-tailing venture – Naturecarft.

Marketing eco-jewelry under the CocoMocobrand, which stands for coconut fashion for modern and contemporary women, Naturecraft is not just an ecommerce start-up but it is committed to the purpose of nature and culture. It presents carefully designed and curated coconut fashion with designs that have universal, contemporary appeal but made by working closely with artisans using traditional, ethnic craft. Thus, it aims to connect local artisans, craftspeople to global fashionistas. 

There is a need to re-invest in artisans to safeguard history and culture. With over 7 million (20 million based on unofficial sources) artisans, craftspeople are the backbone of the non-farm rural economy in India. According to the UN, over the past 30 years, the number of Indian artisans has decreased by 30%. Craftsmanship could be an important source of their livelihood, provided there is market for the crafts. Several NGOs work in the area of artisan livelihood but they focus on skill development rather than market access. Within Kerala, Coconut shell and woodcraft are primarily prevalent in and around Trivandrum, Attingal, Neyyatinkara and Quilandy in Kozhikode. The coconut crafts involve processes such as sketching, cutting, sanding, and buffing to create jewelry and mostly done using hand tools and some basic machines operated manually. 

Charmed by alternative fashion appeal of coconut shell jewellery myself, I thought that if these products reach market that appreciate cultural stories and mystical benefits of organic yet durable material like coconut shells and coir, immense value for the artisans can be created. With my smart, tech-savvy son developing an online retail platform in flat 36 hours fully ready for global transactions, I was flabbergasted to find how simple it is, with technology at fingertips, to start-up an enterprise today. In another 15 days, I was ready with my web domain, Google office to take local coconut jewellery global. Today, CocoMoco branded eco jewellery may be found on cocomoco.co.in, Amazon.in and Etsy.com 

True to my intuition, I am finding buyers from Europe and America responding well and appreciating the ecowear appeal that has intriguing stories of heritage & culture. It is immensely satisfying to be creating value nut just for my venture but also for the artisans I work with. Supporting livelihood of craftspeople, spreading ethnic culture globally and combining global consumer insights with local, traditional skills is immensely satisfying. While coconut is central to the idea of CocoMoco as of now, the collection would include other eco-friendly material such as bamboo, jute and other medicinal plants such as Rudraksh and Tulsi as I plan to scale up this venture. Do comment here, if you like and support the idea. 

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