13 August 2013: Bangalore, India. Unitus Seed Fund, a leading India-focused seed venture capital fund, has invested in Caravan Craft Retail Private Limited, a Bangalore-based venture that is set to launch a new single-brand retail concept in India. The company will soon open its first store in Bangalore with women as its core customers in the initial phase.
National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) has already committed the major portion of the funding for Caravan to build a sustainable model to train and up-skill artisans in India.
“Our investment decision was anchored by the strength of the team and the international business opportunity,” said Dave Richards, Managing Partner, Unitus Seed Fund. “We believe that the rich heritage of craft in India can be the source of exclusive, premium merchandise for global customers, while providing significant employment opportunities to rural, low-income artisans.”
Adds Dilip Chenoy, Managing Director & CEO, NSDC, “While NSDC spearheads the nation’s Skilling Mission with a target of 150 million pairs of skilled hands to be added by 2022 which will include artisans, it is the demand for skilled Indians generated by businesses like Caravan that makes the new skills ecosystem economically viable and productive in the long run. NSDC, for its part, will continue to study the skill gap in the country and develop its network of training partners who will manage the supply side for skilled manpower at every level.”
Caravan is led by Kunal R Sachdev, who has considerable experience in marketing, retail and operations management. He has held senior management and leadership roles at ITC and Hidesign where he was instrumental in building both the brand and the business.
Other key members of the team include Sudipto Sinha who is responsible for Business Strategy and Artisan Development. His past experience as founder of Indica Research and one of the pioneers in marketing research in India is invaluable. Sachin Rampal, who used to head corporate communications for Reliance Retail, is on board to create linkages with artisan groups for a sustainable engagement with them. Mahesh Rao, ex-owner and Managing Director, Carbon, the jewellery brand, is helping put together the jewellery collection. Michael Foley, arguably one of India’s leading designers, is designing part of the product range for the brand.
The advisory board of Caravan counts Narayan Ramachandran, former Chief Executive, Morgan Stanley India; Bijou Kurien, President & Chief Executive – Lifestyle, Reliance Retail Ltd and Ananth Raman, UPS Fellow at Harvard Business School, among its members.
Caravan is creating uniquely designed products using traditional skill sets of artisans and fusing them with design and technology to satisfy ‘staple’ needs of consumers around the world. This business intends to improve the livelihood opportunities for multiple rural Indian artisan communities. Caravan is building a commercially sustainable ecosystem through the development of contemporary customer-focused merchandise.
“Globally, products that imbibe culture and heritage are positioned at a premium to luxury. The incredible wealth of craftsmanship that India has is an extremely fertile source for products that combine functionality, aesthetics and ‘soul’. Our endeavour is to create meaningful products for global customers and through this process enhance economic value for the craft and the craftsperson,” says Kunal Sachdev, Managing Director & CEO, Caravan Craft Retail Private Limited.
Unitus Capital was the financial advisor and Impact Law Ventures was the legal advisor on this transaction.
Caravan Craft Retail Private Limited is a single-brand retail concept venture. Caravan intends to create a market for products with significant craft content that combine practicality and aesthetic appeal. The company is targeting the global ‘soul products’ market with apparel and home décor as its primary product lines. Caravan is based in Bangalore and will start retail operations in Bangalore in the next few months.
Unitus Seed Fund (USF) is an early-stage venture fund investing in startups in India, which serve large, underserved low-income populations. USF plans to invest in 30-40 startups in sectors including skill development, agriculture, distribution/retail, healthcare, education and other basic necessities. USF is part of the Unitus Group, a successful financial services group operating in multiple emerging markets. USF has offices in Bangalore and Seattle.
The National Skill Development Corporation India (NSDC) is a one of its kind, Public Private Partnership in India formed by the Ministry of Finance, Government of India. It aims to promote skill development by catalyzing creation of large, quality, for-profit vocational institutions. It provides funding to build scalable, for-profit vocational training initiatives. Its mandate is also to enable support systems such as quality assurance, information systems and train the trainer academies through partnerships. NSDC works 21 sector skill councils and over 80 training partners in its mission to build the skill base in the country to 150 million by 2022.