Etsy India
Handmade embroidered garments from Angad Creations on Etsy India.

India has a long and rich tradition of handmade goods. Etsy is now making a significant investment in growing its presence in India, integrating rupee transactions, recruiting sellers, and promoting the marketplace to consumers. Vice President and Country Head India Pankaj Jathar told The Hindu Business Line, “We believe there is very strong market opportunity in India.”

Etsy India has its own Instagram account where you can check out products for sale and its own YouTube channel where you can get to know some of the sellers on the marketplace. We talk to sellers to learn more about their experience on the Etsy India platform.

A silk jacket available from Indian Etsy seller Angad Creations.

Angad Creations, a star seller on the Etsy India platform with an outstanding track record for providing a great customer experience, is based in Jammu and Kashmir, northern India, and specializes in embroidery.

Jaspreet Singh Bahri, CEO of Angad Creations, says he started the business in 1991 as an embroidered shawl manufacturer. Gradually, he expanded into handlooms, and since 2000, he has been integrating the famous Kashmiri embroidery into suits, sarees, and jackets.

“I do fusion work of Kashmir with other embroideries and give it a slight designer touch, making it different from the typical Kashmiri style,” says Bahri. His son, Udayvir Bahri, handles the online sales and marketing of the company from Canada, where he is based. Uday says the business went online on Etsy in 2015. 

As far as setting up the business on the online Indian platform, he says, “‘Being a tech guy,’ it’s easier for me to figure things out. It varies from person to person—for tech-savvy people, it’s easier. Someone who hasn’t been using computers much might need some help understanding how things work,” he says. He added that he had not faced any payment-related or other challenges on the Indian platform. However, he acknowledges that Etsy can only direct traffic to the business and help set up the shop.

The biggest challenge, he acknowledges, is getting buyers to recognize your business and brand.

According to Uday Singh, Etsy India is still relatively new, and not many people in India are aware of it. In general, he says, the Indian market is somewhat reserved for online shopping, and the first thing that comes to the top of mind is more established platforms like Amazon.

“Getting Etsy India out there more so that people recognize the platform and can trust it for shopping is the kind of work that needs to be done by Etsy,” he says.

Spreading the word to consumers

Etsy, an American e-commerce company founded in 2005, is considered a global marketplace for unique and creative goods with a presence in over 200 countries. The company began onboarding Indian sellers in 2018. However, the integration of rupee transactions into the platform did not occur until late 2022.

Pankaj Jathar, Vice President (VP) and Country Head of India at Etsy, who joined the company in August of the previous year, mentioned that the platform took considerable time before deciding to invest in India. Nevertheless, he emphasized their commitment to the long run, stating that over the last four years, they invested time in understanding the seller side of the market. Consequently, they believe there is a solid market opportunity in India.

carved stone elephant
Carved stone elephant from Indian seller Saatchi Works.

Like Bahri, Saatchi Works, which sells exotic South Asian handcrafted sculptures, has received rave reviews on the Etsy India platform. Zachary Zavide, Director of the company, has been visiting India for a decade and has been impressed by its rich heritage and culture. 

“India has a great tradition of craftsmanship, the full extent of which hasn’t yet been exposed to the rest of the world,” he says.

 His in-laws are based in Chennai in southern India, which boasts a rich and unique tradition of handcrafted products. The seed of the idea to open up these rich cultural handiworks to an international market was sown in 2019.  “And then, of course, with the pandemic, it just became sort of like a big boon for the businesses taking off online in the virtual space,” he says.

“We also had a specific mission for hand craftsmanship instead of just being generic. So that was also very important to us because everything we do has to be handmade by artisans, with heritage appeal. That’s where Etsy fits in perfectly.”

Production activities of Saatchi Works are centered in India, particularly around Chennai, where Zavide’s father-in-law and founder, Ramesh Lalchand, works closely with generational artisans. Joining both Etsy’s international and Indian platforms simultaneously, they have found a new outlet for their products.

Zavide, currently in the UK, mentions their ongoing rebranding efforts to create a homegrown luxury brand. They aim to present Indian creative talent and cultural production in a way that appeals to a broader consumer base, aligning with the growing interest in indigenous production among Indian elites.

He notes that the setup process on Etsy was accessible and easy. “It was a smooth experience,” he says. He says they haven’t seen any major differences [operating] between the two platforms – Etsy India and the Etsy international website. “The interface doesn’t seem particularly different. Other companies may find it more difficult. It’s been pretty seamless for us,” he adds.

In India, the major markets include metro cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, and Punjab. Internationally, SaatchiWorks sells to a diverse market in over 70 countries. However, the United States is their largest market, says Zavide.

According to Etsy’s Global Buying Trends report, between January and September 2023, Indian sellers achieved incredible success, selling over 4 million personalized products worldwide, such as jewelry, which has emerged as the most prominent category. Reportedly, more than 750,000 customized pieces were sold. Over 400,000 personalized clothing items, including dresses, tops, tees, pajamas, and robes, were sold.

A dagger available from Mughal Arts Daggers on Etsy India.

However, not all sellers share Bahri and Zavide’s smooth experience.

Mukesh Narang, of Mughal Arts Daggers, based in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, in western India, launched his online business 20 years ago on the American e-commerce company eBay. His company sells vintage Mughal-era handcrafted weaponry and other antique items.

The company primarily focuses on exports and considers the US and UK its biggest markets. He initially sold his wares on e-commerce platforms like eBay and Amazon. However, after hearing positive reviews about Etsy from Ping Pong, a payment processing service provider in India, he decided to join the platform.

“I heard that listing and handling company policies on Etsy are easier than those on Amazon and eBay. The return policy and registration process on [sites like] Amazon and eBay are lengthy, and minor mistakes can lead to them stopping the sale of your products on their platforms,” he says. Etsy doesn’t have that problem.

However, Narang says the export market has picked up, but the Indian market is yet to take off.

Thirty percent of the domestic business, he says, currently comes from Etsy India, while the remaining 50 percent is from four other platforms combined. He attributes this to the relatively low awareness of Etsy in India, emphasizing the need to strengthen marketing efforts to achieve popularity comparable to Amazon.

Moreover, he points out that Etsy India needs to provide sellers with more facilities, including improved customer support, listing services, and photography assistance. These services would be very helpful for small businesses like his.

“The background of customer support in India is not currently satisfactory, and the platform lacks advertisements, making it less popular,” he complains.

Reviews and returns

Similarly, Mohammed Iiliyas of Ikram Carpet, who started as a small seller on the platform, has faced challenges. Iliyas runs his business from Bhadohi in northern India. The region has a rich cultural legacy of fine handmade carpet making. With a background in carpet and technical expertise, he opened an online handmade carpet-making business in September 2022.

Though from an IT background, he had challenges figuring out how to set up an online business. He worked hard to understand customer and seller behavior, spent money on ads, and initially took on small-paying assignments for $50-$60 to keep the business running. “Now, sales are good. The Etsy online business has expanded, and so has my family,” he says.

However, some issues bother him, like this example. A customer ordered a carpet which was made according to the specifications they provided. However, upon receiving the merchandise, they were not happy with it.  “Our policies state that there may be minute color and size variations as handmade items don’t have the perfect settings of machine-made products,” says Iliyas.

“Our policies also clearly state that we have a standard lead time of 45-60+ days. When customers order handmade carpets, we always deliver them within the agreed timeframe. However, unforeseen events such as a shortage of raw materials on the market, insufficient sunshine for drying, or labor health problems can cause delays despite our best efforts,” he adds. The customer then demanded a refund, says Iliyas. “The production costs are high, and the carpet is almost ready. We have refunded the customer despite the high production costs and the already-in-the-works carpet,” says Illiyas. 

“Even though we appealed to the customer not to leave a negative review, they did so in detail.”

The customer’s review accused the company of fraud, making excuses, which influenced other customers and adversely affected their sales. “Although we later recovered with 5-star sales, Etsy stated that customers can express their opinions,” he says.

An Etsy India representative declined to comment over WhatsApp.

According to Etsy India VP Jathar, the company is committed to providing small businesses with the tools they need to reach more than 90 million buyers worldwide. He said international buyers highly value the quality of work made in India.

India’s e-commerce industry is booming at an unprecedented rate. There is fierce competition from local and global companies. Etsy India must heed sellers’ feedback and promptly address their concerns to endure this competitive landscape. They need to focus on the domestic marketplace as well.

Puja Bhattacharjee

Puja Bhattacharjee


Puja Bhattacharjee is an independent journalist based in Kolkata, India. She writes about health, politics, public policy, environment, science, art and culture. Check out her work at: www.pujabhattacharjee.com

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