Lal10 CEO and co-founder Maneet Gohil has been named the Seattle University Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) for 2020.
Now in its third year, the EIR program is a collaborative effort between the Albers School of Business and Economics and Upaya Social Ventures. An India-based social entrepreneur connects with Seattle University faculty and students, Seattle-based businesses, and members of the community who could serve as mentors.
In return, the Entrepreneur in Residence provides a deeper understanding of new venture development in India, the issues faced by marginalized communities, and learnings around what approaches are most effective in addressing these issues.
In 2014, Gohil co-founded Lal10, an e-commerce portal for artisans to showcase their handicrafts and indigenous products from different parts of India. Often dubbed the ‘Etsy of India’, Lal10 aims to bridge the gap between rural artisans and urban consumers. Eliminating the middleman allows Lal10 to provide sustainable livelihoods, technology, and skills training to Indian artisans.
Lal10 co-founders (L-R) Maneet Gohil, Albin Jose, and Sanchit Govil
Gohil says that according to the last population census in India, the country has 9.1 million artisans, with an estimated contribution to the global market of $7 billion. Only 2% have access to formal markets.
'The B2B handicrafts sourcing market is large, highly disorganized, and geographically disaggregated,' says Gohil. 'With the advent of inexpensive, ubiquitous internet and smartphones across even the rural corners of India, this sector is ripe for disruption,' he adds.
Traditional Bagh print cushion covers made by MD. Bilal Khatri, a well known artisan who learned the craft from his father. This style of hand printed wood block relief prints made with naturally sourced pigments and dyes originated in the Bagh, Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh.
Lal10 now works with 1,200 artisans across eight low-income Indian states, connecting them to global retailers using a mobile CRM solution. Lal10 provides products to 300 retailers and clients in 18 countries including Zara, Amazon, and Four Seasons.
26-year-old Priyanka Basak works on jamdani, a technique of weaving mainly practiced in Bangladesh and west Bengal.
New Delhi-based Gohil was included in Forbes India’s ‘30 under 30’ list in 2019, and has also spoken at TedX. He has an engineering degree from the Delhi College of Engineering and a post-graduate diploma in industrial management from India’s National Institute of Industrial Engineering. Gohil worked for Flipkart and was doing consulting before he started Lal10.
Upaya Social Ventures partners with early-stage Indian entrepreneurs who have the potential to create or improve needed jobs by providing business development support and investment capital. To date, it has supported 42 entrepreneurs, invested in 16 businesses, and experienced three exits.
The word upaya is the Sanskrit noun for ‘skillful means’ or ‘method’, referring to any activity, skill, experience, or practice that helps someone toward the realization of a goal.