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Tisser – A Social Entrepreneur’s Journey

CASE STUDY, ENTREPRENEURSHIP & STARTUPS
Prin.L.N. Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research, 17 Pages
AUTHOR(S) : Aisha Mohani and Rutu Gujarathi, Prin.L.N. Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research

Case Preview

Tisser – A Social Entrepreneur’s Journey

On a December 2017 evening, at Phansalkar’s residence, the haystack salad at the dinner table was cold but the air around was hot, an unfamiliar ambience for the Phansalkars. Dr. Megha Phansalkar (Megha), founder of the social enterprise Tisser Rural Handicrafts Pvt. Ltd., (Tisser), was unusually silent and her son Ameya Phansalkar (Ameya), Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Tisser, was also holding back words to avoid any further debate after their prior arguments. Just before dinner, Ameya had approached Megha with a strategic plan for Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) at Tisser that promoted sourcing the goods that were more in demand in order to build Tisser’s financial sustainability. However, Megha had started the enterprise to provide livelihood to the poor artisans and any distinction based on the salability of their goods was against her principals. The argument on financial sustainability with her son left Megha in deep thoughts. Could the organization sustain its growth with the existing business model? Would it not be an injustice to the artisans if Tisser focused more on profitability?

Indian Handicrafts and Handloom Market

India had been incredibly known for its cultural diversity and heritage. It had a large community base of rural artisans, weavers and craftsmen. However, over the past three decades, the number of artisans in India decreased by 30% indicating the need to reinvest in crafts to revive artisanal interest and in turn uphold history, culture and livelihoods..........

Early Life and Support System for Megha and Her Social Venture

Megha’s childhood and early youth were spent in Mhow, a city in Madhya Pradesh. Daughter of parents who serviced in unique professions – father, a Professor of ‘agriculture’ and mother, a veterinarian – Megha had inherited the qualities of pursuing a distinct profession. She had been a grade topper all through her academic life and later was provided state scholarship to pursue university studies. She completed her Masters and PhD in the area of urban and regional planning..........

Tisser Rural Handicrafts Pvt. Ltd. – The Initial Days

Tisser was established in early 2014 as a Limited Liability Partnership with the objective of safeguarding the interests of poor rural craftsmen and artisans by providing them direct access to the market and the infrastructural support for business sustainability. Megha had lovingly adopted the French word Tisser – meaning ‘to weave’ – for her social enterprise. At inception, Tisser had a deferred funding by bootstrapping of INR20,00,000/- along with..........

Initial Challenges

As the product comprised of artifacts which were labor intensive, Tisser products did not have a pre-determined Maximum Retail Price (MRP). Product pricing varied and posed a challenge for Tisser as it operated on seasonal demand, catered to pan-India as well as international markets, having make-to-order product demand. The product pricing changed dynamically based on demand and clientele...............

Spreading Its Wings: The Growth Phase

The organization supported weavers and craftsmen who made products using traditional techniques, skills and hand processes. It promoted ‘Make in India’ and ‘Start up India’ initiatives of Government of India (GoI). Megha leveraged her experience and contacts at the World Bank and built a strong network of like-minded people. In 2015, she was nominated for the Praise Program............

Business Model and Network

Tisser operated at pan-India level with its head-office in Mumbai and carried out its operations with the help of five core employees who were on pay rolls to look after operations, back office, sales and design.........

Business in 2017

2017 onwards, Tisser started catering to its global clientele by creating products that fitted the modern palette and offered block prints in accessories category. Its latest segment addition was home decor which included items such as wall paintings, bed-sheets, cushion covers, table coasters, etc. Since its inception, Tisser took the homegrown crafts to national and international markets and by the end of 2017, it had a product assortment of more than 300 products in its online portfolio............

Future Strategy and Expansion Plans

With a vision to scale up the operations at Tisser, Megha envisioned having 3 people at each of the 6 regional hubs – one as a regional coordinator overlooking a team of two people, one taking care of the logistics, supply chain and coordination with the artisans and the third person for marketing and design. She had a good presence on the online platforms such as Craftsville and Indiamart and she also intended to build a network of franchisees to capture offline sales from corporate gifting, in-store sales, exhibitions, increased exports, etc., with the help..........

Assignment Questions

I. What is a social enterprise? Does Tisser qualify as a social enterprise? Where does Tisser stand in ‘The Social Enterprise Spectrum’?
II. What are the commonalities and differences in the traits of a social entrepreneur and a commercial entrepreneur?
III. Profile Tisser’s current status using ‘The Business Model Canvas’. Also, do the SWOT analysis for the company.
IV. .............

Exhibits

Exhibit I: Exports of Handicrafts from India

Exhibit II: Distribution of Handloom Industry in India (2009-10)

Exhibit III: Product Categories

Exhibit IV: Tisser Website

Exhibit V: Awards and Accolades

Exhibit VI: Tisser’s Social Enterprise Mentoring System

Exhibit VII: Tisser Mobile App for Artisans

Exhibit VIII: Tisser’ Supply Chain

Exhibit IX: Tisser’s Modus Operandi

Exhibit X: Sources of Funding for Social Entrepreneurs

Exhibit XI: Tisser’s Future Strategy

Teaching Note Preview

Tisser – A Social Entrepreneur’s Journey

Synopsis

Tisser Rural Handicrafts Pvt. Ltd. (Tisser), a social enterprise incepted in 2014, leveraged technology and provided infrastructural support to the indigenous weavers and craftsmen from rural India for a sustainable living. Tisser’s journey started with only two products and one Facebook page. Later, in 2015, Tisser became a private limited company and increased its product portfolio to around 300 products.

Numerous formal and informal data sources predicted that the handloom and handicrafts industry had a great growth potential and that it engaged nearly 2.78 million (Exhibit II of the case study) rural households. However the growth story had major challenges since the artisans did not have market linkage and they required constant skill enhancement and product development to meet the constantly changing customer tastes and palettes. The challenge got tougher as the artisans faced competition from large corporate houses that were competing with deeper pockets for the same share of the pie.

Dr. Megha Phansalkar (Megha), a Masters and PhD in the area of urban and regional planning and the founder of Tisser, had been a dynamic, grounded and learned entrepreneur. Having worked with the World Bank and other social initiatives, she realized early on the real challenges faced by craftsmen such as lack of knowledge of contemporary design and marketing support, being at the mercy of exploitative middlemen to reach the market and lack of a stable source of livelihood. Tisser was Megha’s answer to the dilemma faced by these native craftsmen who’s numbers were reducing year-on-year. In founding Tisser, Megha was also driven by the determination to give back the Indian handloom and handicrafts industry its fair share of economic growth and sustenance. For doing so, Tisser developed a technologically advanced platform that allowed artisans to directly upload the list of their product inventory on Tisser’s website and have full autonomy in deciding the price of the products. As of 2017, Tisser was at the crossroads of scaling-up to be a professionally managed enterprise while functioning in an unorganized, fragmented and highly dynamic handicrafts market. To add to this, Megha and her son Ameya Phansalkar (Ameya), the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Tisser, were having a difference of opinion over the business model for sustainable growth. Could the organization sustain its growth with the existing business model? Would it not be an injustice to the artisans if Tisser focused more on profitability?

Exhibits

Exhibit (TN)-I: Suggested Teaching Plan

Exhibit (TN)-II: The Social Enterprise Spectrum

Exhibit (TN)-III: Tisser Social Enterprise Spectrum

Exhibit (TN)-IV: Theory of Planned Behavior

Exhibit (TN)-V: Typical Structure of Business Model Canvas

Exhibit (TN)-VI: Business Model Canvas for Tisser

Exhibit (TN)-VII: SWOT Analysis of Tisser

Exhibit (TN)-VIII: Challenges and Mitigation Overview

Exhibit (TN)-IX: Pros and Cons of Different Business Models

Exhibit (TN)-X: Different Modes of Funding for Social Enterprises

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Abstract

Tisser Rural Handicrafts Pvt. Ltd. (Tisser), a social enterprise, leveraged technology and provided infrastructural support to indigenous weavers and craftsmen from rural India for a sustainable living. Tisser's journey started with only two products and one Facebook page that later increased to a product portfolio of around 300 products. In 2015, Tisser became a private limited company. The case discusses the challenge that Megha Phansalkar, a social entrepreneur and the founder of Tisser is confronting - of sustainability, to be viable and profitable in business. It also exemplifies the dilemma of a social entrepreneur to cater to both the social and commercial aspects of business.

Pedagogical Objectives

The case has been written with an objective to understand the concept of social entrepreneurship, mentoring and funding ecosystem available for social entrepreneurs and to highlight the shifting dynamics of Indian handloom and handicraft sector. Accordingly, the pedagogical objectives have been listed below:

  • To understand the concept of social entrepreneurship and ‘Social Enterprise Spectrum’
  • To acquire knowledge on the theory of planned behavior and evaluate the traits and intensions of a social entrepreneur
  • To learn about the growth of Indian handloom and handicraft sector and its challenges
  • To understand the concept of ‘Business Model Canvas’
  • To gain an understanding of various funding sources for a social entrepreneur

Case Positioning and Setting

The case is useful for an MBA audience that is exposed to courses dealing with Entrepreneurship, Social Entrepreneurship, etc.



This Case Pack Includes:
- Abstract
- Case Study
- Teaching Note (**ONLY for Academicians)
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