15 July 2024, 03:20
By Furniture News Mar 29, 2022

Artisan Furniture – a tale of commerce and community

Lauded by Forbes for its impressive growth and disruptive business model, Westminster-based supplier Global Vision Direct (trading as Artisan Furniture) is truly coming into its own, in a post-pandemic industry that values provenance, convenience and flexibility. Here, CEO Amit Basu tells Furniture News why his products, handcrafted in India, resonate with UK consumers …  

How is your business performing right now?

The business is on a consistent upward trajectory, despite supply chain challenges and global market headwinds over the past couple of years. We’re growing at a rate of +30-40% annually, with higher growth expected as the world returns to normality.

Have you developed new routes to market through the pandemic?

In an effort to decentralise production and create more efficient local crafting units, we’ve spread our operations across small artisanal hamlets across northwestern India. This not only brought skills and investment into local communities but also helped us avoid the worst of the supply chain and lockdown-related challenges that plagued importers.

Can you outline your product offer?

We have consistently marketed our products as sustainable, handmade, and communally made pieces of furniture. Our product offer is a social enterprise at its core, and beyond that, it is a convenient way for small retailers to get into handmade furniture without being wrapped up in the logistical nightmare that this can cause. 

Our bestsellers almost invariably include petite, serpentine products such as bedsides, media units, and consoles – all the furniture a craftsman may have in his little hamlet, fittingly enough.

How does your product go to market?

Our product does not engage with stockists and distributors at all – our entire service is based on a linear supply chain that transports products directly from our factory in Jaipur, India to customers worldwide, through dropshipping or direct container routes. 

Why are consumers drawn to your goods?

Perhaps the most unique part of our enterprise is our artisanal side – a far cry from the sanitised, machine-made furniture that’s so prevalent in the furniture market. It’s a combination of handmade solid wood products – imperfectly and authentically made by artisans using generational techniques – and the idea of supporting once-decaying crafting communities through their custom that draws customers to our goods.

How did the business come about?

I founded the furniture imports and exports business from a garage office, a factory that was little more than a cowshed, and generally jungle-floor infrastructure in Jaipur, in the desert state of Rajasthan, India in 1995. Initial capital was laid as a £450 of scholarship money earned during my school days – and the rest is history.

Were there any key moments in the business’ evolution?

Looking back, the moment that defined Artisan Furniture and made it the social enterprise it is today was the 2008 financial crash. The crash slashed customer spending on lifestyle products, and the company, like many others in its field, suffered the consequences. 

We were at a crossroads – move away from the company’s artisan-centric roots and on to mass-produced furniture in an effort to cut costs, or double down and transform into a socially conscious company that puts their artisans first. As you may have guessed, we chose the latter. 

What qualities/practices from the early days still endure?

The business, as small it was 20 years ago, still relies just as much today on the local artisanal community for supplying small retailers with handmade furniture. 

This practice is going as strong as ever, with a network of village units dotted across the desert of Rajasthan – all of them employing craftsmen and reviving the state’s rich history of handicraft. We’re still very much a communal enterprise, despite having come so far in these two decades!

How closely does the UK business work with those makers? 

The entire business, encompassing the UK and Indian operations, is part of the same ecosystem, both operationally as well as in terms of ownership. This lets us have a very close view of where our products come from and the circumstances under which they’re made. Every village unit we work with is closely vetted to meet our ethical standards, and this ensures that every piece of furniture customers buy has been handcrafted by artisans who really love what they do.

Can you name some of the customers – on and offline – you’re working with?

TK Maxx is one of our largest offline customers in the UK as well as Europe – they’ve been with us for a long time and form an important chunk of our product offering. 

Pivoting to online, we work with marketplaces such as Wayfair and Fy to diversify their offerings to include handmade, solid wood furniture. Of course, it’s impossible to name all of the small retailers that form the core of what Artisan Furniture is all about, but we’re very proud of growing a 20,000-strong independent retailer portfolio, spread across the globe.

Can you outline the ways customers can do business with you, and the benefits of each?

We have three vertices of the business – being dropship, trade and wholesale – meaning we cater to small and large businesses.

On the dropship side of the business, there is no minimum order for value or volume, and the delivery is free within the UK mainland. The standard dropship prices are applicable, and there is also a -10% discount which is applied at the checkout for orders over £1000.

On the trade side of the business, there is a minimum spend of £2500, and you can avail of up to -25% off the standard dropship prices. The items can either be collected directly from the warehouse, or we can organise a delivery directly to your shipping address at an additional cost. 

On the wholesale side of the business, there is a minimum spend of £10,000 for a 20ft container and £16,000 for a 40ft container, and you can avail of up to -50% off the standard dropship prices, depending on the volume and delivery location.

Did your acquisition of PD Global’s assets back in 2019 lead to anything concrete?

PD Global’s decades-old wholesale presence in the furniture market helped us solidify the trade side of our business while providing us with a trusted brand and its loyal clientele for a wider growth base.

Can you reveal anything about your digital plans – is a new marketplace in the works?

Artisan Marketplace, a vast online store for artisans across India to ply their wares directly to retailers, is indeed in the works. We aim to launch the first phase by this summer. This will let artisans directly sync product data directly into our platform and give them access to all our back-end resources. 

On the front end, customers will be able to publish our entire 1000-strong product catalogue automatically onto their selling platform, while also technologically allowing us to fetch orders automatically.  We’re very much looking forward to this new operating system initiative!

How did the business catch the eye of Goldman Sachs? And what did that lead to?

Goldman Sachs’ Small Business Programme looks at business growth models, sustainability, robustness and a host of other characteristics, to choose the enterprises it inducts. We strongly believe in our community-based business model and the benefits it brings to both artisans and retailers – it was perhaps this belief that shone through when we were selected. 

The programme has led Artisan Furniture to embark on a journey of self-reflection and growth, all under the consistent support of Goldman Sachs and the University of Oxford. 

How can prospective clients find out more?

We have all of the information you may need on our website. It’s really simple to navigate – and of course, if you want to talk to a member of our wonderful team, you’re more than welcome to book an appointment with us for a chat.

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