#NICEStories – Threads of Innovation: The Inspirational Journey of Pashmina.com

Very rarely do you come across a story of dreams turning into reality. The story of Pashmina.com shows how innovation can change the lives of people at the grassroots level in India. The e-commerce platform not only has transformed the lives of Kashmiri artisans, but it has also enchanted the world with the exquisite allure of Kashmiri craftsmanship with Kani Pashminas, GI Pashminas, Solid & Printed Pashminas, Hand Embroidered Pashminas and so much more!

A conversation with the founder of Pashmina.com, Varun Kumar, depicts his profound love for art and luxury, and his efforts to take it to a whole new level across the globe.

The Spark of Vision

While on a vacation with his family in Kashmir in 2018, Varun fell in love with pashminas. Post his vacation, he took about 6-7 months to research about pashmina market. He understood that there was a market for the product but due to various reasons, a lot of people were skeptical of buying pashminas unless they were authentic, i.e., from Kashmir. This led him to take about 15-18 trips to the region for the next year. 

Varun went from various shopkeepers to traders and engaged in conversations with numerous other people. He finally came across a government lab that certifies the authenticity of the pashmina scarves. From there, he had the opportunity to meet root-level artisans whose handwoven pashmina shawls always passed the government lab’s criteria to qualify as a pashmina.

Varun Kumar saw potential in the age-old craft of Pashmina weaving and he knew it was his calling to delve into this business combining art and luxury. Part of a major challenge he faced, was acquiring the domain name. He was determined to get the domain name of Pashmina.com even if it meant taking a few extra months to launch the brand. 

And then it began!

Nurturing Tradition in the Digital Age

Thus, Pashmina.com was born – an online marketplace that would cater to the luxury scarves market. With an inventory at hand, a couple of content writers from Kashmir, a website ready with packaging material and branding, and whatnot, the team was ready for their launch. 

Yet, there was a major hiccup. A renowned Delhi-based PR Head pointed out some of the drawbacks of the initial website layout and the branding part of the organization. The merit in points of the PR Head led Varun and his team to re-evaluate every detail of the brand. It took them about 3-4 months more to re-do their website and brand collaterals. 

Challenges Turned into Triumphs

These challenges came with their costs. Varun was burning money with an inventory in hand, initial expenditures on trips to Kashmir, re-doing the brand collaterals, etc. This did not deter him from going ahead. With encouragement from family and friends, he went on to pursue his passion for a business in luxury shawls.

During these months of reworking, Varun realized that to reach an audience internationally, the pictures on the website need to showcase much more than just the product. The look and feel of the handwoven pashmina shawls needed to be highlighted.

While it may be true that a picture is worth a thousand words, Varun made sure the pictures on the website brought out more! He ensured that the photoshoots with the products depicted much more than just the product, but also how the luxury scarves are a work of art made by the artisans of Kashmir.

Empowering Artisans, One Thread at a Time

Behind every delicate Pashmina shawl was the painstaking effort of a skilled artist. Varun built a rapport with the artisans/craftsmen families during his multiple trips up north. What started as working with a few families with about 4-5 artisans, has now expanded to working with 10 major families with hundreds of artisans working with each family.

You can feel the glimmer in Varun’s voice as he talks about the Kashmiri artisans and how they have become one big family through the years.

By connecting these artisans directly with the global market, Varun ensured that they received fair compensation for their artistry. Pashmina.com became more than just a marketplace; it became a platform for social change, uplifting communities and preserving their traditional way of life.

Upholding Quality and Authenticity

In a world where mass production often overshadows craftsmanship, Pashmina.com stands as a beacon of quality and authenticity. Each designer product on the platform undergoes meticulous quality checks, ensuring that customers receive genuine Pashmina products. The core team works closely with artisans, guiding them in maintaining the highest standards, thus preserving the integrity of this ancient craft.

Innovation Meets Tradition

What sets Pashmina.com apart is its innovative spirit. Varun Kumar embraced technology, using it to enhance the customer experience. The platform employed virtual reality and augmented reality to offer customers an immersive journey into the world of Pashmina weaving. Through these technologies, customers could witness the intricate process, forging a deeper connection with the artisans and their craft.

The Global Reach

As Pashmina.com gained momentum, its influence transcended geographical boundaries. Economic fluctuations, market competition, and logistical hurdles tested the resilience of the team. Despite the initial problems, the average order value currently ranges from $200-$600. The brand now receives orders worth $10,000 regularly during the year. 

An interesting fact about the brand is that they can customize these cashmere wraps and they do it free of charge! Be it a simple letter to a paragraph or even a tattoo, Pashmina.com allows customers to add any monogram to their product. The brand takes pride in delivering all its products within a week across the globe, including customization. That personal touch makes these pashminas so much more special, especially for gifting to your loved ones. 

In fact, being a website from India and based in India, their business in the country accounts for 15% of online business and 85% is international exports, which happens from their website. 45% of the customers are repeat customers from the US, Europe, Australia, and even India. 

From celebrities to socialites, customers come back to order these fine wool shawls due to their high quality and design, unique offerings like Swarovski Crystal Pashminas (real Swarovski crystals directly sourced from the brand), customization options, and zero delay in promised delivery timelines. 

Solutions of Simplicity

How did this brand increase its international sales, and how does it always manage to be the first (and in some cases one of the first) on Google’s SERP about pashminas?

Simple. Content. Quality content is written by talented Kashmiri content writers on Varun’s team. The brand barely spends money on marketing or major branding activities. In other words, Varun kept things simple and worked/works with people who are inherently connected with the world of pashminas and their origins.

Entrepreneurial Learnings

When asked about any advice that he could give to young and upcoming entrepreneurs, Varun says, 

“Your belief in yourself and product/service offering needs to be very strong The first few years of entrepreneurship are daunting and can even push you into depression. And of course, the support of your family and closest friends helps a lot along the way. Don’t give up easily. Keep at it!”

Varun Kumar’s brainchild has not only transformed the lives of numerous people but has also become a symbol of hope and inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs worldwide.

Pashmina.com shawls at G20 Summit in India

Being one of the only brands in India, that produces 100% handwoven pashminas without even a single blend or semi-blend product (machine-made), and having a certified GI tag led the brand Pashmina.com to be part of the Treasure Chest given to all the Heads of State at the G20 Summit, held in New Delhi in 2023. 

Having their brand at the G20 Summit this year further strengthened their authenticity and credibility in the world of real pashminas. In addition to working with Korean and Chinese embassies in New Delhi, the visibility of the brand has grown and Pashmina.com now works with more embassies in our capital.

That’s just the beginning for Varun Kumar and his team! The vision was not merely about e-commerce; it was and is about preserving a cultural heritage of handspun Kashmiri pashminas that had been passed down through generations.

The Legacy Continues

Aligning with the core values of NICEorg, the journey of Pashmina.com is a testament to the power of entrepreneurial vision, cultural preservation, and social impact. The art, the design, the artisans, the quality, the GI tag to prove the authenticity of the pashminas, the quick deliveries of the products, and the team of Pashmina.com, make for a beautiful addition to India’s cultural entrepreneurship path.

Pashmina.com became a tapestry of dreams, interwoven with the threads of tradition and the brilliance of innovation—a beacon that continues to inspire generations, reminding the world that every thread of determination can create a masterpiece of change.

Are you a cultural entrepreneur? Tell us your story. Write to us at namaste@niceorg.in

Author: Maithili Rao

Maithili Rao is an engineer turned marketer. She is a Digital Marketing professional with more than 5+ years of experience working with various startups. Maithili enjoys interacting with dynamic individuals and writing about them, and the real-world connections; that matter the most in this day and age.

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