The End of the Arastan Journey

That I enjoy what I do is well known. But what is less known is that my husband and I have financed the Arastan proof of concept knowing that we would need external investment to take our vision forward. Unfortunately, we have not been able to raise the investment we need. The business is too early and too small for professional investors, and we needed one person who has the financial wherewithal and an interest in artisanal livelihoods to come in as a financial partner and stay through to the stage we could go to professional investors or banks. We never found that person.

And so we close. Our last day for trading will be 31 January 2014 and everything we have in-store and online must go. Prices have been marked down to reflect this and there is many a bargain to be had.

Arastan Studio

Arastan Studio

The vision was to expand sourcing artisanal products from around the world with a mix of offline and online sales channels. Carpets and furniture formed the main categories with customisation and a ‘touch and feel’ solution before you buy built in. Art and décor, jewellery and speciality foods formed additional categories. The business headquarters would move to Rajasthan to benefit from lower costs and a better VAT regime so we could keep our prices sensible.

What we did well in the proof of concept was to create a brand that is associated with authenticity and uniqueness. While not enough people know about Arastan, of those that do, many have told us they love the stories, the products and the experience of it all. We have many many emails, comments, word of mouth references, all of which helped and encouraged us to refine what we do and how we do it. And we sold! An astonishing amount. That we could do so with only three of us working full-time surprised everyone. All I can attribute it to is a unique concept and being customer-obsessed (and perhaps a little carpet obsessed too!).

Why can’t we build on what we have achieved so far? Simply put we do not sell enough to fund working capital, growth and pay ourselves. We needed the investment to pay for people, marketing and stock in order to grow, ultimately allowing us to draw a basic income from Arastan. I had limited understanding of access to finance for SMEs in India when I started and assumed where the banks were inaccessible, angel investors would be easy to find. It was a big, and in our case, fatal assumption to make.  I am reminded of a line by Kurt Vonnegut: “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, ‘it might have been.’” And I cannot help but wonder what Arastan “might have been” had we solved the financing riddle.

To our wonderful customers, thank you for buying and sharing stories and making our journey possible. I wish things could be different but circumstances demand otherwise. I do not have the luxury of running Arastan without it providing us an income, but perhaps one day we will journey again. I will still travel and occasionally post about the people, culture and craft I see along the way and maybe, just maybe, we can do something with the Arastan concept again someday.

This is the hardest post I have written, and it comes almost three years after I wrote my first one, when we had nothing but an idea and a domain. Thank you for reading then and thank you for reading now. You made Arastan possible for which I am utterly grateful.

Arastan Studio - Closing Soon

Arastan Studio – Closing Soon

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