On the highway from Maharashtra to Gujarat, I met a lot of Artisans selling their clay pots and various other crafts on the Roadside of the National highway.The quality of their goods were very high and they were beautifully made but astonishingly they were selling at negligible rates! The reason is - they have the skill but not the means to showcase it well enough.

India has a very diverse and unique handicrafts culture that is slowly fading away due to 2 reasons

  1. Lack of discoverability for artisans (to sell their products)
  2. Lack of consumer awareness (People just don't know about the beauty these artisans create!)

We aim to solve this issue through our 2 sided marketplace and artisan awareness app - Artisell.

Note: You may argue that there are a ton of eCommerce players trying to tap into the Rural Artisan community and sell their products online. But all of the apps (Flipkart, Myntra, Snapdeal, Limeroad) have horrible experience and expect that you are an expert in English, and the flow of mobile apps and various methodologies. Just go to Google Play and see the screenshots for any of the seller apps. They are the most difficult to use apps out there - as they ask 100s of things before you can really upload a product. Our apps primary aim is to make every single artisan be able to use the product from the get-go and requires little to no training in use of content systems. Also, the unique image and tag based search algorithms make it easy for buyers to search for products without having to know any unique SKUs.

What it does

'Artisell' aims to be a 2 way marketplace for buying and selling of goods made by rural artisans - handicrafts, clothing, traditional footwear, paintings, clay pots, etc. Artisans can directly sell their products and buyers can buy directly and post custom job requests for artisans.

Simply, there are 2 apps involved in Artisell. The seller app and the buyer app. The seller app is meant for Artisans, and has a UNIQUE, SIMPLE, and INTUITIVE user experience catered to users who are laymen and have little or no knowledge of using smartphones. The USP of the seller app is that in just a few simple steps and careful guidance (through voice, imagery and animations), the Artisan can operate the app with little to no traning. Apart from this, the seller app has following features (All built with usability in mind)

1. Add product (4 steps -> Select category, Type or Say product name, Upload image, and Add Price) - Here automatically our system generates tags based on the image uploaded - For every step there is visual cues and the artisan can press a button to HEAR a voice clip explaining what to do - Incase there is no internet the product is stored offline and sent to server later 2. Accept Job offers - Any user/buyer can push job requests through the seller app. These can be viewed, reviewed and accepted by artisans 3. View nearby Artisans - The Artisan can view any nearby artisans in a list and map view - and one tap call them for any sort of query or discussion they might want to have - Artisan can view his own profile as well 4. View Events/Melas/Fairs - Artisans generally look to attend various fairs and events to sell their goods. A lot of Artisans miss out of the opportunity due to lack of information. - Both a list and a map view 5. View products - Grid view of Artisans products - Can be tapped to see detailed view of the products 6. Switch languages - With one tap the whole app can be toggled between HINDI and ENGLISH!

The buyer app on the other hand, is also a unique and simple buying experience for customers (primarily wholesalers) to buy products directly from the artisans. Features include 1. Search Product by IMAGE - Upload an image and similar products will be displayed by our app 2. Search Product by KEYWORD 3. Search Product using Filters - Price, Quantity, etc. 4. Create a Job Request - Buyers can create job request which contains some sort of task they would want the artisan to complete - Buyer sets the budget, approximate delivery date, description and OPTIONAL image to support the display - On approval of any job request by any artisan - the buyer will be notified with the details of the artisan 5. View artisan details - Can view his products - Get Directions to reach artisans
- Call Artisan 6. Product Details - Can view all the details of the product - Can directly buy a product from here

How I built it

This app is built mostly with Android native code (Java, XML). As there are 2 Android apps we spent most of the time in Android Studio itself. The backend was built using Backend As a Service Parse that uses MongoDB. All the designs and icons were made by our teammate Rishabh whose sole task in the hackathon was to work on the UI elements for a great experience. Offline caching is done along with a lot of other techniques!

Challenges I ran into

Handling 2 apps simultaneously in a hackathon scenario is a HUGE pain which we realized after deciding to go forward with our project. Resource management and debugging is very hectic in this case. Apart from this handling of the online and offline scenarios and making sure data is persistent throughout sessions was a big challenge. This was the first time we had to think about scenarios where internet is BARELY available.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

Overall this app is something we are sincerely proud of. I will list down a few milestones our team achieved.

  1. Building something that is super super intuitive to use
  2. Use of various different APIs like Clarifai, SendGrid and Exotel - thinking about use cases, and integrating them with the app within the short span of 30 hours!
  3. We wrote a search algorithm that searches a set of keywords against a huge set of keywords in a very small amount of time

What I learned

  1. How to handle concurrency issues - multiple apps accessing and updating same database at the same time
  2. How to handle multiple languages in both text and voice input
  3. Offline caching of data - and sending online when possible

What's next for Artisell - Indian culture revisited

Artisell has the potential to be a HUGE product. It taps the currently untapped market of rural artisans and their goods. By acting as a sole middleman and providing great experience for both buyers and sellers, this can be a huge huge business. In terms of functionality, we still need to fix a lot of things related to the caching of data. There are a lot of edge cases that still need to be handled.

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