Rohit Sharma of Carpets of Kashmir tells us about its handmade, hand-knotted carpets and rugs.
First of all, how are you and your family doing?
Rohit Sharma: Everyone is doing fine. Things have come back to normal or the new normal, shall I say!
Tell us about you, your career, and how you joined Carpets of Kashmir.
Rohit Sharma: The company, Kashmir Oriental Carpet Enterprises, was founded by my father, Mr. P.L. Sharma, way back in 1979, along with 4 of his colleagues. The 5 partners were at one time working at another carpet company in Mumbai (then called Bombay) since 1960. For 19 years, my father gained a lot of experience in understanding the intricacies of this business and then finally decided to take the proverbial entrepreneurial plunge 19 years later. Since 1979, our company has been the market leader in producing exquisite handmade carpets and rugs manufactured at our various workshops across India, including Kashmir, Agra, Jaipur, and Varanasi.
I joined the family business in 1997 and have been working in various verticals of our company, such as marketing, exports, inventory management, CRM, and finally, sales.
In 2003, we launched our website www.carpetsofkashmir.com, and since then, the website has undergone various avatars, with the last major facelift done in 2018. Coincidentally, our company has adopted the name of our website, Carpets of Kashmir, for itself in 2018.
We are currently doing 75% of our business online, besides, of course, welcoming our customers from across the world to our showroom at the World Trade Center in Mumbai, India, to experience the old-world charm of buying carpets and rugs in person and listening to the enigmatic stories of the making of each of these wonderful works of art.
With our global reach and over 10000+ families who have been buying carpets from us across the world, we have been able to emerge stronger post the pandemic and have a lot of exciting new lines of rugs lined up that will be unveiled in the weeks and months to come.
With over 2000+ carpets, rugs, flat-weaves, and Kilims ready in stock, we offer the widest possible selection for our customers across any continent to select the right work of art for their floors from the confines of their homes, office, or home offices!
How does Carpets of Kashmir market its product/services online?
Rohit Sharma: Almost the entire online reach takes place organically. We never indulge in influencer-based marketing or paid likes, etc. Our ethics have centered around honesty, fair trade, and value addition for our buyers. Our customers have been our most vocal ambassadors who constantly refer us to their friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors. In fact, almost 25% of our customers are second-generation buyers who are simply continuing the family tradition of buying carpets from us for decades! Nearly 80% of our business comes in through these first-hand experiences or qualified referrals.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how did you get through it?
Rohit Sharma: Initially, the pandemic hit us extremely hard. With dwindling production, severe illness amongst our weavers, and cancellation of orders, we were staring at huge losses; however, things changed since the last quarter of 2020, and due to the regular launches of our spectacular and rare carpets that were showcased on our website, we were able to reach out to newer markets and customers across the world. Being online for the last 20-odd years helped us gain the first-mover advantage, and because of our credibility, we were able to get over the crises. We are now confidently looking at expansions and will be launching a new vertical focused on bespoke, artistic rugs aimed at new homeowners and contemporary settings.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to manage your online marketing?
Rohit Sharma: Commitment to quality, investing in our team, and relationship-building are the skills we have relied upon, and these have given us fairly good results.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Rohit Sharma: There is immense competition, both in the domestic and the international markets, and each company has its own strength in production, inventory, retail penetration, or an online brand. We respect all our competitors; however, at the same time, we believe we have the perfect amalgamation of all the above facets and are confident that we will continue excelling by delivering the most opulent carpets to our customers worldwide. We are perhaps the only carpet company in India that is a one-stop-shop that caters to customers from every segment, be it the rug connoisseur who is looking for a vintage-dyed Persian masterpiece, a young consumer who’s interested in a chic rug, a suburban couple who prefer the Southwestern geometric pattern, or a family that is looking for carpets for various spaces in the home – the dining area, the media room, the den, the bedroom, the corridor runner, and a grand statement piece for the living room!
Your final thoughts?
Rohit Sharma: Ultimately, each of our carpets is unique and tells an enchanting story, and we believe we are the masters of this narrative and therefore are the preferred rug merchants for dignitaries, celebrities, distinguished people from the corporate world, and finally,, for the homeowner who wants a carpet or a rug that is a part of a Living Tradition called Carpets of Kashmir!