: In a backward march from the virtual to the real world, Auroville’s not-for-profit e-commerce enterprise is offering customers an option to pick products off the shelf at select boutiques in the city, to see if the experience encourages shoppers to buy into its vast online domain.
For starters, the Auroville Online Store (auroville.com) has taken up boutique space in two upmarket establishments in the city to showcase a sampling of its unique products. Since last week, select Auroville products are being retailed at Casablanca and Le Pondichery, which is the boutique of The Promenade hotel.
“For us this is an experiment, create an offline exposure to see if this has an effect on our online presence,” said Luise, from Germany who has volunteered to ramp up Auroville online’s presence across multiple platforms, ranging from social media to blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Auroville online has hit the town with eleven brands: Gecko with Bamboo men shirts and dirt shirts; Svaram with musical instruments; MGEcoDuties with handmade soaps; Dream Studio with shirts for women and handcrafted bangles; Worktree with toys and kitchenware made out of timber wood; Arthena with bags; Shradhanjali with jewellery out of seeds; Auroville Press with children’s books; Auroville Papers with stationery; Papui and SomethingElse with “I love Auroville” tees and Food Link with organic grains from Auroville.
In the boutique space, these products are showcased under the auroville.com header rather than individual brands/labels or production units.
Customers who pick up the products at these outlets are also provided information material about how the product was made as well as a brief intro about the Auroville philosophy.
“Auroville products are associated with quality, eco-friendliness and social empowerment of local communities,” said Ms. Luise.
For instance, with these products customers get a quick orientation about the products and the units, such as Shardhanjali’s work in reforestation, Svaram’s educational music campus or Food Link’s organic farming, says Ms. Luise. “We want to establish an Auroville brand, everyone under an umbrella because together we are stronger. We are hoping that people get interested and go online to discover more on auroville.com and Auroville itself,” said Ms. Luise.
“We don’t believe that this subsumes independent identities of the products as at the end of the day the most important branding for any product coming out of the Aurovillian community is that it is made in Auroville,” says Stephan Himmer who manages Auroville’s e-commerce portal.
Essentially, trialling products at boutiques is a gauge on whether interest can be generated among shoppers to visit auroville.com.
The shelf presence at two outlets is more of a test run that has been timed to coincide with the off-season months of May-July.
“In fact, we have the capability to scale up and expand presence at more boutiques,” said Mr. Himmer, who has several years of inventory management at his production unit Gecko.
In recent months, auroville.com has been focussed on building on its connect with domestic market even as it processes orders from overseas destinations such as France, Germany, Russia and cities across the U.S.
While initially, almost 60 per cent of the hits and purchases were international, auroville.com now sees 55 per cent domestic sales against 45 per cent exports.
For the managers of auroville.com, the offer for boutique space actually came from the two establishments whose entrepreneur-proprietor Dilip Kapur is an Aurovillian.
The off-the-shelf purchase option is merely a teaser if one considers the fact that auroville.com coordinates the ebbs and flows of demand and supply for an estimated 3,500 products from 35 production units in Auroville.
“We believe that sampling these products would encourage customers to engage with us online,” said Ms. Luise, who has been in the forefront of production of Auroville’s first video promotional that debuted on YouTube in December 2015.
The collaborative effort featured an original background score composed by Stephan Himmer’s brother Holger Jetter, a musician, and his associate Tina Suchanek at their Sunshine Music recording studio in Auroville.
The voiceover was by Thomas Eckelmann, who dubbed for French actor Pierre Brice in the Winnetou movies featuring the fictional Native American hero created by best-selling German writer Karl May.