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Nagaland's own 'Amazon'

YeteKinibi, one of the state’s first home-grown e-commerce marketplaces, shines the spotlight on indigenous products

A mask embroidered with the hornbill motif. Photo: courtesy Yetekinibi

Over the past seven months, people across Nagaland have discovered a new e-commerce marketplace. Where they once depended on big names such as Amazon and Flipkart, they can now click on YeteKinibi to get everything from gadgets, appliances and books to indigenous produce and handicrafts delivered to their doorsteps.

The website’s “Go Local” section features a host of interesting products—from Umungthi (wild mango) wine and Naga rice to a potato organic soap and axone, or fermented soybean. Each reflects the heritage and craftsmanship of Nagaland’s tribes.

YeteKinibi, launched on 7 November, sees itself as a platform that can connect local entrepreneurs and content creators with customers across the country. With a name that means “buy from here” in Nagamese, the e-commerce website was founded by a team of seven like-minded people, aged 27-35—four IT and communication professionals, Imnajungshi Nokdir, Mughato Swu, Longhsithung Lotha and Achila, two marketing specialists, Renjamo Tsanglao and Tia, and financial analyst Toni Chishi.

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“We have not been funded by any private or public investors. YeteKinibi is self-funded. This is an ongoing journey, full of learnings and experience. Through a host of trials and errors, we have been evolving and trying to provide the best possible service,” says Mughato, unwilling to get into the details of the operation.

Traditional products from the Sumi Naga tribe
Traditional products from the Sumi Naga tribe

The entrepreneurs, who spotted the unrealised potential of local produce, are working on expanding the Go Local menu. Currently, this section comprises handicrafts, books, merchandise by home-grown graphic artists and content creators, clothing, health and beauty products. So you will find items such as ylang ylang rice bars sharing space on the site with the traditional headgear of women from the Sumi tribe—and an Ao Naga necktie.

Nitoka V. Swu, a faculty member at the Pioneer Institute, Kohima, has left a comment on the site on the reasonable prices of local products. “The delivery was made at the doorstep within two days of placing the order and the delivery person was extremely customer-friendly,” notes Nitoka.

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Until last year, says Mughato, e-commerce giants from other parts of India delivered products from Nagaland even within the state. “But now our local products will go out into the world. We saw the platform as a necessity, not as a profit-making venture,” he adds. Today, YeteKinibi runs both as a web page and an app—it has so far seen 8,000-plus downloads. Engagement with the website has been increasing with every product update.

YeteKinibi has a dedicated link for entrepreneurs and craftspersons keen to sell their products via the site. However, they need to fulfil certain conditions in order to become a YeteKinibi vendor. For instance, every product should have its own brand registration or unique identification. If more than 20% of a seller’s products turn out to be defective, their account is terminated.

At present, the majority of customers are from within the state, and the team coordinates with local delivery service providers. For areas around Kohima and Dimapur, they use their own staff. But they also have points in three districts—Peren, Kohima and Wokha—from where delivery personnel can pick up the products. They are planning more pick-up points.

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“For other states, we tap prominent delivery service providers,” says Mughato. “Right from the beginning, our team’s USP has remained the same—of bringing together people from different backgrounds who have a unique set of ideas and strategies. One of our core goals is to provide employment to the local youth for marketing, data entry and customer support.”

Starting a venture during the pandemic hasn’t been easy. However, the slower pace of life afforded them the time to study the market, plan and implement the project.

“Definitely, like any other startup, we faced a series of highs and lows. While we got an encouraging number of orders, due to the lockdown this year, our delivery services were impacted sometimes,” Mughato says.

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Yetekinibi has caught the eye of ministers and officials. Temjen Imna Along, state minister for higher education and tribal affairs, recently posted on social media: “Fascinated with the initiatives taken by the youth of Nagaland in exploring new career opportunities. Yetekinibi, an e-commerce site of Nagaland, promotes the local entrepreneurs and offers a range of products with quality service.”

Mughato’s message for aspiring entrepreneurs from the region: “An idea does not become a reality overnight, so envision a time five- seven years down the line. Profit should never be the target; rather, development and employment should be the guiding principles. Start small, learn along the way and work smart.”

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