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An online marketplace for 'queerpreneurs'

Diversity and inclusion consultant Pride Circle’s latest initiative is an online marketplace for small and medium businesses owned by LGBTQ+ people

A product from the LGBTQ+ marketplace set up by Pride Circle at the job fair in Bengaluru in 2019. (Pride Circle)

In October, when Sulagna Mazumdar, Arush Mondal and Siddhartha Pal launched High on Tea to sell tea, spices, seeds, and other organic, chemical-free consumables sourced from Sikkim, they braced for challenges. As first-time entrepreneurs, not only would they have to learn to navigate the crowded online space to which most businesses have pivoted since the pandemic, but as people who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community, the three co-founders were also apprehensive about the challenges they might face along the way. A couple of months ago, though, High on Tea found a unique niche, specifically meant to boost the dreams of “queerpreneurs”.

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Rainbow Bazaar, India’s first online marketplace for micro and small LGBTQ+ owned businesses, is incubated by Pride Circle, a Bengaluru-headquartered organisation that works on the inclusion of LGBTQ+ employees in Indian workplaces. Two years ago, when Pride Circle organised a job fair for the community in Bengaluru, there was a dedicated marketplace for LGBTQ+ businesses to display their products.

“As the pandemic has forced many small enterprises to give up their physical stores, we thought it was time for a digital transformation,” says Srini Ramaswamy, one of the founders of Pride Circle along with Ramkrishna Sinha.

The idea behind Rainbow Bazaar is simple—to create an online platform for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs to showcase and sell their products at price points they are comfortable with. Unlike global behemoths that already follow this model, Pride Circle doesn’t seek to control the selling process, take a cut from sales or generate revenue. “Our only criteria is that the business should be owned by an LGBTQ+ individual or have at least one stakeholder from the community,” Ramaswamy says. Since its soft launch in June, Rainbow Bazaar has 30 businesses with 450 products on offer at the moment. The plan, Ramaswamy adds, is to grow it to include 500 brands in the next two years and get sellers from tier 2 and 3 cities on board.

A product from the LGBTQ+ marketplace set up by Pride Circle at the job fair in Bengaluru in 2019.
A product from the LGBTQ+ marketplace set up by Pride Circle at the job fair in Bengaluru in 2019. (Pride Circle)

Since Pride Circle consults with companies on diversity and inclusion policies, there is a ready pool of clients it can tap into. “Some of the companies we work with are happy to buy vouchers from us to gift their employees as incentives,” Ramaswamy adds. “This is one way of encouraging more people to shop from the businesses featured on Rainbow Bazaar.”

Pride Circle is happy to provide logistical support to newbie queerpreneurs—help them figure out PAN cards, train them to photograph their products, list their businesses on the platform, decide the right price points and maintain an inventory. There is already a variety of merchandise to choose from across 20 different categories—be it cosmetics, handbags, fast-moving consumer goods, clothes, fine art, collectibles, even furniture—all priced from as little as 100 to 1 lakh.

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