By Dalits: This E-Commerce Website Is Proposing New World For The Community

The purpose of this venture, as mentioned in the about section of the website, is to bring about an economic revolution for the community by virtue of selling and buying Dalit made products.

According to a report by Statista in August this year, India has around 687.6 million digital population (people availing internet for various purposes). In this vast market, there is around 74% active E-commerce penetration (people availing internet to buy various products). The estimated size of the online retail market in India is around $73 billion. It is evident that with the availability of cheaper data packs and smartphones, the numbers of people logging into the internet have been increasing by every passing day, opening new doors of opportunities for entrepreneurs having unique ideas. After all, E-commerce websites reduce the efforts you otherwise take while shopping offline. Moreover, they deliver your products on your doorstep. What more can a customer ask for?

The Internet has been considered a democratic space so far, having no restrictions on what the users could post, watch or buy. However, the representation of users on the internet has mostly been based on their devices or locations. Personally, I have not come across a study that can put forth the exact numbers of people availing internet services (or E-commerce) from minorities or communities from lower strata of social hierarchy.

Dalit, meaning “broken/scattered” in Sanskrit and Hindi, is a name for people belonging to the lowest caste in India characterized as “untouchable”. Dalits were excluded from the four-fold varna system of Hinduism and were seen as forming a fifth varna, also known by the name of Panchama.

India accepting the socialist structure of development after independence has helped the community to break free from centuries of oppression, however, there is still a long way to go for the country to be free of caste-based discrimination.

However, an ideologue from the Dalit community has proposed a model that he thinks can solve the outstanding problem of inequality- both economic and social. is an e-commerce portal exclusively for Dalit products. The purpose of this venture, as mentioned in the about section of the website, is to bring about an economic revolution for the community by virtue of selling and buying Dalit products. The website sells products such as shoes, wallets, tops, backpacks etc. is an e-commerce platform to promote products manufactured by Dalit entrepreneurs. With, a future history of Dalits is unfolding, an Economic Revolution is being seeded. Let, We the Dalits, target Rupee and capture Bombay Stock Exchange. Join this Dalit Brand & Wealth building moment now, as founders, Business Associates, franchise owners, sales affiliates and regular buyers,” reads the About Us section of the website.

The major objectives of this venture, as mentioned on its website, are– “to make Dalit Capitalism a reality, to ensure the rise of Dalit Billionaires, to act as a bridge between Dalit manufacturers and consumers, to encourage Dalits to launch their own brands and to motivate Dalit Middle Class to buy Dalit products”.

Chandra Bhan Prasad is the founder of Mr Prasad is a writer, journalist, Dalit Ideologue & political thinker. He has been profiled by the New York Times and Washington Post. He is a former member of IIM Lucknow’s Board of Governors and has been a columnist for various national dailies.

In a brief conversation with HW News, Mr Prasad elaborated his journey and how it has culminated into founding

How did you come up with this concept?

Ans: I was in the University of Pennsylvania in 2007 as visiting fellow for a semester. There are many black professors in the university with whom I got an opportunity to have a dialogue. There I got to know that one of the first things the black community did after the abolition of slavery in 1863 was to create their own bank within the first 25 years. They started creating their own brands. The idea was to retain the major portion of money within the black community that they earned from society. Here in India, there are many Dalit manufacturers. For example, Dalits from Agra make leather shoes for the European market and making shoes for the European market means making world-class shoes. But there is no Dalit brand. There is no brand that Dalits can associate with. They make products for someone else who sells the product with his own name. Dalits have now excelled in almost every field, but there is no Dalit brand. So I thought If we could create a platform where we could start promoting Dalit-made goods and see how it goes. That’s where this idea came from.

Are all products available on your platform made exclusively by Dalits?

Ans: Yes, all these products are made by Dalits. In future, we are going to have products which Dalits will outsource to the players which are already making it.

What are the difficulties do you face while dealing with local manufacturers?

Ans: There is a very top-class jeans maker in Karol Bagh. I asked him, “Why don’t you make it for yourself and sell it in your own name?” His response was, “Usme humara kya fayda hai, Hum bech nahin payenge (It won’t benefit us. We won’t be able to sell it)”. So I had to pay him for 200 jeans in advance to sell it on our platform just so he could make a name for himself.

But slowly, people are approaching us saying, “Humara bhi samaan bech do (Please sell our product as well)”. The criteria to float your product on the platform is that it should be best in its category and should be competitive price-wise.

What’s the broader objective of this venture?

Ans: From what I’ve observed, Dalits have a very poor understanding of economics. Dalits working in public sector undertakings get huge salary cheques and bonuses, but have you ever heard that 100 such people came together to start a Dalit fund? To earn 50 lakh per annum is not a joke for a community that was not allowed to touch the currency 100 years back. Now, even a primary school teacher in Uttar Pradesh’s has a starting salary of Rs 39,000. Primary teacher with 25 years of service has Rs 70,000 salary. Where does all this money go? Around 40% of this money is spent on their children’s education, essential needs, investments and insurances. But around 60% of that money goes back to the market.

Now let’s say a Dalit that stitches the world-class shoes for a brand gets Rs 1,800 per pair. But the same shoes are sold by the brand for around Rs 10,000 in the market. So the idea is to have a platform where the community can help the manufacturer by directly buying from him at a much lesser price than the market price, thereby helping the manufacturer earn more for his hard work than what he usually gets from these brands.

There is a long list of founders on your website among which there are many eminent people. So how did you assemble these founders? Also, there’s an option to become a founder on your website. How does that work?

Ans: When I started approaching Dalit manufacturers, I was told by them that I would have to order the products in advance in order to have them make the products in their name. So earlier, I approached my relatives and asked them to invest Rs 1 lakh each in this venture, thereby making them founders. However, I told them not to expect any returns with this investment and asked them to trust me. That’s how they became founding members. Our idea is not succeeding that well right now. We get one or two orders a day. We also have overheads to run the company and we are currently running into losses. But I will continue the venture as my CSR for the community. The option to become a founder is there because we need more people to come on board and invest in their own community. Our people are not buying. Somehow, people don’t have confidence that the products made by Dalits would turn out to be great. On one side, due to my academia, they compare me with all these big names. On the other side, they are not willing to buy the products made by their own brethren. In general, our people have not developed a good economic sense. And that, I think, is the reason behind people not understanding this concept and not buying these products.

You have had many orders till now. How has been the feedback?

Ans: Feedback has been great. There are also many suggestions coming in on how we could improve our website and overall buying experience. As far as orders are concerned, it’s still not up to the mark. But as I said, I will continue with it, hoping that the idea clicks someday.

Apart from the business conversation, I found two interesting terminologies on your website and Twitter bio as well. “English the Dalit Goddess” and “Dalit Capitalism”. What exactly is the meaning of these two terms?

Ans: Back in 2004, when I used to write a popular column for Rashtriya Sahara, four IIT students from the community came to see me. They narrated their ordeal of not making through the campus placements in their institute. I asked them whether the companies visiting their campus knew about their caste. Though they responded in negative, one of them told me that it was probably because of their poor English accent. So while talking to them, the interviewers must have figured out that these fellows have come through the quota. Otherwise, how else would they get through premier institute such as IIT?

It was then that I realized that not only you must know the English language, but your accent should also be good. Then I started thinking about the importance of the language. At one point, Sanskrit was the language of the ruling class, then it was Pali. Today the language of the ruling class is English and I thought Dalits should learn English. But how could I reach to every person in such a vast country? So if it is given a status of Dalit goddess, it may click. So I started building a temple in Banka village in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh to worship the Goddess of the English language. The project, however, could not be completed as the governments changed over the time period. But the idea has gone home that we must learn English. That’s where the term came from.

Dalit capitalism is more of a social concept than an economic one. If everything revolves around money, why should Dalits not make money? Why don’t we make money fashionable? Dalits who flee their villages because they couldn’t pay their landlords and consequently get harassed by them are mostly sheltered by factories in these metro cities. You get gears to wear from these companies when you work there, but if these gears are not ironed properly or if you not dressed well, you are very likely to be stopped at the first entry point. I have seen this happening to many people. But if you show up at landlord’s place dressed up properly, you might get beaten up. This is how capitalism hurts Dalits.

Despite making hundreds of billions of rupees annually, Dalits have no bank or financial institutions of their own. With a little financial wisdom, and a mere 1% investment of their income, Dalits in government services alone can create banks with massive liquidity every year. Caste & Capitalism can’t coexist, one will have to wither away for the other. That’s why I propose Dalit capitalism.

“India is moving from a caste-based to a class-based society, where if you have all the goodies in life and your bank account is booming, you are acceptable.”

Chandra Bhan Prasad,


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