Launched as a platform to sell small and medium sized décor items, TukiTaki.xyz quickly became the largest online marketplace for art in the country
When TukiTaki was first launched, the idea was to sell small to medium sized items to decorate your house with, and hence the name.
"Our initial plan for the company was to make and sell small to medium-sized decor items, mostly made from wood," says Leonika Hannan, TukiTaki's Founder and CEO.
"We also wanted to ensure that our company was fun, trendy, and playful and thus wanted to choose a Bangla name that resonated with these values," she adds.
Once launched, however, TukiTaki began to take a life of its own.
The first big order the then F-commerce site received came from one Razee, who bought over 20 paintings, from six or seven different artists. Word got around. Suddenly, both artists and buyers came looking for TukiTaki.
"I suppose he was our lucky charm. Right after his first order, several other people saw his purchases and the orders started pouring in. Within a few months, we became known as the only online digital art gallery in Bangladesh and today we continue to hold that title with over 400 paintings from 100 plus artists."
Born in Zimbabwe, Leonika Hannan had a multicultural upbringing as her father's work in the UN required them to travel across the world. She has a Bachelors in Psychology and Masters in Human Resources Management.
In 2008, her parents retired and the three of them moved to Bangladesh.
Leonika started her career working in the HR department of a friend's tech company for free to gain Bangladeshi job experience and later spent three years at Otobi Limited as their Head of Strategic Human Resources. She spent a year as an independent consultant and working part-time at the EMK Center before moving to NewsCred in December 2013, as their Head of HR for Bangladesh and the UK offices, where she spent six and a half years.
Her first foray into business came when she and her mother jointly launched her mother's handmade jewellery business called "Shahnaz Hannan's Collection".
"While working at NewsCred and watching this start-up grow into a market leader in the US, I started feeling the need to do something of my own," says Leonika.
"In 2014, TukiTaki.xyz was just a thought. In 2015, the thought was still there. I could not shake it off. I started looking for potential partners. During early 2016, I approached M.K. Aaref, who is my current partner in the business, and we launched our first few products in October 2016," she said.
She quit her job and started to work at TukiTaki.xyz full-time from July 1 of this year.
Up until this point, TukiTaki.xyz was an f-commerce business and on July 1st they became an e-commerce business.
Along with paintings, there are bags, potted plants, hand crocheted toys, fridge magnets, jewelleries, tableware etc. for customers to choose from at TukiTaki.xyz. Staying true to its name one can find nifty everyday things here, from T-shirts to handcrafted soaps.
The products are arranged under six categories: Paintings, Fashion and Accessories, Books, Tuk-Tak, Plants and Accessories and Stock Images. There are sub-categories under each.
The price range of the products vary widely. The crocheted toys can cost as little as Tk. 94, whereas there are paintings which cost more than Tk. 1,00,000.
So how does TukiTaki source its products?
"I had asked my network to connect me to an artist they knew and I was introduced to artist Aparazita Rahman. Using her help and tremendous skill, I created 10 to 12 paintings for our store. She introduced me to her friend Nusrat Jahan Lucky, another wonderfully skilled artist," recalls Leonika.
"One day, they asked me if they could also sell their own paintings on our platform. I thought, 'Why am I creating inventory when I can help sell other people's art?' I saw an opportunity and pivoted my business model."
Artists like Mehnaz Tabassum, Fedeya Shahnaz, Sandip Kumer Deb Nath and Rajib Ahasen have been with TukiTaki from the beginning. Today, daily, TukiTaki receives five to seven requests from different people who want to sell their creations on this platform.
"We have one of the largest online art galleries and that is not something others have right now. We also have a stock image category. We have over a 1,000 photographs that can be used by various content creators and we plan on focusing more on this category in 2021," Leonika said.
Leonika describes TukiTaki.xyz as a platform working in the creative space, and not just an e-commerce platform for Bangladeshi-made products.
"We work with creative entrepreneurs. Artists, crafters, fashion designers, authors, jewelry designers, photographers, people who knit, crochet, embroider, make soap, candles and any other creative product that comes to mind," says Leonika.
"While other e-commerce ventures work with Bangladeshi companies that manufacture or produce large quantities of one design, we want that and more. We want people who create one of something, an original piece of art. We are interested in expression of our culture through creation and innovation."
There are many artists who are truly grateful for the platform TukiTaki.xyz has provided them. Many have difficulty in selling their artwork because there is no proper marketplace for them.
"For the first time in Bangladesh, we are making space for creative people by giving them a platform that focuses around highlighting their creations. Artists are able to earn enough from our platform to be an artist full-time, to do what they love instead of pursuing another job to earn an income," she says.
"Unlike other marketplace businesses abroad and in Bangladesh, we work very closely with our sellers and provide support on many levels, including making their products look visually appealing, writing product descriptions, designing stunning graphics for our social media channels - activities to ensure higher sales for them," Leonika said.
"Our sellers are not only those who are living in Bangladesh, they could be Bangladeshis living abroad or a foreigner living in Bangladesh. Our sellers are anyone who is related to Bangladesh, and understands its culture and can reflect it in their products," Leonika elaborated.
A distinctive feature of TukiTaki.xyz is the delightful user experience their website offers, a result of Leonika's own background in the technology industry.
"We also have well-thought out plans for our website/software. We want to make sure we keep delighting our customers through memorable and innovative experiences on our website. We will be launching a new feature December, first in Bangladesh, that many who are getting married this winter will be pleased to have."
Currently TukiTaki.xyz team consists of eight people and two consultants. They used to work out of a co-working space before the pandemic, and now they are working from home.
Leonika thinks TukiTaki.xyz is a great platform for retired people and stay at home mothers. It gives them a chance to pursue their creative passion and keep themselves busy.
"My mother was one of the first sellers on TukiTaki.xyz with her handmade jewelleries. Now it keeps her active and motivated. Earlier she operated only through her Facebook page and I used to help her with it. Working together has been a great bonding experience for us and it gave me the courage to start my own business," she said.
TukiTaki.xyz sometimes faces issues in delivery but Leonika knows these are problems faced by most e-commerce platforms.
"We are trying to build a credible and trustworthy company and eventually expand out of Dhaka, so we try to find logistic companies with long standing credibility."