The story of the Auroville Online Store began in 2006 in the halls of Future School in Auroville. Ulli, one of the last to become executives of Auroville.com, gave business seminars on how to identify a good start-up idea for investment. Working with students in their teens, he donated some funds at the end of the first semester to help the young people actually make an investment after deciding which project to support. ( such is the hands-on way things are taught in Auroville.) The so-called Future School Investment Group decided on principles for selection and opened its doors to applicants. One of the projects was for an online store where all the products of Auroville could be sold. There was already something similar in place in Chennai, a mail-order business where you could order from a printed catalogue, but it wasn’t working very well.
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But back to the teenagers who could open businesses - they liked the idea of Olivier who ran La Ferme Cheese at the time, but in the end the group decided against funding because they felt that Olivier hadn’t enough experience in the field of e-commerce. So the project was rejected.
In 2007 however, during a seminar in Verite (an Auroville community) Olivier introduced Ulli to Martin, a friend of Auroville from South Africa who ran his own web shop at the time. After this things moved quite fast. Martin presented his work a few days later to Ulli and offered his skill-set for creating an online site for Auroville products. So they decided together that with their combined knowledge and experience they could create the online store. After this the main question was; who would run the show? Ulli and Martin covered the backend and the interface but who would take care of the daily business like order processing and packaging? These were uneasy times, some people tried and failed (by this time the site wasn’t even online yet). After spreading the word in the community Ulli met Suzanne, who ran a screen printing business at the time and who was on the lookout for some change. She decided to join the team. So finally on the 15th December 2008 the Auroville Online Store went live.
Suzanne ran the daily show alone for around six years with occasional help of other Aurovilians. In 2014 she decided that it was time to move on, that it was time for another challenge. So Ulli started another hunt for a potential executive. Stephan, who he knew from the Auroville Budget Committee, showed interest in taking over. He had experience running the garment Unit Gecko for almost 20 years. However Stephan expressed that he would like to find Aurovilians and Newcomers who would be interested in running this Unit with him. Ulli agreed and in May 2014 Stephan took over the office.
Well, what can we say?! It’s been quite a ride since then. People joined and left, volunteers passed by, we went live with a new interface in October 2016 and changes are still going on. We decided that our work should be fun, interesting and challenging – every single day! We see potential for our little shop, not only as an e-commerce site with lovely goods but as a window of Auroville to the world.