Serial entrepreneurs selling stylish brands online
Jul 07 2012, 16:20 | By CNBC-TV18
Harish Bahl's Smile group is a big believer in the Indian E-commerce story. A pioneer in online retail the Smile group is the parent of a bunch of popular e-commerce stores like fashionandyou.com, bestylish.com, dealsandyou.com.
His latest offering freecultr.com is an online apparel brand that sells luxury clothing at affordable prices and has received USD 4 million in funding from Sequoia capital. Join us as we find out how Freecultr hopes to stand out in a sea of e-commerce.
What is a serial entrepreneur who is in a business of selling you the most stylish brands and the hottest deals in town do when he goes shopping and finds very little that he really likes? If he is Harish Bahl of the Fashion and You fame, his friend Sandeep Singh and techpreneur Sujal Shah, is a high street fashion marketer.
For me the connecting point was that three of us had a similar pain point with us. That's where it originated from. Where we became very confident about it that this can work is that we have another company called Fashion and You which is into the business of selling apparels, lifestyles products for other brands.
What we realised was that if you have good products, Indian consumer was so receptive that we saw that pattern that if the product is good, the amount of sales that we are getting for a very well branded product versus a product which is still in its early days, the uptake was same. So we said okay which means that it is not an entry barrier to go build a brand which is very digital focused.
Everything you see on the website is made in India and has a made in India price tag too. With price point between Rs 499 and Rs 2000, Freecultr within 6 months of being live is drawing a million visitors every month. And with average order values or around Rs 1700 Freecultr seems to be doing something right. Sujal Shah a follow consultant to brands like Gucci, Jimmy Choo and Calvin Klein believes it is all about the basics. Product, price and presentation that's making Freecultr click.
We decided when we launched to launch with both men and women. Not focus on one but to go to the complete family or complete partnership of a man and a woman. So we launched with about a 150-200 products when we first launched. At this point in time we have well over a couple thousand products on the website across sizes, colors, all of those different things that we have out there.
So if you look at categories we have about 40 categories across men and women at the moment. In men we talk about anything from pants, shirts, shoes, sunglasses, belts, wallets, complete lifestyle range is out there and for women the same thing.
While starting to push up their orders to a few thousand a day, Freecultr is also keen to explore the more traditional offline model given that they do have a robust backend supply chain in place. Any e-commerce analyst will tell you that getting the backend right is crucial to get in the business right. Co-founder Sandeep Singh tells us how Freecultr has done it.
We had a brand which is manufacturing and distributing to the customers. So we are a single brand entity which is selling our own products. So if you look at these developments we do the product development in-house. So we have a team which designs and develops the product. So we control the complete process of product development.
Almost 80% of it and only 20% of it which could be just the cutting, sewing, making which is again done through partners across India. So we tap expertise across India. So if Ahmadabad is the key hub for developing denims, we use Ahmadabad as a hub. If Ludhiana is the key hub for developing knitwear we use Ludhiana. So from a vendor supplier perspective we are pretty agnostic of who we work with, we have key relationships across different vendors who have really supported us right from our initial days.
Investors seem to have spotted potential from the get go. With a total investment of USD 6 million by Sequoia capital and USD 7 million from the Russian firm ru-Net within the first few months of operation. Harish is now eyeing other emerging markets not only for online sales but also for an offline presence.
We had a global conference of large e-commerce retailers so I am a co-founder of few e-commerce businesses in lot of emerging markets. So we had one of the conferences in India where we had 13 CEO or founders of the largest fashion retailers or lifestyle retailers from Brazil, Turkey, Australia, Russia, etc. they were all here and we just very quietly put two tables and we kept lot of Freecultr products there and we just felt it there and we had a tea break.
Everybody was just on that table and that's what made me and Sujal super excited that there is an opportunity to build a global brand because all of them were saying 'this pricing is amazing for my market'.
But meanwhile the going is good in the Indian market place. Freecultr is adding stars to its brand value as the official casual wear partner for IPL 2012 winners The Kolkata Knight Riders. The team is also looking to launch a children's wear and a home accessory line soon.
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