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BW Businessworld

Giving A Desi Twist To Fashion

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Rahul Narvekar, former co-founder of Fashionandyou, talks about the NDTV-backed Indian fashion portal Indianroots, his new venture. He tells BW Businessworld what it takes to make the e-commerce site profitable.
What was the rationale behind starting another e-commerce portal on fashion out of India?
We observed an Indian lady would be willing to pay a couple of lakhs or more for a handcrafted bag from Italy but would not pay Rs 26,000 for a hand-painted sari from India. This is because the Italian government has made their products flauntable. We haven't done that yet. Our aim is to make Indian fashion a premium product and sell it like a luxury.
Another reason is the profit margins in fashion are very high, almost 50 per cent. In the first year itself we did revenue of Rs 5 crore and next year it jumped to Rs 61 crore. In fact, we created history by selling one of the most expensive shawl worth Rs 19 lakh on an ecommerce website. It was a restored heirloom piece by designer Pranavi Kapoor.
Why Indianroots targets Indian diaspora as its customer when the Indian market is itself huge?
We were targeting the market outside India initially because of the huge marketing cost required for customer acquisition. NDTV, who is a majority shareholder, gave us a media inventory of 36 crore on dot-com and television outside India. This amount of money wasn't enough to compete with companies like Flipkart and Jabong. So, we decided to target the market outside India because it is largely unexplored and there is a huge demand for Indian fashion. The plan was to enter India after two years when we would have made substantial revenue. But after one year itself we realised we are getting 33 per cent of our traffic from India from organic word-of-mouth. That has made us divert our attention now to India which will be our main focus for this year.
What are your future plans apart from focusing on India
We have 100 designers and 700-plus brands on our portal. We are now dropping the ethnic tag and extending the category to Indian fashion - fusion stuff and a lot more of westernised clothes with Indian sensibilities. We will add more categories, regional brands, and bring in more affordable products. The idea is to bring down our average order value from Rs 17,000-Rs 25,000, which is maximum in Indian fashion space, to Rs 6,000-7,000.

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