Michael Aldrich launched online shopping in1979 with no clue whatsoever that his innovation would be a trillion dollar industry in the space of a few decades. Were we any wiser?
Yet that’s what has happened.
In 2012,worldwide online sales topped one trillion US dollars. In India, Indiamart.com and Alibaba.com were the early birds. They hit cyberspace in the late 90’s and early 2000, spreading awareness globally about India’s unorganised manufacturers and vendors.
Strictly speaking, these were B2B sites. The revolution came with B2C sites like Fashionandyou, 99labels.com, Myntra, Flipcart, Jabong and so on, offering more numerous products at much cheaper rates.
Nothing succeeds like success. It spawned Perniaspopupshop.com, Exclusively.in (Bought by Myntra now), Simplysizzle.in and other such sites, showcasing Indian designers from the new and upcoming to the established.
The early sites were backed by venture capitalists, the later ones mostly by individuals.
It’s known that most sites have not yet broken even and so there should a great degree of consolidation in 2013.
Also, there are venture capitalists who have invested in a number of sites and feel that mergers and acquisitions would make them profitable.
My feeling is, while the picture looks somewhat gloomy now, every business plan must be given time to click and show results.
There is need for cohesive action and effective advertising. Cash on delivery is a CBM (confidence-building measure.) It can address the touch-and-feel factor, the fitting issue and questions a buyer must have about product quality. Initially, it will raise the overheads but will give you profits and a wider client base in the long run.
Another problem is often these sites don’t want to buy stuff. They take it on consignment, get the shoot done and put it on the web. This has made a lot of vendors back out. But then the sites save lot of overheads for them right from photo-shoot to marketing to delivery.
India isn’t a country where too many people buy online. If we talk in figures, only 15 per cent of our population shop online. If we further classify them into apparel or designer wear, the percentage dips drastically. This will go up if we focus more on rural markets. The potential of E-commerce in fashion and apparel are immense. However, there is need for a right blend of long-term funding, competent management, best merchandisers, efficient research and adaptability.