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YourStory in conversation with entrepreneur Deepak Saraf about Health-Shoppe.com, an e-commerce venture in the beauty & wellness space

Team YS
17th May 2011
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Deepak, let’s start with an easy one. Can you please encapsulate for us the business idea behind Health-Shoppe.com in about three lines?

Health-Shoppe.com is India’s premier health, beauty, fitness & wellness web store. It offers the best range of products in the category with the convenience of online shopping and/or phone ordering to its customers, thereby enabling them to live better. It offers unparalleled convenience, availability, reliability and value to anyone looking for health, beauty, fitness & wellness products in India.

So, how did it all start? Did the idea stem out of a personal experience?

I noticed that a number of my friends and relatives would ask anyone travelling abroad to bring back regular stuff like a multivitamin or ‘free from...’ food or a particular emolument or wellness product that was not easily available in India.

Others would ask relatives to send by post or bring over from another part of the country, a particular brand of ayurvedic product or other health product that was not available locally. On further research, I realised that the country’s organised retail industry was still at a very nascent stage and specialised retail lagged further behind. Whatever presence which was there in the sector was limited to a few major cities.

I decided to leapfrog the far-more expensive and inefficient route of opening a chain of retail stores catering to this range of products. I ended up leveraging my IT experience in the process and founded Health-Shoppe.com.

We evaluated a number of names before zeroing on the generic Health-Shoppe.com name as this would take out any ambiguity about what we do. We were lucky that the brand was not trademarked in India and that it was not being used internationally either. The capital outlay, so far, has been about Rs. 1 crore.

Tell us about your background, Deepak.

images/stories/Entrepreneurs/non_tech2/deepak-health-e-shoppe.gif

I am a graduate in Business Management from University of Buckingham, UK having about 18 years of experience in Information Technology, Retail Trade and Logistics.I founded an IT Company in 1996 with India and US operations, and successfully executed offshore outsourcing contracts. I founded Neo Retail Ltd. in February 2009 to launch Health-Shoppe.com. I am part of a business family that is also into warehousing & logistics and real estate.

Take us through your tie-ups with brands. And are you seeing traction on the site? Can you share with us some interesting use-cases or instances that you’ve encountered during the journey so far?

We have tied up with around 75 brands, both national and international ones. The list includes L’Oreal, ~H2O+, GNC, Dr.Morepen (HomeHealth), Hicks among others and this is a list that is growing steadily. The concept is being well accepted as we have a lot of repeat customers and our small customer base has been expanding as well.

 

One particular incident that would deserve mention here would be a call from a mother living in a town whose child was lactose and gluten intolerant. She was facing a tough challenge in finding the right food for her 6 year-old daughter before she discovered Health-Shoppe.com. She was so happy that she called us and she could not stop saying how thankful and appreciative she was that we were offering these products online and delivering them to her door step.

So, how are you going about promoting Health-Shoppe.com?

Other than the vendor tie-ups, we have also entered into a Rs. 12 crore private treaty deal with Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd. to market and promote the web store. We also enter into co-promotional tie-ups with some companies such as Inox, Shoppers Stop, Apollo, etc. and sites/networks such as 123greetings, DGM etc., from time to time.

Can you share with us some numbers? Number of visitors, number of locations, etc. would be good to know.

Well, we get about 20000+ visitors per month from about 90 locations across the country. The most popular product categories (in terms of sales) are from Beauty & Personal Care followed by Sexual Health. Interestingly, our visit rate peaks around Wednesdays and Thursdays. And our repeat visitor/customer rate is 32.56%.

That’s interesting. So, can you let us in on the details regarding the team that’s behind Health-Shoppe.com?

The current team size is 12. My COO, Ujjal has over 20 years of experience and has been with the company since its inception. He is the execution expert. He is the guy who takes it upon himself to turn the ideas into reality.

He is a graduate in Physics and has a nuanced understanding of IT, IT training, systems, franchising, pharma distribution and marketing from his experiences at Cadila Pharmaceuticals, NIIT, Wigan & Leigh College, NIS Sparta and KPMG.

In terms of team composition, there are 2 members in marketing, 2 in customer relations, 1 in supply chain, 2 in the technical team, 2 in design & 1 in admin/accounts functions. We are looking at hiring 4 more people in the marketing team.

What do your expansion plans look like?

We plan to set up Regional Distribution Hubs to ensure speedier and more efficient deliveries. And we’d like to double our employee count every year, over the next 3 years. We are also working on introducing a mCommerce platform that will enable customers to shop easily from their smart phones & PDAs.

Where do you see e-commerce in India and Health-Shoppe.com five years from now?

E-commerce is one of the most convenient and efficient sales channels that is now easily accessible to the general public, thanks to the telecom & internet revolution in India. It has made the entire process not only available but also reliable and affordable.

The number of internet users in India is growing fast and the rate of growth for online transactions is growing even faster. Smart phones and tablets are gaining popularity and that’s adding to a new era of internet users over and above the conventional desktops/laptops in office or residences.

I expect that, in 5 years from now, 1 in every 2-3 internet users would be buying online. In 5 years time, I expect Health-Shoppe.com to be the preferred destination for buying health, beauty, fitness & wellness products & services, be it online or through phone.

The YourStory team wishes Deepak and the Health-Shoppe.com unit much success. To let us know about your thoughts and views on this story, do leave a comment or write to us at feedback@yourstory.in.

Sriram Mohan | YourStory | 16th May 2011 | Bangalore

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