In conversation with Abhilasha Dafria for YourStory.in, Anuskha Malhotra, founder of Fashion Junkie, tells us how her e-commerce venture helps online shopaholics get their fashion fix daily for latest in global trends at affordable prices.What is the story behind the launching of Fashion Junkie?
After finishing my MBA from Symbiosis Institute of Management Studies, Pune and working for a few years, I quit, took a sabbatical, spent valuable time dreaming my dreams and doing nothing about it.
My dream was always to do with ‘clothes’, I like to believe I have a sixth sense about them: what would work, what wouldn’t, what would look good on which body type etc. Even though I myself am a white tee and jeans kind of girl most days, I feel when you go all out and dress up, you must hit the ‘right note’!
An avid online shopper, Pink Mascara, Net-a-porter, Forever 21, I’ve shopped them all at some point in time. On one such shopping spree online, I decided to check how many visits Forever 21 had in a day, just to see if there were other crazies like me who bought at their site and had it forwarded to India and I noticed that 0.5% of their hits were from India, when they don’t even ship to India. That’s 2000 hits from India, alone. That’s when I had the sole productive thought for the year.
One day, in the midst of a phase of self confidence on a downward spiral and a self worth that was beating my confidence levels, hands down, I decided to start an online store. And the men in my life, long suffering husband and father decided to help me out as an act of charity for the ‘multi-dimensionally’ challenged :)
Therefore, Fashion Junkie.
And in a nutshell, could you tell us what exactly is your venture?
Fashion Junkie is an online store, where we bring you style and fashion not from the usual brands but from the streets of the world. Our suppliers are niche, chic, boho-chic and kitschy stores across the globe.
Any avid shopper would know that tiny tingle of excitement when they discover a fabulous outfit at a great price at a little ‘off the beaten path’ store on their travels. Our attempt is to bring those fabulous finds to you, wherever you are, home, office or outdoors.
What were the challenges you faced while starting up an e-commerce venture in international fashion space?The challenges were entering the world of e-commerce with no real knowledge of the ‘E’ in E-commerce. That’s where we found an excellent partner in Google, we researched everything proposed to us, visited a myriad of shopping sites, comprehensively prepared a detailed vision of our website based on our own shopping experiences- what we found irksome, what we liked, ease and convenience of shopping etc. We wanted a visually appealing, clutter-free website, with the focus on ease of surfing and shopping. We believe we have that, now.
Understanding social media campaigns, their workings and performance factors was second. We realized early on, it’s easy to overspend on Facebook and Google ad campaigns, when you can get the same results at a lesser budget. We ran campaigns concurrently with our media agency’s own campaigns and realized our campaigns were faring way better. The why’s and how’s post that, made us realize ‘Compelling ad creation’ and ensuring against ‘Campaign fatigue’ is key.
I am sure you know the common issue that hinders online shopping is the customer’s ‘element of doubt’ about the products. Is there anything you do to deal with that?
Customer service is one area we have given the utmost priority to. Online shopping is based on credibility and security.
When I shop online, I know I might see the design, but mistakenly assume it is in a different texture or material, even after reading fabric composition, it happens. I might have realized the dress that looks amazing on the model or the mannequin is all wrong for my body type, or the colour does nothing for me. What I’d like is to have is a ‘hassle free’ return-process. That’s what we have at Fashion Junkie. You could return your order to us within 7 days, for any reason at all and we’ll issue you a refund via cheque/online payment method used, within 3 days of receipt of the order. Unfortunately, right now, the customer has to ship it back to us, but ideally we’d have liked to save them that trouble too and pick up the ‘returns’ ourselves. We hope, we can do this too, in the future.
Could you tell us a little about your logistics arrangement?
We service all major cities but we ambitiously wanted to service the whole of India. The idea of someone in Chail or Siliguri having access to fashion within their own homes, is part of what ‘Fashion Junkie’ aspires to do online. But, on “cash on delivery’ basis, private couriers do not service all cities, and VPP/India Post is quite an effort due to negligible accountability at post offices. With their network , India Post is sitting on a gold mine, but revenue building doesn’t seem to interest them and as a result our orders to far flung places get delayed. That’s an area we’ve worked on and found a workable but not ideal solution. Now, we do send out orders to Chail and Siliguri though, just as we aspired to do.
How big is your team? Are you looking at starting your own offline stores too?We decided early on that we would keep our overheads low, we hire temps on an hourly basis during packing, dispatch and inventory tracking. Otherwise, we just have a lean team of five. We are based in Chennai and are looking at starting offline stores in the next year possibly but for now, we retail exclusively online.
How many people visit your site everyday for online purchases?
We have around 900 odd visits a day.
So are you looking at getting funded now?
This is a self-funded venture. We are looking at getting funding, at the moment. We plan to introduce new product lines, increase product range and depth, build an interactive community of Fashion Junkies and much more.
Are there other players in the market doing similar things?
There’s a huge influx of apparel stores online, in India. Every brick and mortar store is also looking at supplementing revenue by establishing themselves online. With time and energy at a premium with our fast-moving generation, most people are resorting to online shopping for the convenience and range available. Online customers will soon be spoilt for choice.
What is your USP?
At Fashion Junkie, our USP is our selection of outfits, they are NOT the usual, they are for the fashion-forward girl and aren’t easily available at the price points that we offer them at. After all, it did take us a year of scouting to build our list of suppliers. In addition to our product being our USP, we understand our customer, because we’re ones too, we’d like all of them to see Fashion Junkie as a ‘happy hunting ground’ for shopaholics! :)
Check out Fashion Junkie for further details.
Clearly, fashion and e-commerce are rocking the Indian startup scene. To meet many more such interesting e-commerce ventures, do register to attend E Sparks 2011, India’s e-commerce showcase, 17th December, Bangalore