Arun Sirdeshmukh, Ex-CEO, Reliance Trends, a brand marketer as he calls himself, has decided to join the fledgling e-commerce space in India as a startup entrepreneur. After a stint at IBM, he set up Indus League Clothing with ICICI Ventures funding, and sold it in 2005. Then he went to head Reliance Trends and made it the largest chain of fashion stores in a four-year time frame.
Of the new e-commerce venture, he says, “Unlike Indus League, which had 8 partners, my current venture is being headed only by me. I have a co-founder and there is a group of people collaborating on the venture.” He talked to YourStory.in sharing his take on his upcoming new e-commerce venture which would focus on the fashion space.
So why e-commerce?
E-commerce is new; it is a challenge. I would like to feel that early stages of e-commerce or rather fashion e-commerce presents new opportunities and it has not yet been conquered. It will be an interesting challenge to see if I can do something significant in this space.
So, with your experience at Reliance Trends and also we have seen that eBay has opened the marketplace for offline retailers and is aggressively pushing merchants to come online. Do you see a lot of retailers now moving online as well?
Many of them already are keen and have .com sort of operation already. So, I don’t think online is a space which either brands or retailers will ignore. The structure of the e-commerce business, even overseas, includes dual players. They have both a physical store and an e-store.
How do you think offline sellers are taking e-commerce? Are they threatened by the fact that a larger section of the population now would be buying from e-stores?
The word “threatened” applies only if they feel that there is no opportunity for collaboration or that they can’t partake in the opportunity. If a retail store looks at having an e-commerce offshoot, then rather than being threatened or intimidated, the retailer will be looking at the opportunity.
But the point is not that. People tend to look at e-commerce players as tough they are part of a different eco-system. In my view it is a channel to reach out to the consumer. The businesses which grow have a more efficient channel. Let’s say you are reaching the same consumer in two different ways, through a physical store and through an e-commerce portal. If the consumer finds the e-commerce channel better for them in the manner they consume on it, be it convenience, time or any other parameter, then that channel will pick up more business.
A number of fashion e-commerce players have entered the market in recent times. What do you think will be the differentiators to win this market?
I will answer this question once our site is up and running. But, if you look at the same issue from the brands perspective in offline retail, we can get an understanding. For any particular product category, be it denim, active wear, shoes, etc there are multiple brands consumers can choose from. Yet one brand carves out a space for itself. How does it do it? This is where the nuance of positioning comes in; the way you communicate your brand and communicate to the consumers. That is one fundamental equation that you need to sort out, because then consumers tend to prefer one brand over the other.
This does not mean that the products from each brand are similar. A lot of differentiation can happen at the product level as well. So, the brands that you carry on your e-store, the styles that you offer, the look and feel of the site where the products are catalogued and showcased, how you market, how you deliver the product to the customer and many other parameters can become the differentiating factors.
Since when have you started working on the portal?
The work on the idea behind the portal has been on for the last 6 months.
In these 6 months what were the biggest challenges you faced?
I wouldn’t call them challenges; I have enjoyed it. The whole process of putting a team together was fun. We are a bunch of passionate people, and like I said I have a co-founder, who is based out of Chicago. We have a team in place that is working on the portal. I was pleasantly surprised that I could convince some of my team members to leave their current significant jobs to work on this. The challenges will come once we launch. We have interacted with other service providers also during our ideation process; the most likely challenges seem to be customer acquisition and delivery.
YourStory.in wishes Arun Sirdeshmukh all success in his new venture. And, we shall keep you posted about the launch soon.