Did you know that there are over 250 million internet users in India? And that the e-commerce market in India is projected to reach USD 56 billion by 2023?
It's no secret that online shopping is one of the fastest growing spaces in India. Apart from biggies like Flipkart, Snapdeal, and Amazon, there are several players in the world of online shopping. Some of these are region specific, and some are sector-specific. And now, we even have headphone specific!
Started in 2011, Headphone Zone, an exclusive online store for headphones, earphones and personal audio devices, has six stores in Chennai and Bengaluru. Conceived and founded by Raghav Somani, Headphone Zone was created to bring music lovers of all genres to one destination.
After finishing his education in business management in Singapore, he came back to India to take over the family business, which at the time was primarily focusing on the distribution of video tapes and audio-video accessories.
“I realised then that most big retailers had little to no understanding of electronic accessories, such as headphones and earphones, and consumers had little understanding and few options. A dedicated destination store for headphones and earphones didn’t exist in India, but consumers were looking to fill this gap. So I knew Headphone Zone could work," says Raghav.
Headphone Zone, Raghav explains, is a unique retail concept that combines music, electronics and style. He adds that this online store aims to find a niche in India’s rapidly growing e-commerce space.
Raghav claims that Headphone Zone is the destination for discovering the world’s finest headphone brands. It focuses on bringing the best auditory devices from around the world to India’s passionate music-listening population.
This marketplace features over 600 different headphones. The store also features categories, sound guides, reviews, and ratings, which bring in all necessary information on music. "Every headphone is unique, with a point and purpose. Headphone Zone believes that choosing headphones cannot be a ubiquitous process, but a personal one instead," says Raghav.
He adds that Headphone Zone takes advantage of several macro-trends, namely India’s large music-loving population, mobile phones becoming a primary music listening device, and now India’s embracement of the Internet as a product discovery and purchase channel.
Currently, the website has over 60,000 visitors every month and has covered over 153 cities. “We find that consumers interested in high-end music devices are not just from Tier I cities like Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, and Chennai; they also come from Tier II & III cities like Ghaziabad, Vadodara, and Trivandrum,” says Raghav.
Some of the international brands available on Headphone Zone are V-MODA, high-resolution handcrafted headphones from Audeze, premium earphone tips from Comply, music players, amps and DACs from FiiO, RHA earphones that are from Scotland, and JAYS from Sweden, among others.
Raghav says that, with Headphone Zone, the team aims to elevate the listening experience of India’s music enthusiasts. Not just another e-commerce portal, Headphone Zone aspires to educate its audience about the nuances of high-end audio. This is done through direct communication with each and every customer, detailed buying guide pages and genuine reviews from industry experts.
Headphone Zone focusses on a different revenue model, more on cross selling and additions of complementary accessories. “Buying headphones was earlier an impulse purchase or involved bargain hunting. With our webstore, we want to educate passionate music listeners about the various accessories available that both complement and complete the listening experience," adds Raghav.
The team believes that the addressable market for headphones and its accessories share similarities with that for high-end personal audio products in India. They believe that their customers range from regular music lovers to serious audiophiles and professionals.
In all their marketing strategies, the target audience comprises males between the ages of 20 and 50 years. The market of high-end audio products has seen a steady widening, what with the urban Indian population being relatively early technology adopters.
Headphone Zone also reaches out to passionate music listeners by hosting Headphone Connect, a meet event that unites headphone aficionados from the audiophile community under one roof. So far, events have been hosted in cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi. They aim to host more meet-ups, this time in cities like Chennai, Kolkata, Pune and Hyderabad.
The biggest challenges the team faced were creating an audience and also educating them on the nuances of high-end audio. Raghav believes that the current e-commerce scenario in India has made buyers a deal-hungry audience, and building a reputation of offering transparent and fair prices without indulging in excessive discounting is an on-going challenge.
"The audiophile community is one that is fast growing, with Headphone Zone at the centre of it. Organizing meet-ups frequently, across multiple cities, simultaneously allows Headphone Zone to keep in touch and build meaningful relationships with loyalists, while expanding its customer base," adds Raghav.
The team currently plans to expand pan India. They want to build a strong community in India, and believe that is the key to maintaining an audience for their products. The Headphone Connect meet-up events are thus being planned for several small cities and towns, where passionate music listeners can experience a wide range of high-end headphones and earphones.
Beats headphones are believed to dominate 27 per cent of the USD 1.8 billion of the headphone market. While the headphones market is believed to be steadily growing globally, in India, many believe this growth is because of the high penetration of smartphones.