In early 2008, when e-commerce had just started picking up pace in India, and baazi.com was bought by eBay for $50 million, Gajendra Gupta realised that the time to shift base to India had arrived. The 39 year old moved to Jaipur from the US in 2010 to start Johareez.com, a Jaipur-based marketplace for jewellery and fashion accessories.
His 38-year-old brother Pradeep Gupta and co-founder of Johareez is based out of US. Hardly new to the jewellery industry, Gajendra and Pradeep had spent their childhood and college days learning the ropes from their father who owned a jewellery business in USA.
In 1976, when Gajendra was a year old, his family migrated to New York. He did his schooling and graduation in Business Administration/Management from the City University of New York (CUNY).
Watching their father build a huge and successful business from scratch, both Gajendra and Pradeep decided to focus on the jewellery sector but they moved their attention to finished jewellery unlike their father, who was into gemstones and a member of the IDCA (Indian Coloured Stone Association, New York).
Their father was supplying cubic zirconia jewellery in sterling silver to major stores and wholesale clients throughout US but when the cubic zirconia market faded out, he was left with scrap and unsellable jewellery which was stored away until it later opened up new opportunities for his sons.
In 1998, the duo formed Quintessence Jewelry Corporation (QJC) during their college years. At their first jewellery exhibition in 2000, in Las Vegas, Nevada, they worked on metal scrap and old tarnished jewellery to make them look brand new, and took the entire line to the exhibition. That was the beginning of a very successful journey for the brothers. Gajendra is still active in the company decision-making from Jaipur.
Of Johareez's journey so far, Gajendra says, “Johareez is a unique twist to our dotcom domain. The term 'Joharee' means 'jeweller'. We were aiming to become the jewellery marketplace model for India,” says Gajendra.
Competition in India includes CaratLane, Bluestone and Voylla, but Gajendra says that having their own manufacturing of precious jewellery and the power to curate fashion/imitation jewellery, along with providing the platform for sellers to list their products up for sale, gives them an edge over the others. “We are the only marketplace business model focussing completely on the precious and fashion jewellery segment within India. We are unique this way, which is why we tag ourselves as India's jewellery and fashion accessories marketplace,” he adds.
With over 25,000 product listings on the site, across various categories, their jewellery range between Rs 99 and 50,000.
Though the ride has not been easy, they have seen growth at a CAGR of 35 percent during the period of 2012-15. Johareez currently ships about 1,200 to 1,500 orders per week, with an average ticket of Rs 900 to 1,500 in the fashion jewellery category, and Rs 3,500 to 5,000 in the precious jewellery category, and have approximately one million page views per month and about 25,000 unique visitors to the site per month.
Makets and operations –India and USA
With a branch office in New York, Pradeep is an advisor to the board at Johareez.com and currently oversees Johareez's North American market operations, along with the recent launch of the US site.
With a team of 50+ strong members operating out of Jaipur, Gajendra actively looks over all key areas of growth including business development, product development, sales and operations, marketing, logistics, brand management and creative direction for the company.
As someone who has experience of operating both in the US and Indian markets, Gajendra has some interesting insights to share. Due to the strong banking and credit card system in the United States, users are used to making purchases using their credit cards in stores so they never really hesitated to use the same mode of payment when making online purchases over the internet. It was a seamless transition, which boosted the entire e-commerce ecosystem in the country and made it what it is today. Logistics too in the States has always been strong.
In India, the dynamics are completely different. First off, the Internet infrastructure itself had been a drawback given unreliable speeds, and the majority of users still do not have a credit card. Reliance on net banking was high. Eventually cash on delivery kicked in and changed the entire canvas for all dotcom players in the market.
Understanding key product metrics in building a successful business has been a challenge for Gajendra, given that trends change quickly in the online jewellery sector. On-boarding online sellers has been a challenge too. “Nevertheless; we've had a successful run and are getting more and more sellers connected with us. We will need to continue getting more registered sellers, more merchandise on board, and build more online traffic to our site to take our company to the next level,” says Gajendra.
The road ahead
Johareez.com is looking for funding to scale their operations and market reach both across India and abroad. The funding will also be used to scale up marketing, technology, logistics, increase seller registrations and vendor product building across both precious and fashion jewellery categories.