1 Year 1 Million’ screams the banner on members-only online shopping portal, Fashion and You. As Pearl Uppal, chief-executive officer, shares, the company is looking to up its membership to a few more millions in the coming years. In the numbers is proof that Fashion and You’s business model of scheduling online sales for designer merchandise has triggered interest among Indian buyers. Uppal says, “We are seeing a very active visit, buy and repeat ratio in our shopping club. In just 12 months, we are now shipping over 2000 products from our order processing centre daily.”
In a segment where ‘touch and feel’ plays an important role, Fashion and You has worked hard to build a sense of trust amongst its members through its constant communication. “We invest a lot of time and energy on our marketing and catalogue production. We have studios functioning 24×7 working on getting international quality pictures of products and garments and also, great zoom features of the product on our website,” says Uppal while adding, “This gives customers the confidence in knowing that what they see is what they get.”
“What holds the key is that discretionary spending is on the rise amongst India’s upper middle class”
While the unique sales methodology presents a challenge, the quality of the merchandise and the substantial discount offers serve as attractions to the target audience. Uppal is quick to point out that brands benefit as well, “We give international brands access to new consumer segments and also allow them to quickly liquidate their inventory without diluting their brand.”
Ask Uppal about where the idea came from and she goes back to August 2009, when it all began. “Harish Bahl (founder), a serial entrepreneur, was of the opinion that brands need alternate vehicles to reach out to consumers. This was also the time when I was looking at an opportunity in the Internet commerce space,” she says. And thus, was born Fashion and You with a base in Gurgaon.
Growing the category
“What holds the key is that discretionary spending is on the rise amongst India’s upper middle class,” says Uppal. “As we were the pioneers of this format we had to make the category happen as much as our own business,” she adds. This meant the ‘persuasion factor’ was extremely important to the creators of Fashion and You. The company made several efforts to interact with members by sending them alerts and updates on future sales and also gave them a platform to voice feedback.
In addition to international labels, the company realised that there was a huge market for Indian ethnics. “The average Indian woman is mostly seen in fusion ensembles and this was a primary reason why we introduced Indian designers and handicrafts as well,” says Uppal. It is not just women that Fashion and You caters to. “Our member ratio between women and men is 65 per cent to 35 percent. Initially, our offering to men was limited, but, while we plugged the gap in clothes and footwear, we introduced watches and fragrances to encourage shopping amongst them,” adds Uppal.
Fashion and You also offers its consumers a return policy on its merchandise. Uppal says, “We have a 14 day return policy on apparel and footwear if a consumer has a size issue. The consumer can return purchased goods in original packaging for full store credit. The items, of course, must not be used or damaged.”
As for its offline presence, Fashion and You has also chosen to forge alliances which give it mileage. “We were the online retail partners for Lakme Fashion Week and that worked very well for us,” shares Uppal.
Meeting a challenge
In its first year, Fashion and You faced the challenge of meeting unplanned growth. “Growth capacity related challenges tested everyone and everything from technology to infrastructure,” she adds. Elaborating on other stumbling blocks, Uppal states that supply chain management in India has always been a problem. To counter it, the company is investing in strengthening its technology and has engaged professionals to work closely with its logistics team.
One challenge that is unique to companies in the e-commerce space is payment infrastructure. “Credit card penetration is fairly low in India and to make the operation as seamless as possible for our consumers, we introduced cash-on-delivery,” explains Uppal. And this can place an additional burden on the company as it undertakes a financial commitment before payment is completed.
In comparison, procuring finance was relatively simpler. “The business network of the founders made it easy,” says Uppal. Today, Fashion and You has received funding to the tune of U.S. $8 million from Sequoia Capital and is using the money to build its supply chain. Uppal states that the company is looking to expand its product portfolio within the fashion and lifestyle segment. “We are also looking to take Indian products, especially handicrafts, global,” she says. We set out believing that we were working towards a shopping revolution and that is what we have achieved,” says Uppal while adding that the company is well on track to meet its monthly revenue growth rate of 35 per cent. As Fashion and You’s tagline suggests, as long as India indulges, there is much more to look forward to.