Google-backed online fashion platform Fynd, which enables offline retail stores a digital presence, plans to venture into home décor and lifestyle categories and integrate with large ecommerce websites like Facebook and Jabong in the coming years
Retail purchases in India are a blend between online and offline brands. A bulk of shopping is still happening offline in physical stores albeit influenced by digital touch points. Keeping this notion in mind, three IIT Bombay graduates, Harsh Shah, Farooq Adam and Sreeraman M.G. founded Fynd in 2012. The company provides an omni-channel retail product to offline stores, enabling offline brands to sell online, create digital touchpoints within their stores and list their inventory on their online ecommerce platform.
But Fynd didn’t quite start off as an omni-channel retail product – it took a few course corrections to help it get where it is today. Back in 2012, it was called Shopsense; creating applications for stores by allowing consumers to engage with a rich in-store customer experience. “At the time, we weren’t able to attribute the value we were intending to add to these stores. While we were driving engagement, we were falling short of specifically driving conversion and identifying how to add a layer of transaction to the process. This forced us to question whether our model was the right one for retailers, which is why we decided to pivot in 2015,” explains Shah.
What worked for Fynd was that they knew how to integrate an in-store inventory and they wanted to use this information to drive transactions.
Zero-warehouse, full inventory
With direct access to stores and brands, Fynd gets the latest fashion on board their platform. “It is by virtue of the zero-warehouse model (with no physical warehouses and logistics), that we have access to fresh collections. Stores double up as fulfillment centers for customers, and with distance of delivery being negligible it enables us to deliver faster. Fynd works with third party delivery companies; in tier I & II cities, our delivery time is between 1-1.5 days, which is faster than any other ecommerce platform,” adds Shah.
For a brand available at various brick and mortar and online touch points, it is about understanding the subtle difference between shopping (which is the offline experience), and buying (which happens online/ digitally
Plugging into the Fynd APIs enables brands to sell across Fynd, the stores’ own websites as well as online marketplaces. Using a product called Fynd Store, consumers can browse through products (of a particular brand) on touch screens placed inside a physical store. Fynd Store essentially links with a brand’s SKU (stock keeping unit) and displays every product to the customer. “We use machine learning on top of the access which we have to a stores’ inventory in order to optimise which is the best store (within the brand) where a consumer can get what they are looking for. In turn, it also prevents loss of sale inside the store,” explains Shah.
Instead of pre allocating stocks, Fynd creates a virtual pool through an inventory, making stores more effective. With no additional costs attached for a store, the store driven model changes the game immensely for retailers. This access to real time inventory is what online ecommerce is heading towards in India.
“The online ecosystem has an advantage of in-depth research based categories, while the offline shopping experience doesn’t have that. It is essentially about the conversion/ intertwining of the online and offline environment,” quips Shah. The next wave of online and offline retail is going to be about the amalgamation of both these channels underpinned with technology.
“For a brand available at various brick and mortar and online touch points, it is about understanding the subtle difference between shopping (which is the offline experience), and buying (which happens online/ digitally). Different categories have different levels of penetration of technology, and shopping and buying are both moving towards becoming tech-enabled. It all starts at the inventory level,” says Shah.
Fynd recently raised an undisclosed amount of funding in its Series C round led by Google. The round also saw participation from existing investors, apart from undisclosed angel investors. They plan to now use the investment to build on their supply side, bring on board more brands as well as build a better technology platform.
Currently, there are 300 brands across men, women, footwear and accessories with 800 stores live on the Fynd platform. Fynd is growing with 10-15 brands coming on board every month. In the lifestyle segment, they will be expanding into the beauty, decor and home categories over the next 6 months. “A bulk of our brands came on board when we pivoted – the issue we rectified helped us grow as fast as we did,” says Shah. Today, Fynd sees between 30,000-40,000 transactions in monthly orders and has over 25 lakh monthly active users, with a real-time inventory of over 800K products making it one of the largest marketplaces in terms of real-time store inventory.
“We need to keep pace with technology advancements and are always up to speed with what we can give users. Our success depends on the amount of store sale that we are driving and can impact – everything else is second order. In two years, we want to quadruple our impact on retail stores, the number of stores we have on board as well as the impact we are driving for these stores,” explains Shah. Fynd also plans to integrate with larger ecommerce marketplaces, like Facebook and Jabong in the coming years.
The future of new retail
Having built a tech-first platform, Fynd has the potential to scale with its unique store-driven, zero-warehouse and inventory model, however it needs to work closely with retailers and align with consumer shopping/ buying trends to fill the void and plug it in with technology. Though the retail market is expanding exponentially in India, there are inherent challenges that online platforms still face from retailers. Shah, however, explains that more and more retailers are adopting technology for survival and no longer denying technology’s ability. While there is still an over dependence on the old-fashioned brick and mortar retail model, Shah concludes, “A change in mindset has been one of the biggest growth drivers for ecommerce marketplaces.”
Founding team: Harsh Shah, Farooq Adam and Sreeraman M.G.
Funding: Fynd raised an undisclosed amount of funding in its Series C round led by Google and other existing investors including IIFL, Kae Capital, Singularity Ventures, GrowX, Tracxn Labs, Venture Catalyst, Patni family office and Hong Kong based Axis Capital among other angel investors. The latest round of funding will be utilised to improve engagement between consumers and retailers. So far, Fynd had raised $3.4 Mn funding in Series A from investor groups led by IIFL. The capital was used to reach out to more than 20 Mn customers and increase inventory to include more than 15 lakh products.
Company profile: Fynd is a unique fashion e-commerce portal, which brings the latest in-store fashion online done by directly integrating with the brand stores and getting its liveinventory online. Founded by Farooq Adam, Harsh Shah, and Sreeraman MG, the
Mumbai-based firm was incepted in 2012 as Shopsense Retail Technologies Pvt. Ltd.
However, in November 2015 the company pivoted to Fynd, a unique fashion e-commerce portal offering fresh fashion to customers much ahead of any other e-commerce player.