Mukesh Bansal, in some sense, was enamoured by startups. After all, prior to starting up Myntra, he lived in Silicon Valley and worked for four different technology startups in the region. The valley culture can really force you to take the plunge. In late 2006, Bansal moved back to India to start an e-commerce venture, at a time when the second wave of e-commerce in the country was just getting started. The macro picture was beginning to look rosy – people were willing to pay online, the logistics industry was getting better and it seemed like India was ready for e-commerce.
Plan A: A personalisation player
At Myntra, Bansal’s Plan A was to sell personalised products online. From the usual t-shirts and coffee mugs to wine glasses and jewel boxes, one could personalise each of these products by embedding on the product, designs from the community of Myntra designers. Bansal was not focused only on a B2C (business to consumer) model. He marketed at industry exhibitions and corporate gatherings to build a B2B (business to business) model as well. Large companies ordered personalised products for their employees and it seemed like everything was going fine. But Bansal was far from satisfied. “I was looking at the big picture in the e-commerce space and there was opportunity in a much larger category.”
Plan B: Fashion and lifestyle e-commerce
In mid 2010, for Bansal and his investors, it seemed like personalisation was too niche a market to build tremendous scale. On the other hand, the fashion and lifestyle segment was growing fast. According to Bansal, the market for fashion and lifestyle retail will touch US $50 billion in a few years. Within this space, Bansal is betting on online retail taking a large chunk of this pie. He decided to transform Myntra into an e-commerce player focused on fashion and lifestyle (selling branded shoes, clothing and accessories).
Bansal’s immediate action list included setting up new departments – a buying department (to rope in brands who will sell through Myntra), a merchandising division, a larger logistics team and a brand team. He also had to close down some departments and let go of a few people as well.
Today, based on the numbers, it seems like the company’s bet on fashion e-commerce is paying off. Myntra has over 1.2 million registered users and over a quarter million of them have purchased at least once. “Business is doubling every four months,” says Bansal. “We want to touch revenues of over US $200 million three years from now,” he adds. Clearly, Myntra’s move into a larger macro market was done keeping such targets in mind.
Key lesson learnt from the Myntra journey:
The transition from a niche space into a market that was potentially larger was a calculated one. Bansal says that several quantitative metrics were measured and the move to Plan B was based on these numbers. But once the decision was made, the transition phase was not easy. Shutting down departments and letting people go is always difficult. But these decisions have to be made keeping the bigger picture in mind.