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Discounted e-tailing

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At the end of the day, it is all about money! To tap the potential that the statement offers, was established to attract the Indian consumer who love ‘discounts’. 99labels is an innovative discount-oriented e-tailing website offering event based online sales for a limited time period on fashion-wear, accessories, lifestyle products, sports wear and gear, electronics and even furniture with members-only prices that are marked up to 70 per cent off label prices.

The site has already had sales of a number of international and Indian brands that include Ritu Kumar, Satya Paul, Ashish Soni, Payal Jain, Rocky S, Van Heusen and Louis Phillipe, Guess, Espirt watches, Rina Dhaka among others.

In an exclusive interview with Indiaretailing, Ishita Swarup, founder partner and CEO of 99Labels reveals various aspects of discount e-tailing in India.

When was 99 label launched, and how the journey been so far?
We launched 99 labels on December 3, 2009 and our journey so far been extremely satisfying. When we were about to start with our venture many people told us about how dicey is e-tailing business in India. But we stood by our convintion and the kind of response we have got so far is overwhelming.

Is Indian consumer ready for an alternative mode of retailing?
E-tailing is at a nascent stage in India, but it is definitely going to be the next big thing. Seeing the size of our urban population and frequency of internet usage, e-tailing has a bright future and Indians are very much ready to embrace this time saving and convenient alternative mode of retailing.

Indian consumers are too traditional to opt for e-tailing. What is your marketing strategy to compete with brick-and-mortar formats?
No, I don’t think that Indians are apprehensive to experiment with new thing provided that we are giving them a good deal. We Indians have a knack for good deals and any medium that will provide them with value to money will survive in the country. At 99label, giving value for the money is our core value, and we have got good response from people so far. I agree that brick and mortar formats have an edge over e-tailing but then we are catering to different kind of customers. For example impulsive buyer will do shopping from brick and mortar formats but a time bound customer will be our loyal shopper.

Who are your target consumers?
Since our model is very niche, we do have our own group of target consumers. We cater to the need of fashion concious young people who are hooked to internet. We get bulk orders from tier II and III cities because they do not have access to many branded stores in those places, so they do buy from us. We get lot of demand for ethnic clothes from people sitting in Canada, UK and USA, so we cater to the international clients too.

How do you ensure timely delivery in tier II and III cities?
Yes, logistics is one of the main pillar of our business. We have tie-ups with many prominent retail logistic players. But we have our own warehouses to take care of the packaging and dispatching knitty-gritties.

What is the conversion rate of people who visit your site?
There is no certain number for it, on weekdays traffic on the website is comparitively less than that on weekends. At the time of festivals or marriage season again traffic increases. But most of the time people visiting our sites end up buying products from us.

How you manage to give discounts on designer labels throughout the year?
We buy excess stock from the designers, we have our merchandising team that analyse the quality of the product. We help the designers and brands to liquidate their products that is why we get discounts from them, that we even give to our customers. In physical format stores brands can only liquidate their products during EOSS (end of season sale) but with us they can liquidate their excess products all the time.

How you have pitched yourself against big names like Ebay?
Ebay is a big name in online retailing. They are the pioneer of e-tailing. But we are very different from them as we only sell lifestyle and fashion products, our products are branded and always on discount. That is why we don’t face much of competition from ebay.

Are you considering retailing through some other mediums of alternative retailing such as catalogue retailing etc?
No. As we have just started with our e-tailing business we want to concentrate solely on it for the mean time.

What portion of your revenue goes towards advertising and marketing your brand?
We put almost half of our total investment in marketing of our brand, as we are new entrant in the market so we need to create lot of awareness about our brand. We get photo-shoots done in such a manner that our customer can have a complete look of the product. These photo shoots are very expensive but they are the only saving grace for us as through this virtual medium only we can compensate for the touch and feel experience.

What according to you is future of discount e-tailing in India?
The future of discount e-tailing is great in the country. As an Indian we love discounts and when you are getting branded labels at discounted price that too without haggling and at the comfort of your place, then what else one can ask for. Internet is penetrating every part of the country and we are ready to serve our customers sitting in the remotest of the place. I think we have long path to tread on but we are focused about our destination.

Where you see 99label ten years down the line?
I want 99label to attain the stature of Ebay in coming years.

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