Fashion in a Flash : New concepts make way for Disruption in E-Commerce
Aasheesh Mediratta currently CEO at FashionAndYou, joined the company as a part of the co-founding team in 2010 as Director – Sales. Founded by Harish Bahl, FashionAndYou is today leading “Flash Sales” player in Indian e-commerce industry.
A commerce graduate from Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC), Delhi University (Batch of 1998), Aasheesh was one of the few ones from his college who broke the stereotype and ventured into the world of fashion. Post his graduation, he did his “Masters in Fashion Management” from National Institute of Fashion & Technology (NIFT), New Delhi. His first stint was with Pantaloons, where he joined as a Management Trainee in 2001, and he was part of Category Management Group, which was headed by Rakesh Biyani, with Kishore Biyani at the helm of Pantaloons. This was the time when organized Retail was coming to age in India with only ShoppersStop, Lifestyle and Pantaloons being the multi-brand retail stores in India; the organised retail had market share of ~3% but was in high growth stage, with international brands like Marks & Spencer, Mango and Benetton establishing and increasing their footprint in India. He spent intital years at Pantaloons working as a Category Manager for Men’s Wear business, one of the most profitable & high growth categories in Pantaloons at that time. He was overall responsible for the Category P&L for stores across India and was part of the projects team which launched first few stores of Big Bazaar. These three years gave him a great opportunity to not only run the category business like an entrepreneur at an early stage of his career, but also had a great experience being part of one the biggest growth stories in Retail, the formation of Future Group.
Aasheesh moved back to Delhi after 3 years at Pantaloons and joined ITC LRBD division as part of Krishnan Chatterjee’s team to launch new fashion apparel brand ‘John Players’. During his three years at ITC Ltd., he launched various categories within the brand and worked closely with projects team for the brand expansion across India. Post ITC, he joined Planet Retail, where he worked in various leadership & operational roles, which included launch of Debenhams, head of operations for Marks & Spencer and Country Manager for Guess Jeans in India. He also headed the business of luxury brands like Villeroy & Boch and Rosenthal in India. After 10 years of experience in the offline retail, he realised that he always loved and enjoyed being part of startups and early stage companies. Then he joined www.fashionandyou.com, an early startup in e-commerce in 2010, which later went and established it’s name as the leader in flash sales business.
Aasheesh recollects that when the business started in 2010, the website was a ‘members only’ private sales shopping club and was one of the pioneers in fashion e-retailing. The viral marketing program played a key role in acquiring first set of customers, whereby members used to get members and in return get Gift Voucher of Rs. 750-1000, once the purchase is made by the referral. Initially the business was focussed on offering daily sales in premium & luxury brands only which used to last for 3 days. Business picked up to few hundred unit transactions a day, but soon they realized that for the business to scale up, they needed to expand offering in mid-market to premium labels on the website, since unlike US/Europe India is still a developing market for premium and luxury brands and demand and supply both was limited. This was the first pivot, whereby they introduced mid-market to premium brands while remaining true to the business of “Flash sales” and made it an ‘Open website’ which didn’t require pre –registration to access the sales showcases. Besides offering daily sales across clothing, footwear & Accessories at 9:00 AM everyday, later they introduced ethnic wear and handicrafts as new categories in the format of flash sales, since the team realized its huge potential with respect to Indian Market. This provided a new platform to manufacturers, designers, artisans, and entrepreneurs of this category, at the same time make the merchandise available at great prices to the customers by cutting all mediators in between.
The business finally pivoted towards a larger segment where the focus was on products in the range of $25-$30 than in the $100-150 range. It worked well around a three pronged strategy – Liquidate surplus merchandise for international & national brands at great discounts, create visibility for lesser known but aspirational regional brands and at the same time give a platform to smaller manufacturers, artisans to help increase their business volumes through 3-5 days flash sales. The three USPs of the business being Fashion, Freshness and Value. The ‘fashion’ quotient through the sales of a wide offering across fashion and lifestyle categories, the ‘ freshness’ through fresh sales added everyday (Almost one-third of the product offering gets refreshed through 30 new sales added every day, since the sale events lasts only 3-5 days only), and giving great ‘value’ through the discounts these products are offered at.
Like any business, the company has gone its highs & lows in last five years. Today the company is leader in flash sales business in the country analogous to what VIP.com is for China and what Zulily is in US making its mark alongside large horizontal players such as Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal. They currently showcase 20-30 new sales everyday across fashion & lifestyle categories at upto 80% off. The company launched its first TV campaign in December 2014 which revolved around their 5 different buyer personas. Currently two-third of their business comes from women buyers and one-third from men buyers. The company has a member base of 6.7 million registered users and clocks 8,000 unit transactions per day, translating into current run-rate of approximately $6Mn GMV per month.
They have been awarded “Best Innovating company” by CIO Choice awards in 2014 along with fashion e-retailing award in 2012 and the star retailer award in 2010. They have been featured by Dataquest as one of the hot 20 e-commerce startups in 2011.
Aasheesh’s advice to early stage founders – “ The time you stop dreading the failure you start following your instinct, what your heart believes in, so follow your dreams“