Former CEO of Reliance Trends, Arun Sirdeshmukh, and Darpan Munjal, President of LeapMatrix, a consulting firm focusing on e-commerce startups, have launched Fashionara.com, an online fashion store that offers merchandise from premium and luxury fashion brands across apparel, footwear and accessories. 

The site has been launched for private access through Facebook logins and will be commercially launched by the end of this week. There was speculation when Sirdeshmukh left Reliance Trends, that he was in talks with venture capitalists Lightspeed and Helion for raising funding, and would announce his e-commerce venture.

Funding: The company has indeed raised a Series-A funding, from Helion Venture Partners and Lightspeed Venture Partners, to fund its operations, and is headquartered in Bangalore, India. The funding round was closed in February-March 2012, and although the company did not disclose the exact amount raised, it said that it was enough to allow the company to establish itself as a significant player, in the competitive Indian ecommerce landscape.

Sourcing & Brands: The company has brand tie-ups with close to 50 players, which it plans to expand to 100 by August 2012. Speaking with MediaNama, Sirdeshmukh informed that they wanted the site to mirror a fashion mall with prominent brands, and the merchandise is directly sourced from the suppliers. Some of the key brands that Fashionara retails include Adidas, Reebok, Benetton, Sisley, Nautica, Guess, Lee, Wrangler, Vans, Jack & Jones, Vera Moda, Only, Daniel Hector, Urban Yoga, Jealous 21, Forever New, Arrow, Flying Machine, W, 109F, Fab India, Levis Kids, Puma Kids, G&J, UCB Kids, Reebok Kids and others.

Warehouse & Logistics: The company has its own warehouse in Bangalore, and plans to open warehouses in other cities after analysing demand patterns. It uses a combination of its own delivery team in Bangalore and has tie-ups with major courier services for other regions. It also uses Speed Post and normal post for delivery in areas where the courier services do not operate. Interestingly, the company also offers an Express Shipment option, where-in it charges extra to deliver the shipment on the same day in Bangalore, and next day in Ahmedabad, Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai.

 

Differentiation: When we asked how the site was different from other players in the segment who also offer multi-brand fashion merchandise, the co-founders responded that the site offered a more visual shopping experience with multiple slideshows, product close-up shots, and even a video catalogue that mimics a fitting room, where videos of the garment worn by a model displays ‘close-ups’, ‘side-views’ and ‘walking views’ to showcase the drape and fall of the apparel. Users can also switch between different product image thumbnail sizes, as per their preference, they added. There is a comparison engine built in to the site that allows users to pick and select multiple products and compare them side by side.

In addition to the catalogue, Fashionara also offers a ‘look book’ which is essentially a complete ensemble or ‘look’ consisting of several pieces of apparel, footwear and accessories curated by the Fashionara team. Customers can choose to purchase individual products or purchase the entire ‘look’. The site allows users to search and browse merchandise by brand, fit, color, size and price. The site also offers a single page check-out.

We did browse through the site and found these features to be present, at the time of writing this post. It does offer a better representation of the product compared to others and the video previews are a new feature, but we don’t think it will be difficult for other players to integrate these features into their sites. The comparison engine is also interesting, and we’ve mainly seen it on gadget/electronics sites so far, so the implementation here is novel.We do like the overall look and feel of the site.

Customer acquisition strategy/discounts: When we asked the co-founders how the site’s customer acquisition strategy and whether it plans to offer membership rewards and discount coupons, they said that its essential for an ecommerce property to get its fundamentals right and offering big discounts is not sustainable in the long run. So the site will aggressively compete with others but incentives and rewards will be offered in a different way. For example, it’s running a promotion where-in users get a cash-back in form of coupons in multiples of Rs 250 above the purchase limit of Rs 1000.

Social shopping: The site also plans to launch a Facebook app within a week’s time which will feature all products that it offers, and will allow users to share products and purchases, and wish-lists with their Facebook friends. The app will also use open graph to populate lists of trending products and brands, and will offer promotions as well.

The site would compete with the likes of Myntra, Jabong, in addition to Ambarish Murthy’s e-commerce startup Pepperfry which recently raised $5 million from Norwest Venture Partners, and Smile Interactive’s Freecultr which raised $4 million from Sequoia Capital last year. It would be interesting to see how all the new ecommerce players in the multi-brand fashion retail segment acquire loyal customers, sustain business and offer exclusivity, staying within the same realm. The most challenging part of it is to sustain customer trust, managing economies of scale and delivering what they commit. As consolidation sets-in, niche players get acquired, it will all depend on how they manage to out-do each other to remain in the game.

Related:
Reliance Trends CEO Arun Sirdeshmukh Quits; To Start eCommerce Venture