Update: A few questions have been raised in the comments to this post about the ethics of covering a site that isn’t “officially” launched, or we haven’t received any communication from the company in question. Our approach to this is – if it is live, it is kosher. When we covered it, the site was live, and as Ambareesh Murty pointed out in the comments, they cloaked the site after we wrote about it.

We’ve been writing about sites that have gone live – but not announced – from the very beginning. For example, this one on Day 3 or this in the first month. There are innumerable such stories, and we often find out about such things anonymously. The policy stays – if it goes live, we can report on it.

Note: The site was up for testing, it appears, according to a comment to this post left by Ambareesh Murty, who says they are a couple of weeks away from their consumer launch. The site has been cloaked since. (thanks Deepak)

November 30th: It’s raining online shopping sites! The latest entrant is Pepperfry.com, founded by former-eBay India Country Manager, Ambareesh Murty and one of his former colleagues at eBay, Ashish Shah. Pepperfry is more on the lines of a multi-product departmental store featuring apparel, bags and accessories, furniture & home decor, Jewellery and Perfumes & cosmetics. It features brands such as Lotto, Little India, Peter England, Beverly Hills Polo Club, Octave, Allen Solly, L’oreal among others, and allows users to browse various departments using filters for brands, product type, size, colour, design and other variables.  The site also takes bulk orders for products like customized T-Shirts, corporate and wedding gifts and we assume that discounts vary since there’s a personalized enquiry form for the purpose.Pepperfry claims to stock more than 8,000 products.

The site claims to ship products to 220 countries across the world and over 17,000 pin codes and 300 cities in India, however there is an additional charge for product shipments outside India. There’s also a rewards/loyalty program and users get Pepper points which are redeemable in form of cash discounts. The site also has a 15 day return policy where-in the customer can return the product, stating a valid reason and get his money back. The policy, according to the site, applies to all products except inner wear, furniture, loose diamonds and customized items.

Pepperfry seems to be a work in progress(the site is in Beta), since there were a few bad links or banners that don’t have any links on the homepage, at the time of writing this post. Also, the site and its various sections take a considerable amount of time to load, at least on an Airtel 2Mbps connection in Delhi.

What remains to be seen is how the site would differentiate itself from other ecommerce properties without the premise of deep discounts or designer labels. Yes the home page does display a ‘What The Fry deals’ banner which does not link to a page yet, but every second ecommerce venture claims to offer similar deals. Simply making claims about ‘being honest’ or offering great prices or flexible return policies does not pull in customers. It’s kind of similar to CVs that mention being hardworking and sincere under the ‘Strengths’ column.

Also, as a new entrant, it would face competition from the likes of youth-centric ecommerce players such as Myntra, Yebhi, Bestylish and others who are aggressively promoting themselves on mainstream media. To be honest, it looks more like a random departmental store trying to look cool, without making it’s distinguishing proposition clear. We hope the final product conveys the message in a better manner.