beStylish.com kicked off operations in May 2011 under the umbrella of the Smile Group, with Harish Bahl (CEO) and the support of Abhishek Lal (Director Merchandise) and VSSK Prasad (co-founder and Director Wholesale & B2B). Backed by heavy-duty expertise in the footwear industry as well as the retail market, the company started with a motto of changing the way people dress their feet and an ambitious vision of creating India’s largest online shoe portal. With a full year of operations behind them, Iamwire interacted with Shailen Amin, Co-Founder and CEO, beStylish.com, on the company’s growth and plans for the future. Here are the excerpts of the same
How has beStylish evolved so far in terms of reach, revenue and growth pattern?
In a period of 12 months, we’ve already managed made a mark in the industry by being India’s largest online shoe retailer! We offer the widest range of international, high street and popular footwear brands, including exclusives like Melissa, Guess, Edhardy, Versace, D&G and DKNY; popular ones such as Nike, Puma, Adidas, Reebok, Hush Puppies, Billabong, Lee Cooper, Alcott, Carlton London, Barbie, Lotto, Skechers, Converse and a lot more. So that’s about 150 brands and 5000 styles (and counting!) We have also been successful in commanding a large market share in the space with over 1.5 million users per month visiting the website and growing in line with the industry, at a 15% – 20% CAGR.
It’s just been a year since we began, and if our performance in the last few months is the trend of things to come, we’d say we’re doing good!
What value do you see in a vertical focus? And what is the importance of niche players in any segment?
Before we launched, we had two options – find our niche and go deep into it, or be a generalist. We took the first route and decided to be shoe experts, more than anything else. This was a conscious decision, as in the long run, niche brands tend to have a higher recall among consumers, over aggregators of products.
How do you enhance customer experience at your site?
As a niche player in the e-commerce space catering to footwear for over a year now, we are focusing on strengthening our foothold! Consumer experience is the most important thing for us, and we’re striving to push ourselves higher with the strong support of product, technology and supply chain. We constantly make minor changes to the website to enhance the user experience and enable the consumer to shop in fewer clicks. Display and communication also plays a very critical role in the process, so we make sure our content is as fresh as the current fashion.
What is the target group for beStylish? Elaborate more on the demand pattern in terms of geography and is it skewed towards a particular region or segment?
Everyone wears shoes, so we’re essentially talking to everyone! But our target audience primarily falls in the age group of 18 to 35 years, 55% males, 40% per cent females and 5% kids. In terms of geography, 50% of our market covers the tier 1 cities that are very internet savvy and have a high fashion awareness quotient. The remaining 50% share goes to the tier 2 & 3 cities that have a lack of variety and don’t have easy access to a vast range of brands and styles.
How effective was the TV campaign run by beStylish? Any details that you may like to share.
The TVC aired in October-November 2011, gave us excellent visibility. Being a young brand we had to be seen to be known, and build a brand recall value among our target audience. The TVC delivered just that, it was extremely effective and brought in substantial traffic to the website.
What has been the repeat purchase behaviour of consumers and what are some of the ways that you have been able to bring down the customer acquisition cost for beStylish?
The repeat purchase pattern is about 3-4 times a year and that automatically cuts down the customer acquisition cost.
Given the current state of affairs, what is your outlook about the market and your company’s long-term prospects?
The footwear industry is growing at a healthy rate of 10% to 15%, annually and has nearly doubled in the last five years to an estimated 3.5 to 4 billion USD. According to a recent report by IAMAI (Internet and Mobile Association of India), India’s retail business, especially e-commerce in the fashion and lifestyle space is at a high growth trajectory and the number of online users is expected to touch a high of 350 million. A number like that only means we get a whole lot more shoppers/customers! The overall market looks bullish for retailers in India, the trends sound favourable, and we hope to ride the wave, grow and sustain.
Any plans of diversifying in the near future?
We are an online shoe retailer and we intend to keep it that way! The possible brand extensions would be confined to related categories, i.e., shoe accessories. The launch of Heel Condoms turned out to be a big hit, the shoe-bag pairings are interesting additions to our repertoire and a luxe line of designer bags and clutches features Meera Mahadevia – a brand that’s been a hot favorite with many A-list celebrities and even the royalty!