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With online buyers growing, niche sites mushroom

January 16, 2012 09:42 IST

The market, which was till now flooded with multi-product e-commerce sites catering to products from across the verticals, is now seeing new ventures betting big on the niche category.

For example bestylish.com offers only shoes, fetise.in is only for men, heavenandhome.com for home furnishing products, and jewelsnext.com catering to jewellery to name a few.

Launched two months ago, Jewelsnext.com is based on the concept of virtual jewellery mall for brands and vendors to market their products.

"Indians have a great appetite for jewellery, especially gold. According to the World Gold Council reports, India consumes around 746 tonne gold every year. Before launching the portal, we did a market research for two-and-a-half years where we found that Indian customers first see the brand and then buy," says Gaurav Issar, chief executive officer of jewelsnext.com.

Jewelsnext does 30-50 transactions per day with average ticket size of Rs  20,000. It has its own ecosystem of supply chain, call centres and digital marketing operations, where everything is managed by the company.

"Currently, we cater to 50 brands and vendors from across 14 states. We plan go pan-India in the next three months and have 500 brands by next year," he says.

There are roughly 360 e-commerce sites operational in the country, and in the last two-three months 20-30 new ventures have come up catering only to a single-product vertical.

According to IAMAI (Internet & Mobile Association of India) reports, the Indian e-commerce market was set to cross the Rs  46,000-crore mark at a 47 per cent growth rate in 2011. E-tailing (online retail) comes second after online travel, with an eight per cent market share (Rs 1,550 crore).

"As the e-commerce sector is getting crowded, the new players are looking for areas, which have not been touched widely. The niche sites are emerging mostly in two categories - fashion (shoes, bags, lingerie, etc) and healthcare services," says Gaurav Kachru, chief executive of Deals and You.

Deals and You is an online group buying site that features daily deals on the best things to do, see, eat, and buy in leading cities. Another online retailer - Lenskart.com  - which deals in contact lenses, spectacles, eyewear and sunglasses, provides brands from Johnson & Johnson, Ciba Vision, Bausch & Lomb, Cooper Vision etc.

It has received $4 million funding from IDG Ventures to be deployed in logistics department and other operations, and has operation across 450 cities. Fashionatclick.com, launched in August 2011, offers its own label 'Chemical Love' along with other labels. It caters to the 16-40 age group women mainly in Tier I and Tier II cities, including Jaipur, Pune, Chandigarh and Nashik.

According to a ComScore's report, around 27.2 million online users in India (aged 15 years and older) visited an e-commerce site. The data reveals that nearly 60 per cent of online users in India visited a retail site in November last  year.

ComScore is into measuring the digital world and a source of digital business analytics. Another new e-commerce venture which falls in the niche category - Heavenandhome.com, retails only home decor and home furnishing products of both international and national brands. It updates an online magazine on a weekly basis and shows the room shot and interior through which people get to know how the room or product will look.

Sunnyraj Agarwal, one of the founders of Heavenandhome.com, says, "Customers know many brands for apparel, but they hardly know 10 brands in the home decor segment. This market is very niche. We are positive that it will generate a lot of interest among buyers."

Founded by four - Tushar Ahluwalia, Nishrit Shrivastva, Sunnyraj Agarwal and Tara Kaushal - heavenandhome.com is backed by European venture capital fund Rocket Internet, which has also invested in GroupOn and Facebook.

However, many players, which started from the niche category, are now expanding horizontally. For example, Flipkart, which started as the only-books site, has started selling other categories; eBay has expanded to other products from just electronics among others.

According to Manoj Chandra, founder of AllSchoolStuff.com, "Both the retailing models -  the niche segment focusing on one vertical and the departmental store format catering to multiple categories - will coexist and grow simultaneously.

There are opportunity for both the categories, people looking for multiple products will for other players and those looking for more varieties in one segment, will go for the niche players."

AllSchoolStuff.com provides a one-stop-shop solution for school needs including text books, stationery, art and craft materials, bags, water bottles, school uniform, sports items, music instruments, science projects and exam guides.

BS Reporter in Chennai/Hyderabad
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