To give you a short intro – the Aditya Birla Group (ABG) was founded in 1857 and with more than 1.2 lakh employees, it currently operates in 40 countries worldwide.
The group that is presently Chaired by ‘Kumar Mangalam Birla’, holds interests in sectors such as metals, cement (largest in India), branded apparel, chemicals, financial services, telecom (third largest in India), BPO and IT services, etc., and many more…
As of the previous Fiscal year (2014), with a gross revenue of $45 Bn, ABG is known to be the third-largest multinational company in the Indian private sector, which is just behind Tata Group and RIL (Reliance India Limited).
Now as per reports; e-commerce is said to be the fastest growing sector in India, and having said that, the Indian online retail market is estimated to grow from $2 Bn in 2013, to $45 Bn by 2020.
And since, online retailers are beginning to drive more customers than the traditional formats; Aditya Birla Group has also decided to enter the e-commerce space with abof.com (All About Fashion) as well.
What Is Abof.Com (All About Fashion)?
Born in October 2015 – Abof.com (All about fashion) is an online portal that offers some of the best in trendiest apparel, footwear and accessories, along with fashion shopping, news and trend watching as well!
This webstore claims that it holds some of the most trending looks of the season from across the globe, and offers them via its curated collection of products that are handpicked from brands which also includes their own brand ‘Abof’. One may find products ranging from INR 300 to INR 4000.
On Abof.com; the first thing you will find is a proprietary fashion feed on the landing page ‘What’s Hot’ itself. It includes fashion content, style tips, trends, and fashion news, etc., all of which is combined by a strategy that is similar to, the picture-led approach of Instagram or Twitter-like shopable stories.
And what is even interesting to know is that, it uses a unique style quiz which helps them understand their customer’s preferences and accordingly shows only the relevant personalised content.
To elaborate a little more, these personalized shopable contents is based on the information customer inputs, real-time behaviour and their preferences. This would only help the brand even more to connect with their customers better.
Now this strategy may seem messy to a mature audience, but it fits well with their target audience, who actually prefers such a module.
Other than that, what makes them even more lucrative is that, the webstore has also been equipped with India’s first 3D virtual trial room. This is very similar to an actual trial room, expect, it is a virtual model that customers can use to instantly view themselves in any product, just by giving their basic body proportions.
And going by the company’s analysis, these 3D trial rooms are said to be 95% accurate. They not only estimate the right hip and waist size, but also give the flexibility of one inch, which further helps the customers to pick the right size for every brand.
Talking about their packaging; the company uses premium packaging, to ensure the safety of the garments during transit. They also use a high-tech, world-class and state-of-the-art supply chain infrastructure, and also hold a superior delivery service as well. At this point, the company caters to more than 5000 pin codes spread across over 400 cities in India.
Lastly, one can also very easily return or exchange a purchased item within 30 days of receipt of the item, or can also use the first of its kind, ‘spot exchange’ option, wherein, their delivery person will come with the new garment at the same time itself.
What Market Segment Are They Targeting?
Going by the look & feel of the webstore, and the company statements; evidently, Abof is targeting the youth of today belonging to the age group of 18 to 25 year-olds.
The purpose of targeting the so-called ‘millenials’ (people born between the year 80s and 90s), is simply because these are the people who would be in a better position to relate to the current trends, fashion or style.
This is an age group which wants everything fast and personalised, and that is exactly what Abof aims to offer. They want to address this gap in the market.
Simply put – this is the age group which best defines fashion and are also the largest shoppers.
Going ahead; Abof would be sharply focusing on providing what they have committed, and at the same time, would also be seeing how this business is growing as well. They would be keeping a track of the consumer behaviour, what they are buying and consumer feedback, and if everything goes well and as planned, then they would also be adding other sections, and would also be expanding their target audience.
What Kind Of Brands Are They Selling And How Are They Different From Their Existing Range?
As many of us already know, ABG already has a range of other retail fashion brands such as – Louis Philippe, Allen Solly, Van Heusen and Pantaloons, Peter England, etc., which are more mature and established than Abof.
So then why compete with your own brands?
Abof being a fashion-oriented brand for youths, is targeting an altogether a different set of audience than its other peers, and the medium of trade (online) is not the same as well.
Hence, their overall purpose is only to fill the need of the hour, give the youths what they want, and leverage from the segment and the online medium in general.
Abof, in an unlikely move, does not stock many products from Aditya Birla Group’s existing fashion retail brands, for one reason being, they are already sold through the group’s physical stores, as well as ‘Trendin.com’, which is their existing online venture for their in-house brands.
But yes, they will be offering a selected range of in-house brands, but there would a wider range of external brands and Abof. And from the selected external brands, many will have merchandise exclusively with them as well.
The company will be very selective in choosing the product listing, and would be handpicking the products that would be listed. These would be on the lines of higher fashion quotient, superior products, in trend, should not be regular plain vanilla merchandise, etc…
The portal will be offering a list of 7,000 products which would be a mix of all brands initially, but in the next few months this number would increase to 20,000.
Overall and initially, they will be listing stocks of 55 brands some of which include external ones like Jack & Jones, Levis, Fila, United Colors of Benetton, Being Human, etc., and eventually, would go on to increase this number to 100 brands in the near future.
What Kind Of Partnerships Does The Company Have?
As of now, the company has refused to disclose in detail about the partnerships that it holds for its multiple channels, but it is certain that, Abof has created a team of best-of-the-breed partners to manage different sections of their business including – technology, fashion brands, marketing and operations.
For last mile delivery and logistics, Abof conducted detailed evaluations, post which they have partnered with different companies from the fashion space.
Other than that, the company has also a two year contract with ‘Metail’ – a British fashion technology company which holds base in Cambridge, London and Singapore as well.
Metail will be developing a ‘try it on’ online shopping experience tool for Abof, which will enable customers to create a customized 3D model of the person himself.
Using this tool, Abof would be able to photograph and digitise over 200 garments a day, and on the other end, by just entering a few simple measurements customers would be able to generate a 92-96% accurate (to their size) model of themselves. The technology is such that it can be easily instilled into any e-commerce platform as well.
This partnership would be of great help to the company to understand the previously unknown customer data, which Abof would be able to use for better fitting and apparel design.
And not only that, but Metail would also be able to guide them with vital information such as – cutting items to fit better, making more garments their consumers want to wear, and a lot more…
What Kind Of Approach And Promotional Strategies, Is Abof.Com Opting For?
To begin with – the makers aim to place the Abof as the “Apple” of online fashion retail, thus implying that, it would only be catering to the niche crowd and not the masses.
In sync with this viewpoint; we often see today that, mostly all the online retailers offer various kinds of deep discounts on products to attract customers, hence, setting themselves apart, Abof also won’t be offering unreasonable discounts and would maintain their difference in the market.
Anyway, talking about their promotional strategies – they believe that good content, marketing and products, would be a perfect mix to attract customers, even while staying away from deep discounts.
Hence, they have opted for a multi promotional strategy which would be a mix of Digital Marketing through various platforms, Offline marketing via Print media, TV advertisement, Advertisements through YouTube, etc.
But their initial stages of marketing would be consumed majorly by the digital segment, than print or television, and the same would be visible within the present six months.
Who Would Be Leading The Brand?
Aditya Birla Group has created a brand new team of around 200 people which are mostly based in Bangalore. Over the last nine months, apart from making the product, they have also put in an equal amount of time in building the team, which consists of people from a range of online players such as Snapdeal, Myntra and Zomato. Other than that, for their logistics end, they have tied up with third party vendors.
Beginning with the top boss, the management team with be lead by – ‘Prashant Gupta’, who will be acting as the President and CEO. He had joined ABG in 2011 and presently also leads Aditya Birla Group’s overall e-commerce portfolio.
An IIT (Delhi) pass out and IIM (Ahmedabad) Gold medallist; Prashant has a working experience of roughly 12 years, before he joined ABG, and has also been listed on the Business Today’s list of ‘Top 40 Executives Under 40’, as well.
Prashant will be leading a management team of almost 9 people, which includes – Kedar Apshankar (DEPUTY CEO), Sukanta Das (COO), Ashim Chatterjee (CMO), Mahesh
Tiyyagura (CTO), Sharad Agarwal (CFO), Vikram Bhat (CPO), Abhishek Kumar (HEAD – HR & Administration), Vipul Mathur (Chief Buying & Merchandising Officer – Branded Business) and Rashmi Shukla (Chief Buying & Merchandising Officer – Own Brands).
Why Did They Get Into The Online Retail Business And What Kind Of Roi Are They Expecting?
Evidently, the e-commerce sector is a highly lucrative sector from an investment and business point of view. Agreed, many players have entered and now control the market, but that does not mean that others cannot come in. There still, is a lot of space for more to happen.
Elaborating further, Aditya Birla Group is already India’s largest and well-renowned fashion player through Madura Fashion and Pantaloons, and holds a set of expertise in this field.
Therefore, it only makes more sense for them to enter into the fashion e-commerce sector. Using this fashion e-commerce medium and business venture, Aditya Birla Group intends to stay focused on seeding and growing their grip and strengths even further and deeper into the business of fashion in India.
And as a whole, with Abof, they want to provide a wide yet curated range of products along with a unique, not seen or heard of and world-class shopping experience, only to become the most admired player in online fashion within the next three years, and to be the next billion-dollar business of the Group in this space, on the longer run.
Now the company although, has been shy to disclose the extent of investments made, but according to them, there is enough fire power in the company to make this initiative a successful one.
Lastly, since this is a business where an estimation of profitability is very difficult, but the company on the long-term is targeting a 15% share of India’s online fashion market by 2019-20.