For entrepreneurs whose companies are expected to come under increasing pressure post Myntra's acquisition of Jabong, Voonik's Sujayath Ali and LimeRoad's Suchi Mukherjee have a remarkably relaxed demeanour about them.
While Ali believes the $70-million acquisition announced last week is less a threat and more an opportunity for the Bengaluru-based Voonik, Mukherjee says India's online fashion market has far more depth than is being considered.
"India's apparel and lifestyle market is a $70-billion industry, and 2% of that is currently online. That number is much bigger for China and the US. We have a long way to go," said Mukherjee.
It's an intriguing situation for India's online fashion retailers, a list that also includes leading ecommerce marketplaces Flipkart (which owns Myntra), Amazon and Snapdeal. According to a recent Google report, the sector is expected to scale up to $35 billion by 2020, growing at four times in the coming years.
The report also states that fashion will outstrip consumer electronics as the largest online retail category, accounting for about 35% of consumers' total online spending by 2020.
Myntra's acquisition of Jabong— which had several other suitors in the fray including Softbank-backed Snapdeal and Kishore Biyani's Future Group—is estimated to have placed the combined entity right at the top of pile, with an estimated market share of 60-70%.
"What people don't understand is that there are multiple sub-markets in fashion... The value and mid-priced segments command 75% of the market, with the remaining split between the premium and luxury segments.
Myntra and Jabong don't have a play in the value and mid-priced segments. Therefore, (the merger) doesn't make much of a difference to us," said Ali, chief executive of Voonik, which announced a $3-million (about Rs 20 crore) venture debt financing from InnoVen Capital a few days after the Myntra-Jabong deal.
Voonik, which makes personalized style recommendations to buyers, is in fact considering entering the premium and luxury fashion categories. "The competition has consolidated and so there is always space for a second player," said Ali.
LimeRoad, which launched its menswear fashion category this year, will continue to grow at a rapid pace, said Mukherjee. According to the CEO, LimeRoad's top-line has nearly doubled over the past four months.
The men's category "has grown from nothing to 15% of our revenue in the last two-three months... 80% of our traffic is repeat. We have nearly 20 million visits per month," Mukherjee said, declining, however, to provide more financial details.
The t wo entrepreneurs' confidence of not only holding on to their market share but actually expanding is shared by Craftsvilla CEO Manoj Gupta, who added that it would be so-called 'horizontal' ecommerce companies like Amazon and Snapdeal that would feel the pressure more.
"We are not cautious about the merger as none of them (Myntra or Jabong) does ethnic primarily," said Gupta, whose startup specializes in ethnic and hand-crafted fashion and accessories. "The combined entity is a cause of alarm for horizontal marketplaces competing with Flipkart who might find it difficult to capture the fashion vertical."
Craftsvilla continues to target an initial public offering by 2018, Gupta said. There is no doubt that for the other suitors, the acquisition of Jabong, for all its declining sales and marketshare, would still have been critical.
For Snapdeal, acquiring Jabong would have allowed it to reassert its credentials in the rapidly growing online fashion apparel market, whi le for Future Group, it would have delivered a strong online footing as well.
For Flipkart, the acquisition provides an opportunity for it to consolidate its position in the high-margin fashion category while also keeping the likes of brick-and mortar retailers such as Reliance Retail, Aditya Birla and Tata Group at bay. "Between Myntra and Jabong, customers will have exclusive access to iconic global brands," a Flipkart spokeswoman said naming brands such as Swarovski, Timberland and Lacoste. She added that Flipkart, Myntra and Jabong will operate as independent entities.
"Jabong and Myntra have been going after the same set of customers," said Harminder Sahni, managing director of Wazir Advisors, a consultancy. "One of the reasons behind the acquisition could be to protect Myntra's interests, so that Jabong as a brand does not rest with competitors, including offline multi-brand outlets looking at an online presence."
Once a bright star and a vanguard of online f ashion shopping in India, Jabong lost sheen lately as its investors decided against injecting capital into a business that thrived on heavy discounting. For the fiscal year ended March, Jabong's total sales were Rs 940 crore with a negative ebitda of Rs 415 crore. Ebitda, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, is a key measure of operational performance.
"Smaller marketplaces like LimeRoad and Voonik have a differentiated play... The Myntra-Jabong deal is unlikely to change their market shares by much," said Gagan Chauhan, senior business analyst at Red Seer Consulting.
It's possibly all this that explains the bluster of Mukherjee, Ali and Gupta. Myntra and Jabong "laid the groundwork over the last few years," agreed Ali, "but we are here to take advantage now."
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