The Indian youth (18-25 years), an early adopter of technology, contributes a major chunk of 44% in internet usage. This is followed by young men (age group 25-35 years), who contribute 28% in internet usage. Together, the youth and young men contribute to a 72% internet usage. Given that the most ardent e-shoppers come from the 17- 35 age bracket, Fashion Downtown, an online retail store (with, as the name suggests, a fashion focus), was launched with a focus on this 72% of the internet-using population in India. Offering international and local brands across women’s wear, menswear, fragrances, accessories, jewelry and beauty products, Fashion Downtown might sound similar to other fashion e-stores. What then, makes Fashion Downtown different?
Says Co-founder Shivangi Mehta, “We believe that the Indian online customer is price sensitive. We not only match, but also provide the least possible prices and are happy to mention that we have already achieved this in the fragrances category. We also provide unique products sourced locally and internationally, again, at the best prices. We understand that the key to our success is a happy and satisfied customer. That is why we focus on delivering a simple yet exciting shopping experience.”
Co Founded by Shivangi and Payal Sheth, the functional version of Fashion Downtown was launched about four months ago. “We have a fresh and vibrant online store- a place where you can find the latest fashion from local indigenous brands to the high street. We know how important it is to look your best; therefore it is essential that our prices are affordable for everyone. We believe fashion is a right not a luxury,” says Shivangi.
The founders have a combined experience of Marketing, Finance and have educated themselves in IT as well. They started working on the concept 8 months back, where they got involved in areas of e-commerce, right from sourcing, to dealing with IT issues, Marketing, SEO, SMO and Operations. They pride themselves in running an e-commerce website with very low overheads while still achieving their sales. As a duo, they used to consult a lot of their clients for business development and business plans and during this process, they got associated with a lot of designers and brands, based on which, they carved out a plan for Fashion Downtown.
Having three operational offices within Mumbai and an IT base in Hyderabad, Fashion Downtown believes in having a lean organization and is thus, currently, 12 people strong. They also strongly feel that for best customer services, they need to invest in people, so that is their next big step. Their clientele is mainly spread across the US and India.
“Whereas India is concerned more of young adults from the age group of 17 to 35, their buying behavior is western influenced. International brands, designer wear, watches, fragrances are widely accepted by them, they are more open to experimentation and they are vey tech savvy. Internationally, we cater to NRIs who are looking for Indian wear at a reasonable price so the age group there is from 28 to 55,” says Shivangi.
The company’s business model is based on various sales channels such as B2C, B2B, Corporate Sales, Import and Exports. Margins vary depending on the nature and volume of sales. They have tied up with brands in Clothing, fragrances and accessories categories for men and women. They also import products from few countries and plan to expand in this direction. So far self funded, they are looking for external funding for expansion.
“We plan to get more international products and continue sourcing unique local products to deliver at the best prices. We also want to fill the gap for Indian designers to reach international markets by giving them a platform to deliver their brands via a worldwide express delivery service offered through Fashion Downtown,” says Shivangi.
“If you love problems and challenges, this is the place to be! Initially, getting technology right was a challenge, followed by convincing designers and vendors, who were never exposed to this idea, to come on board. Currently, delivering the customer immediately is a challenge; dealing with cash on delivery is the biggest challenge we face since we do not maintain inventory at our end. The necessity to survive has taught us a lot and we would like to share how we let our aspirations be sidetracked to survive and got back. We aspired to have Gen Next and mom-and-pop designers and exhibitors all over India who do not have retail space on our platform. But, in due course, we saw the consumer is not ready for unbranded unique products from a site which is new and does not have spending power for marketing. So, we got branded stuff that was demanded and provided at least possible price, got customers to trust our site. We are happy with the response currently and we are looking positively at the way forward,” concludes Shivangi.
More on Fashion Downtown, here.