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Arvind plans to launch e-commerce platform soon

LiveMint logoLiveMint 10-06-2014 Mihir Dalal

Bangalore/New Delhi: Textile maker and retailer Arvind Ltd is planning to launch an e-commerce website that will initially sell personalized or customized apparel and suits for men, according to three people aware of the development.

Arvind has formed a separate unit for e-commerce called Arvind Internet Ltd, which is being headed by Tejinder Singh, a former executive at Times Internet. Arvind has hired over 20 executives, including from e-commerce companies such as Flipkart to make a serious entry into e-commerce, two of the people cited above said.

The website for personalized apparel is likely to be launched within the next three months, the people said on condition of anonymity.

Arvind executive director Kulin Lalbhai said in February that the company was setting up a joint venture called Goodhill Suit Manufacturing Ltd with Japan’s Goodhill Corp. Ltd to launch its formal suits business. Arvind is also considering getting its entire portfolio of brands such as Flying Machine and Arrow online over the long term, but hasn’t set a timeline for this, the two people cited above said.

Arvind’s proposed entry into online retail reflects the changing approach of traditional organized retailers towards the online medium, and their efforts to adopt the so-called omni-channel strategy, offering the same benefits, value and shopping experience across formats.

Arvind executive director Kulin Lalbhai declined to comment.

He said in an email, “We are still not ready to share details with the press.”

Retailers such as Shoppers Stop, MobileStore, Croma and Spencer’s Retail have been talking up their strategy of integrating their stores with their websites and trying to make e-commerce a crucial medium of sales. Online retail is worth $3.1 billion, or 10% of the organized retail market, and is estimated to grow to $22 billion, or over 15% of the organized retail market, in five years, according to a November 2013 report by brokerage CLSA.

The growth of online retailers such as Flipkart and Snapdeal has hurt offline retailers, as customers have been lured by attractive discounts. Many retailers had asked brand manufacturers, which are also suppliers to online firms, to get e-commerce sites to reduce discounts, Mint reported on 16 March. These steps are unlikely to work as analysts say e-commerce has become too large a medium for brands to ignore and the best approach for offline retailers would be to make a serious attempt at having some kind of an online business.

But, as Indian offline retailers have found out, this is easier said than done. Nearly two decades after the web revolutionized shopping in the West, “many big retailers in the developed markets are still struggling to turn Internet into a big part of their business,” said Samarjeet Singh, co-founder of Iksula, a consulting firm helping retailers go online. “Indian retailers are facing similar hurdles.”

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