India's largest e-commerce firm Flipkart has entered the apparels segment with the launch of a new men's clothing section. This expands the product basket of the firm into a segment with higher margins and puts it bang opposite existing players in apparel e-tailing such as Rocket Internet's venture Jabong, Myntra (which has a few common investors with Flipkart), Yebhi, Fashionandyou and Zovi among others.
Apparel is also one of the most happening vertical e-com segments in terms of players and the quantum of venture capital money attracted by the startups. At the time of the launch of the section, there were 3,510 products available in a number of categories that included Polo's and t-shirts (1436), casual and party wear shirts (620), formal shirts (617), jeans (140), trousers (222), shorts and 3/4ths (37), winter and seasonal wear (109) and sports wear (329).
The products can be filtered according to price (high to low and low to high), brand and colours. The costliest product we could find as of now was an Espirit casual sweater that was priced at Rs 4,499 and the cheapest one was a Hanes round neck t-shirt for Rs 249. The brands offered on the site included Adidas, Arrow, Allen Solly, Crocodile, Lee, Newport, Pepe, Puma, Peter England, UCB, Van Heusen, and Indian private label Freecultr, among others.
In April, when the company had added pens and stationery, home appliances and perfumes to its product categories, we had asked Ravi Vora, VP, marketing at Flipkart about the company's expansion plans. At the time, he had mentioned, "Currently we offer products across 12 categories. Going forward, we will continue to expand the range of products available on Flipkart. Everything except groceries and automobiles are fair game for us."
The company had completed its fourth round of funding in August this year, raising an undisclosed amount from two new investors, MIH (part of Naspers Group) and ICONIQ Capital, besides participation from existing investors Tiger Global and Accel Partners. There is a strong chance it used the funding to fuel its expansion into apparels.
Additionally, according to a study jointly released by comScore and industry body Assocham, in July 2012, Flipkart was the leader among the local players, both in terms of visitors, with 7.4 million unique visitors a month (growing more than fivefold over the past one year), as well as average transaction size with $35.
The study also mentioned that apparel, as a category, was the fastest-growing retail sub-category -- it grew 362 per cent in the past one year. So in a way it was only a matter of time before Flipkart entered the product category.
Here's a look at how the company has been slowly but surely adding new product verticals/categories this year.
Feb: Flipkart launches its online digital music store called Flyte (one of the first such e-com players to do so), and claims it is India's largest legal online music store.
April: Expands into pens and stationery, home appliances and perfumes.
May: Expands its lifestyle-related product verticals by introducing health & beauty, watches, belts, bags & luggage categories.
June: Adds a toy section to its product portfolio.
July 19 : Starts offering baby care products.
July 25: Forays into private label for digital accessories, such as laptop bags and camera pouches, under the brand Digiflip.
Flipkart had also registered two new companies in India, which were recently approved -- Flipkart Payment Gateway Services Pvt Ltd was approved on August 31 and Flipkart Marketplace Pvt Ltd was approved on September 12. And if the names are any indication of the things to come, it does look that the company is all set to launch its own online marketplace business.
(Edited by Prem Udayabhanu)