The Indian obsession for all things imported and branded translates into great business opportunity. When it comes to fashion and accessories, it gets more fervent. No wonder then that online sales of international fashion brands always flourishes in a country like ours, where people have moved on from begging relatives going “abroad” to pick up lingerie for them, to buying branded perfumes in the grey market, to well, ordering it for themselves online.
Sajan Gianchandani and his brother Sunder started The Private Sales (a name that is a guarantee to pique more interest, since you're branding it private!) over a year ago and already claim to have a line up of over four lakh customers. Half-Indians raised entirely in France, and having been in the thick of the French fashion industry for over 15 years as sources and suppliers, they are now using that know-how to bring Pierre Cardin, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Versache, Gianfranco Ferre, Ungaro and many lesser-known French brands at discounted prices to India. They were earlier dealing with the European and American markets.
“We have family here and on our trips we've seen that the fashion market is growing. But international brands are not so visible and available to the middle market… In fact, some luxury brands here are more expensive than in France!,” says Sajan with a thick French accent. The 40-year-old has been coming to the city for the last eight years, but admits the irony, laughing, “When in Paris I'm not French, and when I'm in India, I don't look Indian.”
Of course a visit to the site reveals that it is based on the concept of a “sale” — not all brands and products are available all the time. There are limited-period sales, sometimes bags, sometimes caps, shirts, fragrances, tracksuits etc. “Sunglasses sell the most,” says Sajan, quite exasperated, as well as belts. Most of the clothes go up on sale at the end of the season. He then gives insight into the business: “If we don't give a discount, we don't sell!” But customers do have to pay a VAT, added into the price on the site, says Sajan.
While he traipses around the question of how they are able to give discounts of up to 75 per cent, considering import duties are high on such luxury goods, the shrewd businessman never really tells you how they pull it off. When they were planning to open up in India, they were warned that e-commerce wouldn't work well here and that people were not ready for it.
They offer “cash on delivery” too, to counter that issue. “The only disadvantage with us is that consumers can't touch and feel what they buy.” The site already does a business of about Rs.10 lakh a day! One of the big reasons to be online is providing accessibility, says Sajan. Tier Two cities like Chandigarh have a big concentration of their shoppers. Following in quick succession are places like Ludhiana, Surat, and Coimbatore!
“We know the culture of the French market and we are able to form a bridge with them by offering them an insight into the Indian market. It's difficult for smaller French brands to come set up shop in India,” he explains. So the next time you bump into someone at the party who claims they picked up the Versace on their trip to Paris, you probably know they were busy clicking away online from their laptop at home.