How fashion portals are making changes at the helm as focus shifts to margins


August 3, 2015

Shambhavi Anand & Rasul Bailay, The Economic Times
New Delhi, 3 August 2015

The stage is set for the next big fight in the online world as new CEOs take the helm at the top fashion ecommerce companies amid mounting challenges of getting customers to buy clothes and accessories without deep discounting.
Over the past few quarters, sales at online fashion companies have slowed as they tried to cut the millions of dollars that went into subsidising products to lure customers with heavy discounting. The change of guard now becomes even more pertinent for growth, analysts said.
Two weeks ago, Flipkart-owned fashion portal Myntra said it hired Ananth Narayanan, a McKinsey India director, as its new chief executive officer to replace Mukesh Bansal, who was named last year as the head of commerce at the country’s largest ecommerce company.

German investor Rocket Internet is preparing management changes at in a bid to lift the performance of the country’s secondlargest online fashion retailer, ET had reported on July 22. CEO Arun Chandra Mohan and managing director Praveen Sinha are likely to be replaced.

"Now, conversations within ecommerce companies are shifting towards making more margins rather than being purely about market acquisition," said Devangshu Dutta, CEO of retail consultancy Third Eyesight. "This will also drive strategies and organisational behaviour that may cause shuffling among senior roles and people."

Reliance Retail recruited Sanjay Mehra, a veteran of 25 years with stints in Gap and Nike, as the chief executive for its fashion and lifestyle ecommerce business. The company is working to bring a host of relatively lesser-known international brands from Europe for its online venture, which will be quite different from its brick-and-mortar fashion business. The Tata Group last year hired Sarvesh Dwivedi as head of lifestyle for its upcoming ecommerce marketplace.

Even though it is a late entrant, Amazon is aggressively ramping up the fashion and lifestyle business. Vikas Purohit, the head of fashion at, has put in place a team, including Vikram Raizada, former CEO of Tara Jewels, and Manish Saksena, ex-chief osperating officer at Tommy Hilfiger India. Fashion designer Narendra Kumar also came on board in 2103 as a creative director to boost Amazon’s portfolio.

The boom in the online fashion segment is such that the Seattle-based ecommerce giant is creating its own private label in the fashion and lifestyle segment, perhaps making India the first country where Amazon has its own private fashion labels.

"Initially ecommerce — in fashion as well — revolved around building the market and was more transaction-based," said Nitin Chhabra, chief executive of Ace Turtle, which has the mandate to bring dozens of foreign brands to sell on Myntra. "As there are too many me-too models currently, the time has come to have differentiating aspects and fashion ecommerce companies will move toward more personalisation and enhance the experience part of it."

Indians bought fashion products worth $559 million online in 2013, according to an April report by venture capital firm Accel Partners, an investor in Flipkart.

Snapdeal has said it is targeting to sell $2 billion worth of fashion and lifestyle products this year through its flagship platform and, which the New Delhi-based company acquired in February.

In a bid to reach its goal, Snapdeal picked Amit Maheshwari, vice president of its fashion division, as the new chief executive of Exclusively. com, which sells labels from designers, including Rohit Bal, Manish Malhotra and Tarun Tahilani.

Reliance Industries and Tata Group, India’s biggest conglomerates, also want a share of India’s burgeoning online fashion market.

Reliance Retail is planning a big push in the ecommerce segment this year through the rollout of an online fashion store, chairman Mukesh Ambani announced at the Reliance annual general meeting last month.

The Tata Group is seeking to make a mark by enlisting global fashion brands as part of its portfolio, which is expected to debut in the springsummer season next year, according to people familiar with Tata’s plans.

Tata is trying to convince Spain’s Inditex, a partner with Trent, to sell its highly successful Zara brand on its marketplace. Zara is sold only on its own site and not through third-party websites. So if that happens, it would be a first for the Spanish brand.

(Published in The Economic Times.)