Interview with Mr.Manmohan Agarwal, CEO, Online lifestyle store

E-commerce is seen by many, not without reason as the next big thing in the Indian retailing industry. With internet penetration poised to grow multifold in the years to come, it makes perfect sense for players, foreign as well as Indian, to invest in the booming Indian market.

In an exclusive interview with Trade Briefs, Mr. Manmohan Agarwal, the CEO of, India's leading e-commerce portal shares his views on the Indian e-commerce industry and business strategy of for the Indian market place. Some excerpts from the interview.


Q- Please tell us the logic behind naming the site ''?.

We decided the name based on 3 parameters. It has a high recall as per the preliminary market study we conducted. It's a catchy name that connects to the average Indian youth and it's a 5 letter domain name, a hard one to get.


Q- What's your estimate of the size of 'online retailing' in India. ?. Do you think the industry is saturating with more players coming in?

Online retailing is still in its formative years in India. Real growth is yet to pick up and we haven't reached an inflection point in this field yet. We expect major consolidation to happen in the next few years and only the best and fittest would survive and be long term players. I estimate this number would be anywhere between 5 and 10


Q- E-commerce is a crowded space in India. People buy from toothbrush to home appliances online. Is online the only way forward for Indian retail industry. Does it make the brick n mortar store redundant?

In my opinion, Brick & mortar stores are still relevant today in the Indian marketplace. Modern retail is still in the growth phase and is poised to grow in the future. Infrastructure challenges remain on the ground and structural inefficiencies do pose challenges to the modern Indian retailer. Also, demand in tier 2/3 towns is fragmented. Small towns have sufficient internet reach and online support would play a pivotal role in reaching to them.

Brick & mortar stores and online model can co-exist and many offline brands today have realized the importance of selling online. We see it happening and are likely to see many more boutique firms taking the online way


Q- Indian customers have this urge to 'touch & feel' goods before they buy. How does YEBHI overcome this hurdle?. How much does technology help?

Touch & feel is more of a psychological issue than anything else. This has been debated by the e-commerce community and though we feel that technology can help, it cant give a touch & feel effect to an online buyer. We work around this limitation by investing in solid ground service. Our service professional are well groomed and give our customers 2-3 sizes during delivery. The customers get to actually test the product before deciding the right one. Their homes become our trial rooms. That's how intimate we get to the buyer


Q- Abhay Pandey of sequoia has said that e-commerce in india is a tough game and most companies would remain in the red for a long time to come.  Ur comments on profitability?

I agree with Abhay on his views that E-commerce is a tough game for players in the Indian market. Challenges in technology, logistics and supply chain do exist and brands have to toil hard to get a fine balance between all keeping costs intact.

Profitability would depend a lot on efficiencies in the above mentioned factors. There is enough space for 5-10 more players to enter the market.


Q- Does cash on delivery really work for Indian market? Data tells us that 50-60% is COD model. How much of impact does it have on cash flows of the company? How do you tackle returns?

Our experience has taught us that COD is an immensely popular model of delivery that works well in India. Statistics tell us that close to 2/3rd of transactions in retail stores are still done by cash. There are issues with courier firms which maynot be well equipped to handle certain deliveries. They may not communicate the brand value that we toil to create through superior delivery.


Q- India has always faced issues with logistical challenges for e-commerce portals. How does YEBHI manage this? Do you have a full fledged logistics team?

Our costs in logistics are substantially low when compared to competition. We are almost 3 times as good as other when it comes to delivery excellence. We believe that in-house logistics would work well for the market and are building a delivery network of our own. Outsourcing to an external firm for logistics worked well for the U.S market but we feel that Indian e-commerce firms should invest in logistics as a separate entity


Q- How is investor sentiments in general in the Indian e-commerce space?. Are they still optimistic about the Indian market?

As we speak, many investments are happening in e-commerce firms in India and companies have sufficient cash in hands now. E-commerce funding has now reached the next level. The initial euphoria of last year has calmed down a bit and investors have become mature. They are ready to wait and reap the returns in the longer run


Q- Let us know marketing strategy/ initiatives from YEBHI for the Indian market. How do you plan to use digital media and the power of reach it brings with it? How much of social media integration has happened within YEBHI site?. How has the experience been?

We help our customers help each other. We have introduced the concept of social shopping where our buyers get to recommend products to others and have been an ambassador for the brand. They can also design personal catalogues and share it with the world at the click of a button. They can also create wishlists and share it with the larger community. Yebhi also tracks trending topics(topics that are hot that day) thereby giving the new buyer a hang of what's in store


Q- Bath and beauty seems to be a traditional oflinemodel?. Thought process behind introducing the same?

We believe that e-commerce is all about serving the products to the right customer at the right time. It also involves sourcing products that are generally difficult to find/out of reach. Affordability isn't an issue for many of our customers. Access is. We strive hard to make sure that every product a customer desires is made available to him/her. Our collection in the bath & beauty segment is a testament to this philosophy of ours


Q- List out some challenges that YEBHI faces in the procurement cycle ?. How efficient is the procurement process in managing prices and margins?

We are still in the learning curve when it comes to procurement chain. We keep inventory ready all the time and our click-ship time is hardly 2-3 hours i.e. once a customer places an order (click), the product is shipped in the next 2-3 hours. This is how efficient our procurement cycle is


Q- Tell us about YEBHI champs?.How much of human connect does YEBHI have with consumers?

Yebhi champs are our relationship officers who are well groomed, smart, suave professionals who work on the ground to communicate brand yebhi to our customers. They are a vital clog in the delivery chain and are empowered with decision making abilities. They also take calls on refund and are brand ambassadors of yebhi, on the ground. They are hired from the best of b-schools and are one of a kind in the industry.