Interview with Shilpa Sharma

Shilpa Sharma
Shilpa Sharma

Do you offer seasonal sales?

We do not really follow seasons. All of Jaypore’s products are handmade, and there is an almost lyrical cycle of products that we source from artisans that naturally follows the seasons. We have consciously stayed away from deep discounting as a way to secure sales. We offer sweet deals to our core customers, once in a while, as a way to acknowledge their commitment to shopping on Jaypore. Our aim is not to sell more, but to sell better products than anyone else.

When many online companies are running at a loss, how are you staying afloat?

We depend only on the quality of our products to gain and retain business. There is no other way to do that. Jaypore has a long-term commitment to artisans and customers, and we can only fulfil it by being true to ourselves and to our customers. We do not believe in buying sales through discounts–more than 25 per cent of the topline sales of a portal is generated through deep discounts, something that we have consciously steered clear of. Competition is a good thing. It keeps us on our toes looking for even better ways to provide value to customers. It is this endeavour that keeps us standing out in the crowd. Everyone today believes they can set up a website and run their own e-commerce portals. What most people do not realise is that setting up a beautiful website is only one part of what it takes to be a successful online portal.

What has been your experience of online portals for clothes and household goods?

Time is the new money. The convenience of shopping online is big, and the added benefit of great deals online across portals like Amazon, Snapdeal and Flipkart have spoilt the customer for choice. There is nothing that you cannot buy online today. From big bulky furniture to exquisite precious jewellery, it is all available at the click of a mouse. The added convenience of “cash on delivery” or “try and buy” overcomes barriers that may exist in the minds of the traditional shopper.

You moved from FMCG brands to a brick-and-mortar store and now online. What is the difference and how was the experience?

It is a whole new learning experience, and in keeping with the times too. I have followed my dreams, in moving from FMCG to retail when I moved to Fabindia and then on to Jaypore. Keeping up with the times, for sure, as we see that shopping habits in our country are evolving and an online presence is becoming a must, for everyone who wants to build a business and brand.

You have watched fashion for 25 years. How has it progressed, and where do you think the online business will go?

Western influences have grown, with the growing influence of television and the Internet. Differences between ethnic and western have blurred and fusion wear seems to be the new mantra. Unfortunately, ‘more is beautiful’ and the general aesthetic in the country seems to be gravitating towards bling, and ‘more the merrier’ in terms of design elements. The growing prominence of online marketplaces has opened up a world of possibilities for the customer who is totally spoilt for choice. Technology interventions also showcase possibilities in terms of styling of looks, which make shopping a pleasurable and much easier experience.

What sort of organisation is needed for the success of online sales? What are the advantages and disadvantages of an online portal?

The first and foremost thing you need is to have certain systems in place, and at Jaypore these are non-negotiable. That is the only way we can deliver the best quality product on time. Ours is a flat organisation and there is clear accountability for every process. The success of online sales depends in a big way on these two factors. In a rapidly digitalising world, I do not really see any disadvantages of having an online portal. Yes, there are a lot of challenges, but every one of them is a learning experience for Jaypore. And with a short turnaround time for incorporating our learnings into our current system, we are getting quicker in adapting to change. There is just no other way. As for advantages, there are many. Apart from the traditional advantages of not having to have a costly physical setup to maintain and hence lower overheads, one of the biggest advantages of an online retail business is the sheer number of prospective customers one can reach. India has nearly 94 million broadband users, according to an April 2015 report by AT Kearney–that is the number of people we can potentially reach and that is an astounding number. Also, with more intense customer interaction, we are able to gauge their mood, needs and pain points faster and accordingly offer solutions far quicker than a brick-and-mortar setup. So, there is higher efficiency, and we are able to customise our offerings better for our customers.

What are the top three challenges you faced as a start-up?

The top three challenges are (i) managing priorities with bootstrapping across functions–technology, marketing and working capital for product; (ii) talent, very little out there which comes with a commitment to and passion for the kind of work we do; (iii) with an SOR model, we never have enough of what works for us (quantity of product).
Published on: 23/03/2016

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of

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