IMPRESSIONS from a Cross-section

Sector Pulse
Arvind Saraf
Arvind Saraf
Triveni Sarees

e-Commerce is still evolving fast with constant flux and surprises


What do you say about the global online ethnicwear market? What challenges do MSMEs face while digitalising? How is Wishbook faring? How are manufacturers responding to e-Commerce? Why did you create different platforms?

The global online ethnicwear market is growing, riding on appreciation and interest in Indian culture due to the film industry, celebrity adoptions and the Indian diaspora making its mark everywhere. While demand is growing, traditional local suppliers and stores are not able to match the product offering or price points required. This is fueling the growth for technology-enabled brands close to the source of manufacturing. 

MSME industry is typically fragmented and does not have scale to build custom software or processes or go for expensive software. Low margins further make the investments in software unviable. There are very few tools, software or platforms that are suited to their business model and are also cost-effective. Often, the processes are not documented and decision-making is fully on the business owner. In the absence of documented processes, digitising the workflow becomes even more difficult. 

Wishbook is a standalone separate venture with Triveni being just another client. Wishbook's key offering includes catalogue sharing and sales application. That was launched in April 2016. Since then, we have more than 4,000 registered users approximately 300 of which are manufacturers and wholesalers. While Wishbook is targeting the entire fashion and apparel space globally, our initial focus is women's Indian ethnicwear. Most manufacturers within this context are Surat-based large saree and ethnicwear brands. Wholesalers and retailers for this sector are pan-Indian with Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat dominating. Given Wishbook team's prior industry experience, we see a strong product market fit in this industry. 

Most manufacturers and traditional businessmen initially approached e-Commerce with scepticism, but they have now gone past that stage. They know that e-Commerce is here to stay and many of them want to be a part of it. However, most traditional manufacturers or wholesalers do not have prior retail experience like marketing and inventory structures, technology component for e-Commerce and customer service orientation which are so crucial to retail. The industry itself has been driven by venture finance. 

e-Commerce is fast evolving with constant flux and surprises that take traditional businesses by surprise. Most traditional businesses are already stretched with their core operations. A business has to stay interested and invested in mid-term for e-Commerce and very few businesses have been able to make that jump. Triveni is among the few ethnicwear brands that has positioned itself in this space. 

Triveni is a brand, not a marketplace. largely stocks products with Triveni brand. While interacting and working with artisans and other manufacturers, we realised that many of them have good product range and want to go online, but are looking for a partner to help them refine the design offering, package and reach to a wider audience.  With them, we had all the workings of a branded marketplace. Hues & Vibes focused on home and kitchen line, Shilp-Kala focused on artisans. However, we realised that these horizontal marketplaces would focus on a number of SKUs and may not be able to do justice to the nuances and detailing for specific categories. Hence, we chose to launch two  separate marketplaces, operationally on the backend. We have linked them closely to our internal systems so that we can offer Triveni quality and service with them as well. 

Triveni has two business units, manufacturing and wholesale, and e-retail. Both these units are structured as practically separate business units. E-retail has been a growing sector from its initial setup in 2011 and has organically seen 100 per cent year-on-year growth in a viable and profitable structure. 2015-2016 was a year of a long-overdue correction in the e-commerce space in India due to e-retail sales being stable onceand margins reducing. We used that opportunity to relook at our own internal systems and merchandising and optimise that further. We have seen that turnaround in 2016-2017; our projected outlook for the next couple of years is more solid and growing. In terms of real numbers, we had done e-retail of about Rs 8 crore in both 2014-2015 and in 2015-2016. Offline is obviously larger. 
Triveni's forte has been womenswear and the offering is most mature in this range. So, womenswear is the strongest category that is faring well in comparison to menswear and kidswear.   

Published on: 17/02/2017

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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