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New click on the block

Shilpa Johnson  |  Mumbai 

A website that sells just shoes and customises your footwear; another that sells eye-wear; and another that deals solely in financial products to help you put every penny to use. These are a few niche e-commerce portals that have sprung up and promise an expertise that offline retail cannot.

India boasts of 100 million active internet users of which 37 per cent live in small towns. And with another 10 per cent of Indians expected to start using the internet soon, it's a largely untapped market.

“This provides a huge opportunity to organisations that use the internet as an effective medium of marketing and client-sourcing. So if an organisation can execute a transaction well, it is bound to do well,” explains Ashish Jeph, co-founder & director, GNBIndia.com, a group buying portal for discounted loans and financial products.

is a portal that claims to demystify jargon for consumers and offer deals on loans, insurance and investment schemes. The site has been founded by three former bankers, who during 16 years of their service in the banking sector took notice of the “lack of professionalism” among intermediaries present in the retail lending segment.

“A company can only make certain investments and bets at a time. So, we aim to be leaders in a particular retail category unlike those who offer a little of everything,” tells Peyush Bansal, founder and CEO, Lenskart.com.

Bansal started Lenskart.com and offers a range of products like branded contact lenses and sunglasses, all ready to be custom built as per customer’s eye power. “We chose eyewear because we thought it is a need-based product and there is a big gap in demand and availability. One-third of India’s population has vision correction problem today and only one-fourth out of that use any kind of vision correction. With the internet we can reach remotest of areas with full range of products,” hopes Bansal.

These websites claim huge potential in being a one-stop destination. However, leaving a mark with just one particular product or a service is a task. "We chose shirts as after looking at options in the Indian market, we discovered that there aren't too many distinctive products. Our idea was to give consumers not an affordable but a quality product at an affordable price - Rs 899," reveals Kabir Hingorani, founder, Stiff Collar.

A website that proclaims itself as selling “snooty English shirts” at decidedly “non snooty” prices, thestiffcollar.com, retails English shirts online. Hingorani admits that lack of awareness about English shirts is a challenge the website is currently trying to overcome. He says, “The Indian consumer might not readily fish out Rs. 899 for a cotton shirt being sold through a relatively new medium such as a website.”

Educating users is not something that bothers Shailen Amin, co-founder and CEO of Bestylish.com. “People are passionate about shoes — cherishing and loving them,” says Amin. The website offers branded footwear ranging from Melissa, DKNY, Rockport and Woodland. To address niche customer needs in a creative manner, bestylish offers special footwear accessories like “The Heel Condom”, specialised shoes for diabetics.

But how receptive are consumers when it comes to purchasing shoes online? Amin explains, “We see a wide variety of customers who frequent our site, but if we had to average it out, our customer would be a 16-30 year old internet savvy shoe-lover.”

First Published: Mon, November 28 2011. 00:34 IST
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