"Biggest learning I have is that if you can provide a product with an assured guarantee and which is a known brand at a value that is unmatched then everyone shops, regardless of which geography you belong to… All tiers have disposable incomes and they are hungry for good quality products but access to products was missing earlier. Today even the best of brands normally distribute their products to 30-50 cities. But India is all of 5000 cities and there are consumers in each of them. The reach of television surpasses the reach of any mall or retail chain one can think of."
Sundeep Malhotra is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of HomeShop18, India’s first 24 hour home shopping channel from the Network18 group. He joined the company in July 2006 when virtual retail and home shopping was a mere idea. Building on the idea, literally from scratch, he gathered a nucleus team of 100 members and launched the HomeShop18 Television channel in April 2008.
A graduate from Delhi University, Sundeep earned his Masters degree from AIMA, Delhi. He came to Network18 with a rich experience of over 20 years in some of the best regarded organisations. He was the Executive Vice President in PepsiCo India for 6 years. Prior to which he spent 5 years with Benetton India, as their Head of Sales and Marketing and over 10 years with Bata India Ltd, working across various roles from Brand Management to Retail Head.
The idea of Home Shopping was received with skepticism and mistrust. But Sundeep, with his keen insight and relentless belief in the business model, steadily built and drove his team to build this new credible shopping platform for both, the Indian shopper and the Indian viewer. Keeping the customer at the centre, he made HomeShop18 well known in 2750 cities across India and gleaned a solid customer base of over 2 million customers.
HomeShop18 has partnered with the best brand owners, such as Apple, Motorola, Samsung, Whirlpool, Philips, Kaya, Reebok, Lee, Levi’s and many more to provide superlative quality and exceptional value. HomeShop18 is committed to providing a delightful and dependable customer experience, through entertaining and outstanding content on TV & the Web and its high quality captive customer sales centre. Its customer-centric practices, including free home delivery, multiple payment options and 15 days ‘no questions’ asked replacement guarantee make shopping with HomeShop18 a smarter and a more convenient experience.
Q. HomeShop18 is India’s first comprehensive virtual retail business. However, when you started business 20 months back, no credible or a well known brand wanted to be associated with you. How did you work to come over this hurdle and what were the various challenges that you faced along the way?
Challenges that we faced were all about mainly two things. Firstly, about the domain itself. The skepticism about the domain was our biggest challenge purely from the brands point of view. And the second challenge was to give them the comfort and the confidence that home-shopping or an alternative distribution platform is a catalyst for their growth and is not a competitor to their existing distribution platform. Partnering with someone like HomeShop 18 was a big hurdle as most did not know what HomeShop 18 stood for. Therefore, their imagery of associating with our brand was associated to the legacy of teleshopping and hence the skepticism. So their worries were about their image getting tarnished by partnering with us. They also thought that we were all about discounts and hence will create problems for their existent distribution network. To a large extent we have overcome that because the brands that were skeptical earlier and started in an apprehensive fashion and today they are investing in building exclusive product lines and exclusive teams, which support HomeShop 18! The only way that we could build this confidence was by proving to companies that there was potential for business far beyond their existing reach and that it does not compete with their existing distribution network. What HomeShop 18 does is very unique because it cannot be done through a physical store. For example, in a physical store you hanker for shelf space. But a product on a static shelf cannot be demonstrated. If there is a function, feature or a benefit of the product it cannot be explained to a consumer. Television, being an interactive medium, is the only medium by means of which you can actually demonstrate the product and what it stands for. There are close to 80 per cent products each year that fail in retail outlets. They don’t fail because the product is bad. They fail because either the proposition or the product benefits were not correctly explained to the consumer. This is also a great launch-pad. For a brand that is city centric and wants to go national can do so overnight. Today we are delivering products to over three thousand cities across the country. That is an unmatched reach and something no other company in India has today. For a company launching a new product and wanting to elaborate what it stands for before it gives it to open-trade, this is a great way of doing that. This is a one-stop shop to increase reach, to build brand equity, because you are on national TV, and to understand who your consumer is because we have every possible data about the customer; the ones who are buying and also the ones who are not buying.