Pepperfry plans off-line 'Experience Zones' to encourage customers to shop online

Co-founder and COO Ashish Shah says the e-commerce company is looking at the 32-billion market for the online furnishing business and 'Omnichannel' customer experience will play a key role in the plans

e4m by Deepa Balasubramanian
Published: Oct 31, 2014 8:33 AM  | 8 min read
Pepperfry plans off-line 'Experience Zones' to encourage customers to shop online

Ashish Shah, COO, Pepperfry co-founded in January 2012 and leads category management, business development, customer support and supply chain functions. Presently, Pepperfry has one million plus users who have subscribed to the website and the number is growing every day. In the last three years at Pepperfry, Shah has driven a strong track record of results, execution excellence and improved efficiency across category management and operational functions. He has built a proprietary ‘Large Item Distribution Model’ that allows for door delivery of large furniture items’ in more than 120 towns across the country.

Ashish is an internet industry veteran with 16 years of experience across start-ups and large multinational companies. In his last assignment, Ashish was the head of e Bay Motors business for India and Philippines apart from being an integral part of the eBay India management team.

In a conversation with exchange4media’s Deepa Balasubramanian, Shah spoke about the e-commerce growth, challenges, Pepperfry’s marketing strategy and plans. Excerpts.

E-Commerce has been booming for some time now, especially in 2014. Please tell us about some of the trends in the sector.

The e-commerce Industry is undergoing a huge change. The industry has been growing at a rapid clip in the country. It started with high traffic broad horizontals operating across sectors like electronics; the next of growth witnessed large vertical growth like fashion. Now, with the emergence of new industry developments there is a strong focus on other high-growth verticals like home, health and sports. For example, Pepperfry, which is a leading online e-commerce business in the home segment, will grow as the vertical grows.

With online players opting to go ‘Omnichannel’ overall customer experience is all set to change. With major players setting up offline brick and mortar stores, the current trend is to move beyond the checkout cart. Pepperfry is looking at setting up ‘Experience Zones’ to give a touch and feel of the products to customers and thus, motivating them to log in and shop on the website. These experience zones will serve as pure play familiarity outlets.

Lastly, there will be a spurt in the growth of ancillary services. Providing additional services especially in the home segment like designing and consulting are set to become important features. Pepperfry rolled-out ‘In a day Carpenter’ service early this year and will look at adding more services to deliver end-to-end customer experience.

What are the challenges for e-commerce business in India? What kind of growth that the industry is witnessing currently?

The biggest challenge is poor infrastructure and supply chain. E-commerce as an industry can grow exponentially, provided the infrastructure and the ability to scale up and deliver products to every corner of the country develops at the same rate.

Poor last mile connectivity due to missing links in supply chain infrastructure is limiting the access to areas where a significant portion of online customers reside.

For a country as big as ours, the internet penetration has covered only 10 per cent of our population. This is in stark contrast to the global average of 35 per cent, and much below the average of the developed nations at 78 per cent. We have a population base, which is big enough for a thriving e-commerce industry, but the e-commerce potential at the moment is limited by the broadband penetration.

The plethora of local tax regimes is also a huge challenge for e-commerce. The implementation of GST is now a pressing need in the seamless world that technology operates in and any budget measure that indicates an early implementation of GST regime would be a value addition to the business.

For a specialised vertical like furniture, large item distribution poses as a huge challenge. There is no prototype in the online industry for a vertical like furniture that can be imitated. It was a huge challenge that we overcame by pioneering our own ‘Large Item Distribution model’ that enables for door delivery of large furniture items in 120 plus towns across the country. This model hasn’t been attempted by any other company in the past. By making significant investments in that area we have built a hub and spoke model that covers a majority of our orders. This comes from our business orientation that ‘when you take risks, you will make mistakes. But you should be the best at fixing them.’

What is Pepperfry’s marketing strategy going forward?

Our first 360-degree campaign has just been unveiled and will be live for a few weeks now. In continuation with the current campaign, we plan to concentrate on building the brand and increasing visibility in the coming months.

An integral part of our marketing strategy is Pepperfry Experience Centres. They will act as our Brick and Mortar presence. We plan to introduce four Experience Centres in key cities by the end of the year.

The idea is to build confidence for our products in our customer’s minds and enable them to make the right purchase decision. These centres are an extension to our recent marketing campaign and will help us to break barriers of shopping for high-value items like furniture online.

As far as reports are concerned, electronic goods are the highest selling categories online. So, what made you start home and furnishing portal?

Worldwide, markets have a couple of large horizontal players and multiple segment focused players. The trend reflects the growth of high traffic broad horizontals operating across like electronics followed by vertical growth like Fashion. The third wave was the online furniture, home, health and sports business as a strong vertical.

We launched Pepperfry two and half years back as we had anticipated the same growth trajectory for e-commerce industry in India, which was also triggered by the need to fulfil an unmet customer need for a wide range of quality furniture and home products in India at one place in January 2012. The need for a wide range of products exists across all town and classes in India. Of the 200 towns with a population greater than two Lakh, all the organized offline retailers put together are present in only 20 cities. Pepperfry has shipped products to customers in more than a 1000 Indian cities till date.

What is the size of the online furnishing business in India? Have customers accepted the online purchase format or do they prefer see offline purchase online?

The furniture and home vertical is a 20 billion industry out of which furniture comprises 55 per cent and Home Décor & Furnishing comprises 45 per cent stake, respectively. In the next three years it is all set to become a 32 billion business.

Globally online home businesses contribute about 15 to 20 per cent of the total online business while comparatively in India is fewer than two per cent currently. This is set to change in the coming three-five years with leading Indian home players set to reach the global standards. Pepperfry sees a huge opportunity to lead this growth.

Can you share how many brands you work with today and what can we expect from Pepperfry in the future?

In the furniture segment alone there are more than 70+ national brands with leading names like Mudra, Nilkamal, Spacewood, @Home, Durian, Furniture Kraft and Evok that work with us, there are more than 150+ traditional non-branded manufacturers who have been associated with us. The number of merchants in other categories include 1000 plus brands like Tupperware, Prestige, Housefull, Bombay Dyeing, Bajaj, Springfit, Swayam, Stellar, Eureka Forbes, Coirfit, Hawkins, etc.

How do you measure the social impacts that your business generates and the monetary value of conversions that occurs due to visits via social networks?

Social media plays a crucial role in the overall business objectives at Every visit is tagged and tracked to measure the impact using analytics platform and thus, gauge the conversion rate. Depending on the objective of the activity we track the imprints of the post through third- party analytics tools.

What are your forward-looking plans for the next two years? Can we expect any new product/ category offering from the brand?

At our current pace, we will cross the Rs 500 -crore sales mark over the next 12 months. Pepperfry has been built on strong unit economics with high contribution margins and low fixed costs and we hope to turn profitable in a couple of years. Presently, we are working towards growing our supply end by adding new products on a regular basis. For this festive season alone we added more than 5000 items to our portfolio. Another important growth function is the supply chain and logistics. We have our Pepperfry Fulfilment centers in Mumbai, Delhi, Jodhpur, Bengaluru and Kolkata and have recently opened in Goa, Vadodara and Cochin. Our last mile delivery has been extended to 250 plus cities and towns.

As mentioned earlier Experience Centres form an important part of our marketing initiatives and going further we plan to increase the brand visibility.

What is your take on the Big Billion Day Sale and its unwanted backlash on the social media?

It was a great initiative that enabled to spread the word on ecommerce and thus, the growth of the market. Customer expectations from e-commerce companies are high, and therefore supply chain, logistics, and customer support have been the key focus areas for any successful e-commerce company.

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Shemaroo to put in Rs 75 crore to expand broadcast, OTT biz

The company is expected to come up with new offerings in FY24

By exchange4media Staff | May 25, 2023 10:05 AM   |   1 min read


Shemaroo is likely to invest Rs 75 crore in its broadcast and OTT business, media networks have reported.

The money will be utilised for ShemarooMe, CEO Hiren Gada was quoted as saying.

In FY24, the company wants to expand its TV and OTT businesses along with introducing new offerings, reports said.

The company has registered an annual growth of 23.3 % in digital media and 66.5 % in traditional media in the financial year ended 31st March 2023 compared to the previous fiscal.

ShemarooMe, the OTT Platform, released 14 titles in the fourth quarter.

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Meta starts last phase of lay-offs

The employees affected are in marketing, site security, content strategy and corporate communications, as per reports

By exchange4media Staff | May 25, 2023 8:43 AM   |   1 min read


Meta has carried out its last phase of lay-offs, according to media reports.

The company announced in March that it will start letting go off employees. Over 20,000 employees have been already given the pink slips.

The staffers affected are in departments like marketing, site security, enterprise engineering, content strategy and corporate communications.

Meta has said that these steps are aimed at improving efficiency.

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Affle to acquire mobile app marketing platform YouAppi

The tech company has announced that it has signed a definitive agreement for 100% ownership of the gaming-focused app

By exchange4media Staff | May 24, 2023 3:26 PM   |   2 min read


Affle through its subsidiaries (“Affle”), today announced the signing of a definitive agreement to acquire 100% ownership of YouAppi, a global gaming focused programmatic mobile app marketing platform. YouAppi Inc. was incorporated in the USA in 2011 and they have a strong ground presence with teams based out of USA, Israel and Japan.

Affle is a global technology company with a proprietary consumer intelligence platform that delivers consumer recommendations and conversions through relevant Mobile Advertising. Affle powers unique and integrated consumer journeys for marketers to drive high ROI, measurable outcome-led advertising through its Affle2.0 Consumer Platforms Stack which includes Appnext, Jampp, MAAS, mediasmart, RevX and now YouAppi.

YouAppi delivers a comprehensive range of programmatic mobile app marketing solutions with real-time results optimization for the fast-growing gaming industry globally. YouAppi's programmatic mobile app marketing platform deploys AI & ML-powered proprietary technology with sophisticated algorithms and granular audience segmentation for many of the leading global companies.

Commenting on this development, Anuj Khanna Sohum, MD and CEO of Affle said “We are excited to announce this acquisition and welcome the YouAppi team on-board in the growing Affle family. We see a lot of synergies to strengthen YouAppi as a Consumer Platform business in the fast-growing & resilient gaming vertical. YouAppi is well aligned to our CPCU business model on both iOS and Android platforms to unlock greater consumer conversions for leading game developers globally. We appreciate YouAppi’s entrepreneurial culture and strong execution focus on tech innovations, profitable growth and financial fundamentals.”

“Becoming a part of Affle allows us to accelerate the YouAppi vision and strategically align our complementary technology capabilities and combined business models, delivering greater value for our customers globally," said Moshe Vaknin, Co-Founder and CEO of YouAppi. “YouAppi is ranked amongst the top 10 platforms for North America in the Appsflyer Remarketing Index and is amongst the fastest-growing companies in the 2023 Inc. 5000 Regionals: Pacific list. This is the result of the dedication, trust and hard work of our team, and the loyalty of our customers. We look forward to driving fast-paced innovation and greater profitability together with Affle.”


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JetSynthesys' Real Sports onboards cricketer Veda Krishnamurthy

The agreement aims to strengthen Veda’s brand as a cricketer and entrepreneur globally

By exchange4media Staff | May 24, 2023 1:18 PM   |   3 min read


Real Sports from the house of JetSynthesys has signed Indian cricketer Veda Krishnamurthy. The agreement aims to further strengthen Veda’s brand as a cricketer and an entrepreneur globally. Headquartered out of Pune, JetSynthesys is a new-age digital entertainment and technology company with a global foray into gaming and esports, digital entertainment, wellness, and livelihoods.

Veda Krishnamurthy is a household name in the Indian cricketing circuit, having represented the country in over 50 One Day Internationals (ODIs) and 76 Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is). Her flamboyant style of play and fearless attitude have won her a legion of fans, making her one of the most popular players in the Indian cricket team.

Talking about the association, Rajan Navani, CEO and Founder, JetSynthesys said, ‘’We are honoured to welcome Veda to our Real Sports family. Veda has been an inspiration for many, and we are excited to work together to further enhance and stimulate her vision globally. We at Real Sports have always cared about our clients and brands alike and aim to bring strong partnerships to life. We hope to accomplish the same with Veda and look forward to some great work together.’’

Excited about the new development, Tarish Bhatt, Chief Business Officer, Real Sports said, “We are delighted to have Veda Krishnamurthy onboard. She embodies the spirit of cricket, and her performance on the field has inspired a generation of young cricketers. We are confident that her association with Real Sports will help create the right brand presence for Veda and reach out to the desired audience.”

Real Sports has a roster of eminent sporting personalities and works with some of the leading athletes across India, Europe, Oceania, and Asia-Pacific. Recently the company onboarded ace badminton champion, Saina Nehwal. The partnership between Real Sports and Veda Krishnamurthy is a perfect match, bringing together a brand that has been at the forefront of the sports marketing industry for decades with a cricketing icon who has captured the hearts of millions. With this association, Real Sports aims to strengthen its position as a leading sports marketing brand in India and globally.

Sharing her thoughts on the partnership, All Rounder Veda Krishnamurthy said, ‘’I am thrilled to be associated with Real Sports, a brand that has been synonymous with quality sports marketing and am optimistic about this venture with them. I genuinely believe that Real Sports shares my goals and ideals for the brand perception that I am envisioning. I look forward to leverage their industry knowledge and expertise for projects and collaborations in the future.’’

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Google Marketing Live announces Generative AI advances & tools

The idea is to encourage advertisers and vendors to easily create customized product imagery, improve ad relevance, scale campaigns, and better manage creative assets

By exchange4media Staff | May 24, 2023 11:42 AM   |   4 min read


At the 10th edition of Google Marketing Live, held on May 23, the technology behemoth announced the launch of several new generative AI advancements and tools for Google Ads, Performance Max, Product Studio, and Search Generative Experience (SGE) in Search Labs. The company hopes to encourage advertisers and vendors to easily create customized product imagery, improve ad relevance, scale campaigns, and better manage creative assets.

In one of the blog posts announcing the release of the tools, the company noted “In e-commerce, eye-catching images are a business’s digital window displays — and merchants with the right mix of imagery online can get better results. In fact, while many product offers on Google have just one image, we see an increase in both impressions (+76%) and clicks (+32%) for product offers that include more than one image (as per Google Data, Global, April 6th, 2023).”

It continued, “Our new Product Studio, designed with Google’s AI Principles top of mind, brings the benefits of generative AI to businesses of all sizes, helping them easily create unique and tailored product imagery for free and get more value from the images they already have.” These features include adding custom product scenes; removing a distracting product background; quickly increasing resolution.

Meanwhile, Performance Max is meant to be one of the best examples of how AI-powered campaigns can drive growth for business. “Advertisers who use Performance Max achieve on average over 18% more conversions at a similar cost per action, which is up from 13% roughly a year later. We’re bringing generative AI to Performance Max to make it even easier for you to create custom assets and scale them in a few clicks. Just provide your website and Google AI will start learning about your brand to populate your campaign with text and other relevant assets. We’ll even suggest new images generated just for you, helping you stand out to customers across a wider range of inventory and formats. This capability will also be available through the new conversational experience in Google Ads. Global testing will begin later this year.”

Regarding the announcements made at Google I/O around new generative AI capabilities coming to Search, the statement noted, “These new experiences will make Search smarter and simpler, and Search will continue to be a jumping-off point to the best of the web, including your business. As the future of Search evolves, the future of advertising will evolve too — bringing more opportunities to grow your business and showcase your brand. This new Search Generative Experience (SGE) can be found in Search Labs, a place to access Google Search experiments. At I/O, we showed how ads will appear above and below this new experience. Now, over the coming months, we’ll experiment with Search and Shopping ads that are directly integrated within the AI-powered snapshot and conversational mode. We’ll also experiment with new formats native to SGE that use generative AI to create relevant, high-quality ads that are customized to every step of the search journey.”

Google also announced advances to its Merchant Center, dubbed Merchant Center, while noting the number of businesses using Merchant Center has doubled in the past two years. According to the release, “Merchant Center Next is a simplified version of the platform, built to make it easier for smaller merchants to get started, find customers online and grow their businesses. And while we’re simplifying, the features that larger retailers rely on aren’t going anywhere. One way we’re doing that is simplifying how to set up a product feed. In the past, merchants setting themselves up on Google for the first time had to manually add their products, prices, images, descriptions and other details. In Merchant Center Next, we’ll automatically populate a merchant’s product feed with the information we can detect from their website (merchants can always edit what gets pulled in, or turn this off) — making it easier to quickly show their products across Google.”


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Twitter’s pay-per-article en route: Will it get a flying start?

While some industry observers say making consumers pay for subscriptions wouldn’t be an easy task, others opine that the feasibility of paying per article will attract certain users

By Shantanu David | May 24, 2023 8:41 AM   |   5 min read


As the month of May winds down, and updates from Twitter continue to blip on the news radar, industry watchers are waiting for Elon Musk’s promise of a pay-per-article feature to debut on Twitter. Since his acquisition of the social media and microblogging platform last October, Musk has brought about a flurry of product and organizational changes. The Twitter-verified blue tick was rolled out as a paid service apart from other updates, ranging from allowing monetization of content by creators on Twitter as well as the introduction of long-form video streaming and more.

Musk, who had previously stated his aim to transport a million human colonists to Mars by 2050, at the end of April said that come May the social media platform will allow media publishers to charge users on a per article per click basis. Musk tweeted that the feature would allow users to not "sign up for a monthly subscription to pay a higher per article price for when they want to read an occasional article.”

While that feature is still awaited, exchange4media spoke to industry veterans on how this would impact news media publishers around the world, and its level of impact in a price-sensitive market like India.

Dr Kushal Sanghvi, Head - India and SEA, CitrusAd, says, “Headlines, breaking news, entertainment buzz, are all streaming continuously and for free across your social and media and FYPs. While paid subscriptions to news publishers are becoming increasingly common in mature markets in the West, it will require a huge shift in the thought process of Indian consumers for the same to take place here.”

Nakul Dutt, Strategy Director at Foxymoron (Zoo Media), agrees, noting that at present there are more than 500 million Indians who consume news online, out of which only a fraction subscribe to one or more online news platforms. “Making consumers pay for subscriptions is not an easy task primarily because of three reasons. In the physical world, one used to pay for the newspaper to consume news; in the online world almost all of the content is free.”

“Second is the consumption behaviour, with so many publishers, consumption of news is getting fragmented. While some mature consumers are publisher-first, others tend to either follow content-first-specific publishers for specific genres or content discovery approach, relying on aggregators or information platforms like Twitter for their daily dose of news,” he adds.

“Another important point is the general nature of the online ecosystem. Digital is about instant gratification. The intent is towards fulfilment and not a commitment - the destination. Because of this lack of brand loyalty in the digital world, publishers need to first champion discovery and retention before acquisition – subscribers.”

On the other hand, Mitesh Kothari, Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer, White Rivers Media, says the recently announced pay-per-article feature has been accompanied by a significant level of appreciation.” It’s similar to people on OTT platforms who do not want to buy yearly subscriptions and are given the option to pay on a monthly basis. When it comes to articles, the monthly subscription fee drives away a substantial number of readers who were probably looking for one article in particular, or who just do not want to get into a monthly commitment.”

Kothari says readers who want to take the monthly subscriptions can go ahead as usual. “However, the feasibility of paying per article will certainly attract the category of people who are somewhere in the middle. How this whole thing pans out in the long run is something that we will be able to tell only with time.”

Sanghvi also believes that it’s a question of wait-and-see, stating that in any case, Twitter needs to find consumers who are ready to pay. “And that this can be done only when consumers are getting content that is relevant to them and access to information that affects them. This holds equally true for the publishers’ side as they want to reach consumers who’ll be interested in their news products.”

It is important to note that all these changes come even as many advertisers have paused or moved entirely out of advertising on the platform, taking a cue from liberal individuals and organizations who decried Musk’s seeming pandering to the right, including allowing political advertising and reinstating the accounts of ‘alt-right’ icons Donald Trump and the rapper known formerly as Kanye West.

That’s why, in what was clearly meant to be a soporific for advertisers, it was announced last week that Linda Yaccarino, the former head of advertising at NBC Universal, is taking over as CEO of Twitter in little more than a month. Musk will remain involved as executive chairman and chief technology officer, even as he reinstated his commitment to transforming Twitter into X, “the everything app”.

Stay tuned for a breakdown of that this week.

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India TV appoints Faizan Ahmad as Business Head - Web

Prior to this he was associated with The Hindu as National Sales Head - Digital

By exchange4media Staff | May 24, 2023 12:16 AM   |   1 min read


Faizan Ahmad, National Sales Head - Digital, The Hindu has quit. He has now joined  India TV Digital as Business Head, Web Business.

Ahmad was associated with The Hindu Group for over seven years. He has been a sales professional for over 12 years and has a  rich multi-functional experience of handling a wide spectrum of Digital Media, Content Marketing, Alliances, Programmatic and PRIGITAL Sales. 

Prior to joining The Hindu, Ahmad was associated with India.Com as Senior Manager Sales. He has also served stint at Business Standard as Group Officer, Digital Ad Sales. Ahmad holds Post Graduate Diploma in Business Management from IMS, Ghaziabad.

He has also  authored multiple research papers in the field of service quality and consumer behavior and has been featured in the list of "Top 50 Content Marketers" in India by LinkedIn and Paul writer and in TOP 50 Content Professional list of World Marketing Congress.

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