'We will show how to do omni-channel business the right way'

'We will show how to do omni-channel business the right way'

'We will show how  to do omni-channel business the right way'
Targetting revenues of over Rs 3,000 crore in the next five to six years, Ratan Tata-backed online jewellery retailer BlueStone.com, owned by Bluestone Jewellery and Lifestyle Pvt Ltd, has charted out plans to enter the offline market, as part of its omni-channel approach. In an interaction with Mamta Bhardwaj of DH, BlueStone.com Founder and CEO Gaurav Singh Kushwaha explains the company’s ongoing operations and plans as its stands a leader in the online jewellery space in India. Edited excerpts:

Describe the current scale of operations at BlueStone.
BlueStone has one million users visiting the website every month. The platform offers 6,000 unique designs created over the last three to four years, with popular categories being earrings and rings. We offer a lot of customisation, and that is why you can have the same design in different 18k, 22k, etc.
Ours is a zero-inventory model. Products are manufactured based on orders and shipped in three to five days. We have a manufacturing facility in Mumbai, which offers enough manufacturing capacity as of now. We are building a lot of efficiency in the way we operate.

What kind of ticket sizes are you witnessing in the online jewellery market?
When we started off, we were averaging at ticket sizes of about Rs 10,000. Now it is around Rs 25,000, and in the last four years, it has doubled. So, naturally, there has been an upward trend in awareness and confidence. Growing comfort level with ecommerce on the whole is driving this transformation. While the trend is changing, one has to understand that heavy jewellery is mostly bought during weddings and other such occasions. The wedding segment is not what we are targeting, we are targeting the daily-wear segment or even occasion wear that is more simplistic and wearable.

What is BlueStone’s take on the omni-channel approach?
At BlueStone, we believe that the omni-channel approach can add significantly to our products, especially in a case like ours, because our products are unique. With some other categories, there may be other stores, where you can experience the product and make the purchase online simply because it is cheaper. So, if we can cater to that kind of behaviour, of customers choosing to experience products before buying, omni-channel is great.

Is BlueStone looking at an offline presence?
Yes, we are. While we haven’t finalised on the specific format of the store, discussions to set up an offline store have already begun. We plan to set up our first experience store in the next six to eight months. We will naturally start from Bengaluru, which is the biggest market for us. It accounts for 20% of our overall sales, followed by Delhi and Mumbai.

Do you think that offline presence will impact your total sales and revenues?
Potentially, it can have a tremendous impact. We want the offline store to augment the online experience. So, after Bengaluru, we plan to set up offline stores in all major cities.

How will you leverage technology (AI, AR, VR, etc) in the offline space?
To have virtual reality (VR) developed in the country, there have to be more use cases. People must have VR headsets, which they don’t, as of now. While Google Cardboard and Oculus are there in the market, they have not picked up yet. Unless this happens, one cannot do much with VR. So, for VR, all of us will have to wait.

Coming to augmented reality (AR), we are continuously involved in research as to how we can leverage it. On artificial intelligence (AI), since the very beginning, we have been using a lot of data and machine-learning, be in terms of developing merchandise or recommending products to our customers.

As of now, who would you say is doing omni-channel right in the industry?
I don’t think anyone is doing it right. I think we will show the way how to do omni-channel business. The experiences are not woven in a neat fashion. When we talk about omni-channel, the experiences actually start online, but by the time the experience reaches offline, it appears to be totally disconnected.

What is BlueStone’s take on competition?
Given the size of the online jewellery market, it becomes inconsequential whether we have competition or not. Being the largest player with over 35% market share, the onus is on us to grow the category. Right now, online is almost 0.2-0.3% of the overall jewellery market. Even in the next five years or so, it may touch less than 2%. So now, it is about growing online jewellery as a category.

What are challenges that the industry faces?
There are two major challenges — trust deficit and brand awareness — online. While consumers’ trust level has increased, it still has a long way to go. Moreover, BlueStone is a relatively new brand in the jewellery segment itself. It has only been around for about four years. So we need to build brand awareness and reliability among consumers. In many of the segments, ecommerce has been able to build a market, including books and mobile phones.

How is the try-at-home model working out for BlueStone?
Almost 25% of our business is coming from the try-at-home model. All our delivery guys are on our payroll. It is something that we will continue doing as it has served us well.

What are the major channels that BlueStone is investing in?
Investments. going forward will be in brand building and retail expansion. Brand building will take the bigger chunk. We will spend up to Rs 40-60 crore for that in 2017-18.
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