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Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla is closely tracking the progress of the online fashion store. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla is closely tracking the progress of the online fashion store. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Aditya Birla set to launch online fashion store

Abof.com is likely to go live in the next 30 days, targets Myntra, Jabong but with more exclusive brand options

New Delhi/Bengaluru: The Aditya Birla Group is set to launch its online fashion store abof.com that will compete with the likes of Myntra, a Flipkart unit, and Rocket Internet-backed Jabong.

Run by Aditya Birla Online Fashion, abof.com is the group’s independent fashion e-commerce business currently being piloted in more than 10-15 cities, according to three people familiar with the development.

The portal is expected to go live within the next 30 days and its progress is being closely watched by the group’s head Kumar Mangalam Birla, said one of the three people mentioned above.

Abof.com, which is currently in beta stage, lists Aditya Birla’s private label under brand name abof and several fashion brands, including Vero Moda, ONLY, United Colors of Benetton (UCB) and NINETEEN.

The company is also looking at bringing in some exclusive foreign online retailers in India.

Aditya Birla Group declined to comment on the formation of the new website.

The new venture is being led by Prashant Gupta, president and chief executive of Aditya Birla Group’s e-retailing business, along with senior executive Kedar Apshankar and Vikram Bhat, chief product officer who joined the firm from Myntra about a year ago.

“At Aditya Birla Group, I am incubating and building up a portfolio of e-tailing businesses," Gupta says in his Linkedin bio.

The move comes even as Aditya Birla Group is strengthening its presence across India’s $6 billion online retailing market that is seeing interest from the country’s top conglomerates.

Last month, the firm, through its private equity (PE) arm, Aditya Birla Private Equity, picked up a minority stake in Mumbai-based Creative Lifestyles Pvt. Ltd, a women’s apparel retailer.

With a valuation of 300 crore, Creative Lifestyles has women’s fashion labels such as Fusion Beats, 109F and O2xygen. The company, at present, retails through 366 points of sale and large e-commerce portals.

“The company plans to be far more exclusive than a Jabong or a Myntra by focusing on the top 100 labels and brands. They will focus more on the curated options and sell products driven by content and suggestive buying," said one of the three people mentioned above.

Madura Fashion and Lifestyles Ltd, an Aditya Birla group company, also owns an in-house fashion retailing website Trendin that sells the retailer’s labels such as Peter England, Allen Solly, and Van Heusen. However, abof.com will continue to function as a separate entity.

Fashion sales drive margins for online retailers. “Fashion is one category online that is getting heated up as firms are seeing strong repeat buying. People are slowly getting accustomed to buying online," said Harish H.V., partner at Grant Thornton India, a consultancy. “Also, as large groups eye valuation and scale of the Flipkarts and Snapdeals of the world, competition is bound to rise," he added.

Apart from Amazon, Snapdeal and Flipkart, speciality fashion e-tailers, such as LimeRoad, are attracting the attention of investors and customers alike.

Indians bought fashion products worth $559 million online in 2013. This may increase to $2.8 billion by 2016, according to an April 2014 report by venture capital firm Accel Partners, an investor in Flipkart.


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