If you thought that e-commerce may have cannibalized the television home shopping business, think again. Home shopping TV channels have not only survived the e-commerce onslaught, they are thriving.

Consider their sales growth, especially, at festival time. During the Independence Day weekend, for instance, shopping channels such as Naaptol and Shop CJ saw a 125% and a 150% surge in sales, respectively.

Shop CJ is run by Shop CJ Network Pvt. Ltd (formerly known as Star CJ Network India Pvt. Ltd), which is a 50:50 joint venture between South Korean home shopping giant CJ O Shopping Co. Ltd and P5 Asia Holding Investments (Mauritius) Ltd, belonging to Providence Equity Partners group.

Naaptol is owned by Naaptol Online Shopping Pvt. Ltd and was launched in 2008 by Manu Agarwal.

Shop CJ, for instance, sold close to 100,000 pairs of jeans on 14 August alone. Naaptol, on the other hand, saw its home appliances and home furnishing products fly off the shelves.

Proliferation of TV shopping channels reflects the strides the sector has made in recent years. In the last couple of years, it’s seen visible growth, says Dhruva Chandrie, chief operating officer at Shop CJ Network. Not only have the number of channels multiplied, their sales, too, have improved. Last year, a couple of new networks set up shop: e-commerce firm Snapdeal, run by Jasper Infotech Pvt. Ltd, and cable distribution company Den Networks launched a TV shopping channel in January 2015. Last month, Den increased its stake in the venture. Actor Akshay Kumar and entrepreneur Raj Kundra also launched Best Deal TV, a home shopping channel, last year.

If experts in the business are to be believed, there are at least 8-10 reasonably sized TV home shopping companies, besides scores of smaller firms across the country. The shopping channels are available both on direct-to-home (DTH) platforms as well as on cable networks.

Some of them are attempting to expand their consumer base and reach. Naaptol, for example, has launched an HD (high definition) channel on several prominent DTH platforms. The idea is not only to prepare for the future of television when the HD format will overtake the standard definition or SD format, but to target a differentiated consumer.

“The whole idea is to divide the classes and masses," says Agarwal, founder and chief executive of Naaptol. For instance, if he’s hawking a set of five sarees for 2,000 on the SD channel, he’s selling one saree priced at 2,000 on the HD channel. Between the SD and HD formats, Naaptol reaches out to a consumer segment spanning socio-economic categories A1-B2, in the age bracket of 25-45 years with an average monthly income of 30,000 and more.

Both these shopping networks have also ventured into regional language programming to reach out to a wider audience. These include shopping channels in Marathi, Bengali, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam for Naaptol, and Telugu and Tamil (other than Hindi, of course) for Shop CJ.

It’s easy to see why TV shopping has grown apart from the fact that consumers are now comfortable shopping from home. Not only are there more channels in different languages, the home shopping network operators have better consumer insights thanks to the data they collect and analyse. There has clearly been a learning curve in terms of consumer merchandise and in understanding what sells.

What customers seek are products that make life more convenient for them. Little surprise then that Naaptol sells close to 50,000 roti-makers every month and that Shop CJ has, so far, sold 2.2 million magic mops.

Home shopping channels are all about Big Data, and tweaking strategy and pricing of products based on analytics. “When our call centre lights up with calls, we know which product and what we are saying about the product on TV is working," says Chandrie of Shop CJ. All selling is tech-led. The time bands, products, pricing—everything generates from this data.

Of course, impulse purchase forms the basis of TV home shopping unlike online retail. Agarwal of Naaptol admits that television shopping is a push platform, while e-commerce is a pull platform. There is a slight difference between the online consumer and a TV shopper too. TV shoppers are mostly home bodies and not digital natives, while the e-commerce consumer is more digitally savvy. Online retail sales fell to an annualized $12 billion in June, compared with $13 billion in March and $15 billion in December, according to estimates by research and advisory firm RedSeer Management Consulting. Television home shopping, on the other hand, is expected to cross $1 billion in sales this year.

True, e-commerce has come from behind and overtaken the TV home shopping sector, but the latter is not complaining.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.

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