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 Stage3 co-founder Sabena Puri insists that the way beauty and fashion is sold online in India is set to change forever. The change, she says, will be enabled by her own startup as well as several others “that come with their own renditions". Apart from Meesho and Trell, India’s social commerce is now driven by platforms like Glance and Roposo, and other short-video apps like Moj. Roposo pivoted to a live commerce model last year.

Stage3 will help young consumers discover and buy branded fashion at affordable prices. The company promises to be an enabler for sellers (individuals, influencers and small brands) complete with logistics and secure payment services.

Puri’s firm got its first round of institutional capital from Blume Ventures, and has raised 20 crore in pre-series A, led by Inflection Point Ventures and LC Nueva Investment Partners.

India’s social commerce segment seems to be on fire, with new companies popping up in the space selling fashion and other products or yet others emerging to bolster the creator ecosystem. On Tuesday, social currency card company Wyld said it has raised pre-seed funding from Better Capital and entrepreneurs like Aman Gupta and Sameer Mehta of Image Marketing that sells boAt products. Wyld is a payment card and mobile app for active social media users (those with over 1000 followers on Instagram) to help them monetize their social influence with every purchase. boAt’s Gupta called it a platform that allows social media users to become brand evangelists and monetize their networks.

Puri, too, believes that influencers are now almost the marketing agencies of brands. They are the brand’s voice and its customer acquisition channel. Stage3, however, will put smaller brands and home entrepreneurs in fashion and beauty in touch with consumers as they lack the resources to sell on traditional e-marketplaces where commissions could be as high as 35%, she says.

It’s easy to see where Puri is coming from. A report by Accenture said that social buyers are more likely to support small businesses than large brands. Over 59% of those surveyed said they could buy from SMBs through social commerce, 63% said they are more likely to make repeat purchases from the same seller.

The study covered 10,000 users from India, China and Brazil, the US and UK. While China will remain the largest market for social commerce, India and Brazil are registering the highest growth, the report said.

Social commerce’s success in India reflects the power of mobile-first consumers in the country and the launch of hyperlocal social commerce platforms, it said.

That, perhaps, prompted Puri to target the millennial and GenZ consumers who are digital natives and spend eight hours a day on social media. “We’re building a social commerce platform which merges traditional e-commerce’s transaction capability with social media networks to deliver to young India a feed, which is personalized, discovery-based and video-led," she says.

Inevitably, social commerce will be entwined with video commerce and will include live-stream-based e-commerce as the market matures. With videos becoming an integral part of branding for companies, video commerce shoppers could touch 216 million by the end of 2022, a report by digital agency WATConsult said. Video commerce refers to shoppable videos on social commerce platforms such as Meesho, Sim-Sim, Trell or on social media websites or video sharing platforms.

Social commerce is a blend of content, commerce and community. “The first generation of e-commerce was built on closing transactions. It’s beyond that now as consumers want online to mimic offline experience," Puri says.

Little surprise that traditional online fashion marketplace Myntra has entered social commerce too. In an interview to Mint last month, Myntra CEO Nandita Sinha said though 60% of its consumer base is still in the metros, growth is coming from tier two and tier three towns. “Our foray into social commerce is really getting a deeper view into these consumers", she said. For this, the company launched Style Squad, a cohort of fashion content creators or influencers to exclusively collaborate with Myntra and its brand partners to become the faces of Myntra’s social commerce proposition.

Clearly, companies are building social commerce and creator ecosystem to drive consumer demand and stickiness.

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