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Celebrities find their calling in e-commerce

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With the advent of the e-commerce industry in India, the face and patronage are no longer corporate honchos but celebrities from the sports and Bollywood setting. According to Technopak Advisors, FSPA and E&Y, the e-commerce industry is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 31 per cent from Rs 166 billion in 2009 to Rs 285 billion in 2011 and is estimated to grow by another 39 per cent, a record of Rs 1,078 billion till 2015.

Fashion, sports, travel, baby products are a few areas that are seeing the participation of celebrities today. The launch of sports365.com by tennis ace Mahesh Bupathi, babyoye.com by Karisma Kapoor and SherSingh.com catering to lifestyle and fashion by Zaheer Khan and Lisa Haydon and the investment Salman Khan has made in Yatra.com, are a few among others, that are taking up the ranks of ‘e-tailing’ or electronic retailing acting as virtual storefronts for the customers who are always ‘plugged in’.

Lisa Haydon who has invested in the website, Sher Singh says that her association is driven by a desire to work with an influential fashion brand that illustrates inspired living with its finger firmly on the global pulse.
“I personally invested myself because I felt compelled by the mission of making Sher Singh as the world’s first lifestyle brand from India.” says Zaheer Khan who has also invested in Sher Singh.

Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults

Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults

According to Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults, the celebs have the money to park and they look for opportunities. “E-commerce industry gives them this opportunity,” he says, adding, “ There are about 143 million people online these days and by 2014 it is expected to grow to 320 million. The celebs make their investments in sports ventures like the IPL or football etc where they make their presence felt in the business industry, e-commerce is another big area that attracts eyeballs.”

Shiv Kapur, Indian professional golfer who is partnering with excluzen.com says that golf is one category which has received a lot of positive feedback, “I thought of it as a chance to share all the experiences I have had all through my career as a golfer. Today, e-commerce is the widest chain possible. It has the largest customer base and reaches to greater mass. Considering golf, the kind of people that opt for this sport are all very much reachable through e-commerce. More importantly, opening up centres and reaching out to people in the traditional way wouldn’t have been feasible for me.”

He feels that being an expert is a pre-requisite for being a good marketer. He aims to make golf training available to anybody and everybody interested. This venture has given him the opportunity to do so and he is happy to market it.

Prashant Mishra, Associate Professor IIM, Calcutta

Prashant Mishra, Associate Professor IIM, Calcutta

There is a whole new ecosystem being created. These ventures show the business savvyness of the celebs. Earlier, they were buying space for advertisements and now they are toying with new ideas to build their brands, the nature and market sense helps to strengthen their business. According to Dr. Prashant Mishra, Associate Professor IIM Calcutta, “The return on investment from celebrities is the main plus point where the risks, the ups and downs are shared by both the celebrity investing as well as the brand they are endorsing. It is a win-win situation for both the parties, brands get their promotion by having the celebs as their face and the fee is the stake that these celebs have in the business.”

Today the celebs have knowledge and smart advisors so they don’t only make investments; they go in for compact and smart investments that are contemporary with the new age online marketing. “In the end it all depends on who is doing what and where, and this is a booming sector where the celebs work on their own marketability as a brand.” Dr Mishra adds.

But will these websites be able to survive in the long run? Bijoor feels that only the smart ones will survive. “Brands are totally confused these days with the way they are projecting the stars and e commerce is a very wide arena. There are 89 e-commerce websites for apparels and accessories and 46 on electronic products. In 24months time there will be a shakeup and the top three or four e-commerce websites will prevail to show their worth,” he says.

E-tailing is on the rise with new launches every month and with the entry of celebrities from every background now zooming in on the opportunity there is no such thing as less space on the World Wide Web.

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