More than 10 years experience in ecommerce, with a niche audience of NRI customers
When Lalit Khatri (Jodhpur based, 35 years old) finished graduation, his father’s wedding wear retail business was already popular with the NRI crowd. In this IOS Exclusive, Lalit tells us about his ecommerce journey and NRI customers.
IOS: How was the Indiaplaza experience?
Lalit: It was not good to be honest, but it made me believe in the online world.
Did you start with selling to customers abroad? How are the NRI customers different from our Indian customer base?
Yes, I started with catering to NRI customers. Till now, 70% of our turnover is from this side of our business, despite having a retail store also.
Be it a party or wedding, they are very particular about the themes, styles, colours, garments etc. But what matters the most to them is punctuality. They are almost always buying for an occasion/wedding so having everything ready on time is crucial.
How did you set about doing it? What are the extra documents/formalities involved?
Earlier, export or overseas sales meant containers. So I was scared at first to send single pieces – how would it reach, would it be treated as export and other similar questions were running in my mind. But I just had to complete the general business registration formalities like IEC code, VAT etc. I was in touch with some people online who guided me with the information I needed.
Are there any extra efforts required when you cater to an international audience?
I have a team of tailors and workers to figure out the measurement chart and related things to handle the customization aspect. Sizes of the garments have to be perfect.
We only use the best quality corrugated boxes and polybags to pack.
We try to add a personal touch when we can with accessories, and do some branding in the process. For example, we keep our own branded bindi with a saree.
What should a seller venturing into cross-border trade (CBT) be careful about?
Always deliver on time, as promised.
Apply the instructions from buyer, if you are undertaking any.
Understand the needs and choices of your target audience.
Avoid payment frauds – check customer’s IP, email address etc.
Apart from your own online store, you sell on marketplaces also. Which is more profitable?
We sell on marketplaces mainly for branding purpose, although we do get good sales also. Our own store brings us more returns, and we have separate departments to handle customer care and shipping in their respective ideal ways.
I feel Paytm is the best portal for a seller. We get good orders from their platform. They have a good payment policy and we have not had to suffer from uneven payments.
Do you use any marketing channels?
We have a blog plus presence on social media platforms as these help to increase traffic and conversions. We also participate in exhibitions in India and abroad, this helps to get the confidence of customers.
Our Jodhpur retail store helps to manage inventory. In India, no other online entity shows the ready sizes, for example of a particular sherwani. This is available on our site and it’s become our USP in ethnic wear online selling.
Despite laying a solid foundation for your business, do you foresee any challenges?
It’s not in our hands but with the betterment of flight connectivity, our reach can also be expanded. Funding is the major problem as investors don’t take much interest in private labels. But I feel they should not underestimate hybrid models like ours where we merge our offline store with online.
What do you consider as turning points for your business?
At a time when my father’s retail business was in a downward spiral, I met this NRI lady customer at the shop who triggered the online selling idea in my head. The same day itself I made my email address and started this online business. Although I started with gifts and idols, I decided to move ahead with my own products, ie. Indian bridal wear.
Starting menswear was another good decision. In 2006, brides started calling me from abroad asking for gifts for their fiancés. That’s how I started Grooms wear and today it is the best range available online.
In 2011, we launched our own wedding store special for wedding attires. It helps with quick shipping of ready products to our online customers. It’s a complete fashion house with ecommerce (G+5 building).
Advice to new sellers?
If you are doing from your own pocket/self funding, you need 2 big Ps – Patience & Planning. Then the third P will follow – Prosperity.