"Abof is the biggest eCommerce launch that the country has ever witnessed"

Speaking to Retailer Media, Prashant Gupta, President & CEO, Abof.com unfolds the story behind making Abof.com a rage among the millennial.
Prashant Gupta, President & CEO, Abof.com

When the established retail giants of the country is taking omni-channel as the new route to grab customers, Aditya Birla Group has launched all about fashion-Abof.com to propose a consummate retail experience. The newly launched online retail destination is already a rage among the youth as Abof.com has got the most trendy and celebrity-inspired apparel, footwear and accessories that belong in every fashionista's wardrobe in India.
Speaking to Retailer Media, Prashant Gupta, President & CEO, Abof.com unfolds the story behind making Abof.com a rage among the millennial.

How Abof.com is targeting the millennial? What sort of product assortment it offers?
We are very sharply focused on millennials. For instance, we don't have Kids section because that's not relevant for our target consumer. The landing page of our website or app is not the banners or product catalog, which is today’s norm. It is our proprietary fashion feed, much like you would see in an Instagram. It is visually very rich. We have much deeper personalisation. Through our style quiz, which you will see shortly, as well as ongoing browsing and shopping behavior, we are significantly personalising the fashion feed, and eventually the browse-and-shop experience. We have significantly addressed the fit-and-sizing problem by introducing a first-of-its-kind 3-D Trial Room, which is much better than anything available in India at this point in time. This demonstrates our commitment to focus on a few areas of innovation and be the leader in those. We have chosen to be much more selective and curated in our choice of brands and merchandise. We are not trying to give our consumers a huge range, and we don’t expect them to go through a mountain of merchandise to find the most in-trend styles. We make it easy for our target consumer, and we bring to them ONLY what's in-style, from brands that are truly brands. All our 50+ consumer touch points have been designed for the millennial in terms of communication approach and totality. The emails, the SMSes, the call center experience is highly differentiated versus what’s prevalent in the market today. Sunday deliveries - yes, we do Sunday deliveries.

What about the pricing and discounts?
Most importantly, we are not playing the Discount game. Instead, we are honest with our pricing. We believe that a great brand, with a great product and consumer experience, can avoid getting into deep discount mode and that’s the path we intend to walk down.

What is your role in this new venture?
When I headed the Chairman’s office at the Aditya Birla Group, I worked closely with K M Birla on the business portfolio for 3+ years. Post that I was given the mandate to lead the Group’s foray into eCommerce. I started with setting up abof as President and CEO. At Aditya Birla Group, we see the eCommerce sector as a sunrise sector from an investment point of view. With Abof.com, we aim to offer a wide but curetted range of merchandise and a differentiated shopping experience that can compete with the best in the world. The Group sees the potential to build another billion-dollar business in this space.

How are you arranging the fulfilment and logistics for the same?
Abof has chosen to innovate in the presentation of user experience, design of the website and selection of merchandize. We have assembled best-of-breed technology, adapted for uniquely Indian requirements, to ensure flexibility and scalability. Mobile experiences have been built from ground up to cater to fast growing mobile user base. Our technology approach is a healthy mix of Build and Buy. We have bought many components from IBM’s Websphere Commerce stack. Our in-house team will focus on highly differentiated technology components only (e.g., Personalization, Visual Search).
We have a large warehouse in Bengaluru and the next one is being planned in NCR. The last mile logistics is being handled through our courier partners, who provide us with significant city and pincode coverage from the first day of our business. We already cover more than 5,000 pincodes.

How is your typical busy day look like?
Some of my days are very hectic with several functional meetings – with Technology team, with B&M team, with Operations team. Some of the days are spent in cross-functional conversations – e.g., Customer Experience is a cross-functional topic, Designing and running promotions is a cross-functional topic. The only common theme I would say is that nearly 75 per cent of my time goes into issues that are consumer-facing in nature. That’s our main objective right now – deliver outstanding customer experience.

What is so spectacular about Abof.com?
Abof’s vision is to ‘Build India’s most admired online fashion player that provides youth with unparalleled personalised shopping experience using a curetted set of branded merchandise. Our promise is to treat our consumer like a celebrity, and help them Look Famous. Our entire shopping experience and the selection of our merchandise is directed to achieve this outcome. For instance, we don’t expect them to browse through a mountain of merchandise and figure out which styles to buy. We have done the homework and have already selected the best looks and products, and only that’s available on our platform.

How do you plan your day?
Most of my day is planned a couple of days in advance basis priorities that need my attention. Sometimes there are a few unforeseen fires that one needs to fight on that day. I start my day at around 9 am and normally leave office by 7.30pm. I also track performance on real-time basis (visitors, orders, etc.) for a few minutes just before I go to bed.

What are the five things you have contributed to the growth/expansion/profit of the business?
My main contribution is on three counts – strategy of the business, deep focus on CX (Customer Experience), and assembling the team. In terms of strategy, we had to think very hard as to how we will differentiate from Myntra and Jabong who had already taken up the “marketplace” spot with large range and deep discounts. So our entire strategy had to be built on something else. That took up significant time and effort. I think I have assembled a great team. These are individuals who we have hand-picked as best-in-the-business. And eventually, this is a business that has to be driven by this team. As highlights, I would say that Abof is the biggest eCommerce launch that the country has ever witnessed. Most companies evolve from a small launch. Abof is the world’s fastest “concept to launch” fashion portal. We have only taken 7 months to launch compared to what takes years to build.

Prashant Gupta