Lifestyle magazine MensXP has launched ‘MensXP Shop’, an ecommerce shop which offers lifestyle products to millennial men. Besides being a content and community-driven aggregator of over 50 fashion-forward brands, the company is all set to launch ‘ILN Assembly’, a suite of 4 premium direct-to-consumer brands that would cater to the unique needs of conscientious Indian men who have been largely unserved by large conglomerates. In an exclusive conversation with Angad Bhatia, Founder-MensXP and COO-Indiatimes Lifestyle, sheds light on the growth strategy of this newly initiated retail venture.
Being a media entity, what is the rationale behind launching fully fledged retail operations? What is your estimate about fashion and grooming market in India?
The idea was to build on the brand experience for our users and extend the experience from content to commerce. With a 40 million strong (and growing) loyal base that live and breathe our values, we observed a desire to purchase, which was not being fulfilled via the existing avenues. Indiatimes Lifestyle Network (ILN) has always had a social first impact and we think of those channels as engagement platforms, while having a healthy business running on them. On all our platforms, content is built around communities and that has helped build loyalty and credibility for all our brands amongst their targeted users.
Consumers are targeted on the basis of their media consumption habits and preferences. Today, over 90% of the millennial spend their leisure time on social networking platforms. This has really proved fruitful for new age brands to build small communities with a strong connect in an efficient manner. This dilution has seen a shift in marketing strategies of big companies too. It has also worked in favour of the consumer, as now they have the power to search, study, choose and buy any brand they want. This gives a fair chance to newer brands to establish their presence and be noticed. Our focus is to cater to the needs of this demographic that are looking for premium yet functional, bespoke, full-stack shopping experience that is clutter-free. Our aim is to build a comprehensive and complete experience to effectively and efficiently cater to this tech-savvy user-base, where they are able to read, watch and shop brands they want.
Men’s lifestyle market in India has been picking up a lot of steam. Growing aspirations, increasing awareness and rising per capita income has spawned an increase in image-conscious men in need of fast fashion and specialised beauty products. So, while women may be big spenders, men’s fashion and beauty are the fastest growing shopping categories. Men’s grooming as a category is flourishing, too. The industry's potential is set to touch a record Rs 35,000 cr over the next two years, up from 16,800 cr in 2018. Add to that, the shifting trends in the online habits of Indian men, the overall concentrated fashion and grooming men’s market in India is growing at over 8% CAGR from Rs 210,000 cr (2018) to Rs 287,000 cr in 2022, with the share of online looking to grow from 4.5% to a whopping 15% in the next three years.
Kindly shed light on your brand USP along with retailed categories and price points? Which is your bestselling categoryand what are the plans for expansion?
We just kick-started our commercial ambitions with the ‘MensXP Shop’, a premium one-stop shop for the lifestyle needs of millennial men. Its biggest USP is being a content and community-driven aggregator of over 50 fashion-forward brands offering an immersive experience in anuncluttered ecommerce environment. Driven by influencer-led content marketing, users get to shop the brands they read about, continuing ILN’s philosophy of being a social-first brand. Our endeavor is to offer the best brand experience with on-point content to help consumers make well-informed purchase decisions.
The company is also building a suite of DTC brands catering to the unique needs of conscientious Indian men. The first batch of brands will be:MensXP Mud, a beauty range for men;MensXP Butter, a shaving range; andMensXP Basics, a minimal fashion label.
The MensXP Shop platform offers premium yet affordable fashion labels and is an all-inclusive platform for men. The pricing is very competitive and the brands have been curated keeping the needs of our audience in mind.
Also tell us more about your current distribution in the online as well as offline spaces? Going forward, what are the plans to expand the distribution across the channels?
Our products will primarily be sold online via ILN’s content websites—MensXP, iDiva, What’s Hot and Indiatimes. With 55% buyers still following the retail route to experience products before wanting to purchase them, there is a lot of scope for experiential marketing too. In addition to our platforms, we are looking to incorporate a seamless omnichannel experience strategy or “phygital” (combination of retail and digital) into our marketing mix to have touch-points with our consumers. So, in case of MensXP Mud, we could look at premium spas and salons for those users.
Who do you see as your biggest competition within this space?
Customers like to invest in brands that stand for something and fulfill their unique needs overall. They are after a richer, more comprehensive and personalised shopping experience, which can only be achieved when a brand invests in creating efficient campaigns led by consumer behaviour insights and offers products that solve problems.
ILN is India’s biggest content destination for men who seek social ammunition to navigate their daily lives. Our nearest competitor in the men’s lifestyle publishing space is 1/50th of MensXP in most metrics. We have worked over the years to create communities and cater to them with trendsetting content. This has not only helped us in keeping up with their needs but also plan for the future in a way that engages them in a holistic way to read, watch and shop all in one place.
What are the major operational challenges in your category?
There have been a few hurdles along the way but the biggest challenge was in expanding the media business to commerce while maintaining a judicious balance between editorial ethos and commerce-led content.
Operationally, it was to establish an aggressive operations’ ecosystem from ground up, with everything from our e-commerce platform and warehousing facilities to logistics network geared to deliver a seamless and premium online shopping experience for the users.
Kindly shed light on your omnichannel strategy?
Besides being available across our platforms and MensXP shop, our private labels including MensXP Mud will soon be available at our own pop up stores across the country. These specialised stores will host both our own private labels as well as partner brands.
At last, kindly highlight your growth plans.
The next phase will see the expansion of brands launched in Phase I with more products and SKUs. We will add another 100 brands to MensXP Shop in the next six months. Soon we will launch shop on MensXP app, which already has over 200K downloads. This will be a huge boost for our commerce ambitions.
We want to create the most authentic shopping experience that gives our audience an insight into the brands they are buying with our on-point text and video content.