For a fashion and lifestyle newsroom, the sixth floor of the Times Internet building in Gurugram has an awful lot of cartons, both packed and empty, lying around. The shelves are stacked with unlabelled products; one of the cabins is now a storage room. The entire floor has been like this for more than six months now.
A freshly assembled team of 25 people, including some cosmetologists, scurries around, trying to do what all of digital media is desperate to manage—a way to make money beyond advertising. The plan is to build what Angad Bhatia, chief operating officer at Indiatimes Lifestyle Network, calls “a minicorn, if not a unicorn.”
To do this, Times Internet is betting on its fashion, lifestyle and pop-culture media vertical—Indiatimes Lifestyle Network. More specifically, its four content websites: MensXP, iDiva, Whats Hot and Indiatimes. Over the years, these websites have developed a loyal subscriber base. Across the four sites, the company claims a total of 40 million monthly active users and 3 million daily active users. To give you an idea of the sort of scale Times Internet is claiming, Delhi—the world’s second most populous city according to UN estimates—clocks in at around 29 million inhabitants.
And now, Times, through these four properties, wants a share of India’s online fashion market. According to a March 2017 report put out by Facebook and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), this market was estimated to be worth $4 billion. This will only grow in the coming years as the same BCG-Facebook report forecasts that the number of online fashion shoppers will go up to 130-135 million by 2020 from just 55-60 million in 2016.
In a first, Times Internet is planning to get into niche e-commerce with its own private label brands. These will span categories such as grooming, apparel, and accessories. What is different about this e-commerce plan is that there won’t be an independent portal to sell these brands. Instead, Times Internet is betting on selling directly through its content properties.
The plan has been in the making for about eight months and may serve a dual purpose for Times Internet. Most importantly, it will be an additional stream of revenue that can help monetise the 40 million monthly active users on these properties. Secondly, it serves as a comeback of sorts to e-commerce for Times after the failure of Indiatimes Shopping.
Indiatimes Shopping was launched in 2000 as an online marketplace. However, the company couldn’t float, and after going back and forth on reviving and rationalising it, it was eventually relaunched as Gadgets Now, an online content portal for electronic devices.