Vivek Gaur had given up on India e-commerce story once. As one of the founding members in 2007 of Bagittoday.com, one of the earliest online shopping websites from the India Today Group, Gaur tried everything from flash-sales to a marketplace model. But nothing really clicked. So Gaur eventually moved on a couple of years later.

Having just turned 40, he still had it in him to try something big. Like setting up an e-commerce site, again. But he knew the time was not right. So, he waited. A year later, in 2011, he got together with his IIM batchmate Anand Jadhav and brother-in-law Sandeep Sharma to start YepMe.com, an online-only fashion brand.

Today, after five years of churn and burn, Gaur, as YepMe’s CEO, is turning back the clock and conventional wisdom to take YepMe offline. In a way, he’s once again giving up on the e-commerce dream, albeit only partially. He’s got company though, as many niche e-commerce players like Lenskart, Urban Ladder, Pepperfry and Firstcry are doing the same.

From opening its first flagship store in January this year, YepMe is now on a roll to create a network of flagship and franchise stores across the country. But not everybody is convinced offline is the way forward, especially investors. Ironically, neither is everybody convinced pure online retail business can become profitable in the near future, especially those running the businesses and taking the brunt.

So what gives?

It all comes down to numbers. India has about 40-65 million online buyers, depending on who you ask. This is the target market for all e-commerce companies, be it niche ones like YepMe or mass ones like Flipkart and Amazon. This customer base is growing, but at a pace far from what is required to sustain these companies. None of the e-commerce players have been able to become really profitable so far. Revenues are growing, sure. But are they making money?

It all comes down to numbers

India has about 40-65 million online buyers, depending on who you ask. This is the target market for all e-commerce companies, be it niche ones like YepMe or mass ones like Flipkart and Amazon. This customer base is growing, but at a pace far from what is required to sustain these companies. None of the e-commerce players have been able to become really profitable so far

The offline hypothesis

Gaur’s first coup was getting Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan to endorse his relatively unknown brand. Using an informal set of connections tracing back to him and Khan having studied in neighboring schools in Delhi at about the same time, he somehow swung the endorsement.  “He was interested in e-commerce business and asked us about what we were trying to do, and what would we do if it didn’t work out,” says Gaur.

AUTHOR

Moulishree Srivastava

Moulishree has over five years of experience in journalism. In her previous assignment, she was a Principal Correspondent for Business Standard where she wrote on technology and telecom. Prior to Business Standard, she was at Mint, where she wrote on various subjects — tourism, hospitality, real estate, science, cyber security and technology. Moulishree graduated as an engineer in Information Technology from Chandigarh Engineering College. She worked as a software engineer briefly but then took a detour and got her journalism degree from IIJNM, Bangalore. She will be based in Bangalore and you can reach her at her first-name@the-ken.com.

View Full Profile

Subscribe to read this story

The Ken is the only business subscription you need. Questions?

 

Premium

  • 5 original and reported longform business stories every week
  • Access to ONLY India edition
  • Close to 250 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters
  • 4 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to ONLY Southeast Asia edition
  • Close to 200 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to all paywalled stories since March 2020
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters

Rs. 2,750 /year

$ 120 /year

India Edition
Subscribe Subscribe
Most Asked For

Borderless

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories

Rs. 4,200 /year

Subscribe
 

Echelon

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories
  • Bonus annual gift subscription
  • Priority access to all new products and features

Rs. 8,474 /year

Subscribe
Or

Questions?

What kind of subscription plans do you offer?

We have three types of subscriptions
- Premium which gives you access to either the India or the Southeast Asia edition.
- Borderless which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions
- Echelon which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions along with a bonus gift subscription

What do I get if I subscribe?

The Premium edition gives you access to stories in that edition along with any five subscriber-only newsletters of your choice.

The Borderless and Echelon subscription gives you complete access to The Ken across editions and unlimited access to as many newsletters as you like.

What topics do you usually write about?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics. We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

Our specialised subscriber-only newsletters are written by our expert, award-winning journalists and cover a range of topics across finance, retail, clean energy, cryptocurrency, ed-tech and many more.

How many newsletters do you have?

We are constantly adding specialised subscriber-only newsletters all the time. All of these are written by our team of award-winning journalists on a specialised topic.

You can see the list of newsletters that we publish over here.

Does a Premium subscription to your Indian edition get me access to the Southeast Asia edition? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

We recommend the Borderless or the Echelon Plan which will give you access to stories across both editions.

Do you have a mobile app?

Yes! We have a top-rated mobile app on both iOS and Android which allows you to read on-the-go and has some amazing features like the ability to bookmark stories, save on your device, dark mode, and much more. It’s really the best way to read The Ken.

Is there a free trial?

You can sign up for a free account to experience The Ken and understand our products better. We’ll send you some free stories and newsletters occasionally, and you can access our archive of previously published free stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

The vast majority of our stories, articles and newsletters can be accessed only by a paid subscription.

Do you offer any discounts?

Sorry, no. Our journalism is funded completely by our subscribers. We believe that quality journalism comes at a price, and readers trust and pay us so that we can remain independent.

Do you offer refunds?

No. We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Just write to us at support@the-ken.com with details. We’ll help you out.

I have a few more questions. How can I reach out to you?

Sure. Just email us at info@the-ken.com or follow us on Twitter.