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Anurag Rajpal, Director & CEO, The American Swan Lifestyle Company

Yash Ved / 16:51 , Sep 02, 2013

Anurag Rajpal, Director & CEO, The American Swan Lifestyle Company is a B.Tech in Textile Technology from the Technological Institute of Textile & Sciences (TIT&S). He has over professional career of over 15 years spanning across diverse fashion houses and India’s leading Large Format Retailer - Spencer’s Retail, the largest apparel company in India - Madura Garments & leading Global MNC’s – United Colors of Benetton & Reebok (Adidas Group), Anurag’s valuable expertise and transcendent supervisory skills are an indispensable asset to the brand backed with a vision that is unsurpassable.His areas of proficiency are in retail expansion and business development with core competencies in new product development from concept to commercialization.


American Swan is a brand owned by The American Swan Lifestyle Company(TASLC), a dynamic fashion & apparel-led lifestyle company. American Swan is the first-ever global brand to offer such a large range of branded apparel & lifestyle products on an online platform, at the launch phase.The brand combines classic, iconic 'Americana' style with a quintessential European Fashion: its refinement, tailoring & sensibility.American Swan, with its distinctive range of Men’s and Women’s apparel, accessories, footwear, beauty & fragrance and home products, invites people to experience a blue-blooded lifestyle. American Swan delivers a distinctive connection between the old and new, epitomizing a dynamism that is born of a passion for setting trends.


Replying to Yash Ved of IIFL, Anurag Rajpal says “Today, brands need to focus on using multiple channels not only to position the product/service but to also identify, engage and acquire the right audience.”


What is your outlook on e commerce fashion retail sector?

According to reports, Indian e-commerce market is going through a huge surge of growth and Indian online retail industry will grow from Rs. 32 billion in 2012 to projected revenue of Rs 100 billion in 2015, a CAGR of 45%-48%. This number is a clear indication of the large market potential of the fashion and lifestyle industry in the country and a testimony to the popularity and growing acceptance and fast changing trends of the online medium.  

 

The top drivers for e-commerce in the fashion and lifestyle segment is the rise of the class of consumers which is brand-conscious and has increased purchasing power. This group also has easy access to consumer credit, and has indicated a marked change in its consumption pattern and mindset. The ecosystem to support growth in online retail has also evolved including improvement in logistics and awareness among brands in making the products available online. 

 

Other aspects that have fueled growth in this segment are convenience, competitive pricing, ease in ordering, and access to several brands (in case of Tier 2 and 3 towns). Regular e-commerce consumers see online shopping as a major time saver, and like goods being delivered to their door – time and convenience are the key factor for current e-commerce consumers. The ease of comparing products and prices, coupled with flexible payment options and the possibility of returns/cash-back guarantee for faulty products or in case of sizing issues are also important factors. 

 

Explain the Hybrid model which your company is following?

We realized that there is a tangible shift in the way people are shopping: we are shopping more, but we want our experiences as well to provide more – not merely the convenience of online shopping or a trip to the mall, but rather an experience. Channels of shopping have evolved in the Retail industry from physical retail to online retail. Both of them have their own pros and cons.


Pros of Online retail Cons of Online retail
Quick and easy to get going Marketplaces take a cut
Low cost to setup  More competition
24 hour sales More admin
National and international reach Less customer contact
Less employees No touch or feel
Collect more data Lower margins
 Stock more items Courier cost
 More flexibility No passing foot traffic
Environmental factors don’t affect the internet Less impulse buying

With the pros and cons associated with the online and physical retail, American Swan has opted for the hybrid (online-offline) business model which is also known as ‘multi-channel commerce’, ‘bricks-and-clicks’ or ‘clicks and mortal’. This Hybrid model focuses on maximizing the competitive advantage from the combination of both the web and the physical channel. This business model helps us de-risk the business to a fair extent and increases the exposure and visibility. By combining the best of retail and online we are able to offer our customers ‘AN EXPERIENCE THAT DELIVERS MORE’. We have strived to combine a retail presence (through distribution) alongside an online presence through top online aggregators as well as our own portal americanswan.com.

Today, brands need to focus on using multiple channels not only to position the product/service but to also identify, engage and acquire the right audience. This approach helps create the right buzz, is available on more than one channel and delivers the product to the customer instantly.

 

What are your investment plans? 

We are a part of the Astro All Asia Networks,Plc. one of the leading media companies. We have received seed funding of 40 crores and we will look for strategic and financial investment in the business as we progress. 

 

Any new collections are you coming up?

American Swan, is a premium international Fashion & Lifestyle brand that offers a range of authentic, smart Casual wear. With its distinctive range of Men’s and Women’s apparel, accessories, footwear, beauty & fragrance and home products, American Swan is aimed at people who seek an aspirational, glamorous and international brand.


The brand ethos is based on the tenet that ‘Fashion is for Everybody’, yet it ‘Celebrates the Individual’s expression of Style’. It is inclusive, yet allows freedom of individual expression. The distinctive 'Americana' influence, the spirit of the ‘American Dream’ and the values inspired by American history and tradition form the core of the brand. Our products are designed towards the intent of creating an effortless modern styling, through an expression that’s distinct & identifiable.

 

Autumn Winter 2013 Collections

New England Edition A collegiate collection that is rooted in preppy style. Its tailored for the youth, inspired by teenage style but with a sophistication & elegance that is classic Ivy League. 

Fashion Country A collection inspired by the American flag but with a traditional vintage flavor. Inspired by the large, open landscapes of the countryside, this collection stands out for a style rich with details, patches, washes & textures. Mood is sophisticated and recreates the outdoor, camping, wood fire and barbecue: all of which are iconic of the classic Americana lifestyle.

Marines The collection is inspired by US mariners. Distinctive for its camouflage & military details and prints; colors are military blue and olive greens and earthy tones. 

 

What are the challenges you see in this sector?

The e-commerce market in India is showing encouraging growth but  the consumer needs to move into a mature lifecycle like in China and in the west. Comparatively we are still in a nascent stage where the medium is growing and patterns are evolving. The biggest challenges that e-commerce businesses are facing today are: high customer acquisition costs, issues pertaining to COD as a preferred payment option, the ‘deals & discount’ mindset of the audience, high media spends required to achieve visibility and customers, fairly low loyalty of customers, high fulfillment costs, etc.

 

Logistics & fulfillment are also key challenges facing the e-commerce players in India with few reliable providers and the limitations with respect to returns & exchanges. Cash on delivery (COD) is a necessary model in a nascent market, with low card & online banking penetration like India. For this to remain viable, a company has to carefully manage the COD sales process owing to lower margins. Coupled with potentially higher returns it can have an adverse impact on profitability. The other important factors are quality of goods/services & on-site security: these are very critical trust factors, which need to be addressed.

 

Brief us about your Financials?

Too early to comment.

 

Brief us about your digital brand ambassadors partnership with Shruti Haasan and Unmukt Chand?

Online retail has seen a heavy overlap with social networking due to aggressive marketing and strong inclination towards social commerce. The industry can expect a larger portion of online retail from social commerce with India positioning itself as one of the fastest growing social networked user base and also larger size of social groups. This insight has been the driving force behind American Swan opting for Digital Marketing as the primary channel to build the brand as well as drive trials & purchase. An extension of this approach was to create content, conversations and engagement through digital brand ambassadors and online activations. 


We had signed up with Unmukt Chand, the Indian cricket team’s under-19 captain, and Shruti Haasan who is multi-talented actress as our digital brand ambassadors. The rationale behind this choice was that both of them are youth icons and stars in their own right that the youth can relate to; someone who inspires them to believe in their dreams for the sake of achieving their goals. American Swan is a youth brand and our ethos resonates with young achievers who have defined their own path and have become exceptionally successful in their respective fields. These alliances and the online activations as well as our social media promotions were very successful in establishing and strengthening our positioning as a brand that celebrates the aspirations & ambitions of young achievers. 


In the future, the American Swan brand will continue to create more exciting propositions for the youth and student community through events and associations.