Online marketing has become the new mantra in India with more than a <g data-gr-id="182">billion-strong</g> Indian population already experiencing its profusion and benefits that have webbed out the length and breadth of the country. Today, everything from A to Z including apples to zippers <g data-gr-id="219">are</g> available online as vendors of all these products edge further into marketing space through various means including alliances. This scenario is now expanding into tie-ups between various players in this market and the travel and tourism industry too is one of the recent <g data-gr-id="183">venturers</g> in the online market alliance with these networks.
One of these included a first-of-its-kind tie-up between India’s leading travel-related financial services company – Thomas Cook (India) Ltd and Shop CJ Network Pvt <g data-gr-id="173">ltd</g>, a top home shopping
network in Asia. The tie-up showcased the Thomas Cook “Holiday Savings Account” – a pioneering and affordable holiday solution for the modern day “middle” India, which is looking at tapping into Korea’s Shop CJ’s wide consumer base to access the middle class Indians’ segment in this regard.
Thomas Cook’s “Holiday Savings Account” aimed at attracting travelling tourism across its range of 15 tour packages across popular international destinations like Europe, Singapore, Thailand, Dubai, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, besides domestic destinations like the Andamans, Himachal, Kerala, northeast, Kashmir, Bhutan, the Golden Triangle and Goa.
Even as Shop CJ is poised to cross a Rs 1,200 crore turnover by 2015 end in recording a 40 per cent growth over its sales of Rs 850 crore achieved in the last fiscal ended December 31, 2014, its reach has extended to more than 6.5 crore households in India and currently caters to about 40 <g data-gr-id="172">per cent</g> of the market, Kenny Shin, CEO of Shop CJ Network, said recently in Mumbai. Noting that this marketing association with Thomas Cook would serve to enhance the online shopping network’s product portfolio with the great value proposition of its tour packages, Shin said: “The home shopping industry is growing rapidly in India and Shop CJ is expanding its market share by entering into a new segment to create a unique shopping experience for its consumers. With travel witnessing impressive demand and Shop CJ’s footprint of 75 million households, we are bringing to this partnership an audience which is yet untapped by organised players in the Travel and Tourism industry. At present, we get more than 50,000 phone calls per day.”
Highlighting Shop CJ’s background, Shin described Shop CJ – formerly known as Star CJ – as a 50:50 joint venture between South Korea’s home shopping major CJ O Shopping Co <g data-gr-id="176">ltd</g> and Providence Equity partners group in operating the Shop CJ 24/7 shopping channel and a web-based portal www.shopcj.com through major DTH, analog and digital cable platforms. Launched in 2009, the channel/service added 6.5 million shopper in barely five years and – as the world’s <g data-gr-id="177">second largest</g> home shopping network – operates in 10 sites including Korea, China, India, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Turkey and Philippines generating $4.4 billion in sales in 2013.
Thomas Cook devised the innovative “Holiday Savings Account” product as a significant consumer empowering tool, while keeping in mind the millions of middle class Indian travelers by guaranteeing them the affordability of a better holiday at tourism destinations, said Abraham Alapatt, Chief Innovation Officer & Head – Marketing and Service Quality, Thomas Cook (India) <g data-gr-id="178">ltd</g>. “Middle India travelers can now save – through this product – through 12 easy installments while earning an attractive interest (via our Bank partners Indus Ind, ICICI and Kotak Banks) with further benefits of a Thomas <g data-gr-id="180">Cook top</g> up on the 13th month and a zero exit penalty. Our tie-up gives us access to its extensive network of high potential yet under-leveraged travel-hungry Middle India and our holiday savings account is ideally suited to the informative format of Shop CJs electronic and online shopping platforms, ensuring visibility reach,” he said, adding that TCIL’s current footprint – since its setting up in India in 1881 – extended to over 233 locations (including 19 airport counters) in 94 cities across India, Mauritius and Sri Lanka, besides support from a strong partner network of 115 Gold Circle partners and 112 Preferred Sales Agents in over 130 cities across India.
Snapdeal, the online marketplace, and Shoppers Stop Ltd have entered a partnership to create a flagship Shoppers Stop store on Snapdeal in the digital marketplace and highlight a superlative and holistic omni-channel retail experience for consumers across India. The online store will be curated and will feature a wide array of brands and products across various fashion categories. As a pilot, this facility will be launched first in North India and extended to Pan-India in a year.
Describing this partnership as a strong beginning of a bright future for online and offline retail collaboration in India, Kunal Behl, Co-Founder & CEO, Snapdeal, said: “Great value coupled with world-class shopping will be offered in our strong presence across 5,000 plus cities and towns to further expand Shoppers stop reach by adding newer geographies of the country.”
Noting that this alliance will give a significant fillip to growth of Shoppers Stop’s omni-channel business, Govind Shrikhande, Customer Care Associate and Managing Director, said: “This first-of-its-kind journey is in line with our omni-channel retail vision to strength our presence in the marketplace channel.” Banking too has joined the online revolution. Federal Bank created history with the launch of the nation’s “first Mobile App for Bank Account Opening” recently in Mumbai as part of a series of launches planned across prominent business houses across major cities. The Bank has introduced this Mobile App facility bank account opening as an upgrade to “FedBook” – its e-Passport App – which was a trendsetter at its launch two years ago. Under this new avatar of FedBook, anyone having an Aadhaar card and Pan Card – in rural or urban areas, right or poor, youth or aged – can now open a Savings Bank Account using a mobile and the account can be funded with an initial remittance through online fund transfer <g data-gr-id="181">upto</g> maximum Rs 10,000, according to K A Babu, Head, Retail Business.
“To open an account, one downloads FedBook on their mobile and then takes a selfie, scans their Aadhaar and PAN card. The App – which verifies the Aadhaar realtime and opens the account on the click of a button, before turning into the digital passbook for the customer – is on Android and iOS phones and will be soon available on windows and Blackberry phones,” he said adding: “With India witnessing a fast-growing smart phone population, mobile solutions will revolutionise the country’s banking system. Through this pioneering solution, we are aligning ourselves with the nation’s digital ambitions by adding a new dimension to digital banking, while targeting a larger digital audience and changing the way Indians open a Bank account.”
Realty too has entered the online space with Sunday Realty – founded three years ago – specialising in “Mobile Enabled Solutions” across the Real Estate Value Chain that include over 50 premium developers and recently raising Rs five crores in early stages funding to expand its real estate platform – “Smart Agent Connect” which is a Mobile App and a website exclusively for Real Estate Agents.. It allows agents to create their own business networks and close deals in a shorter timeframe, besides the agents also getting their own Personalised Website and CRM. The funds will be used for marketing, product enhancement and expansion across 10 cities. With over five lakh agents, the unorganised sector is estimated to generate revenues close to $5 billion annually. Various online players are focused on being part of this market by offering services that replace the Agent.
Sunday Realty, founded by Joseph George (ex CMO at BPL Mobile, National Product Head at Tata Docomo), Nandini John (ex CBRE – International Property Consultants) & Clinton Goveas (Ex Technology Lead at Shaadi.com and Zapak.com), is witnessing its App/Website attracting over 20,000 agents across India with close to 10,000 websites being created, alongside enabling Builders to connect with agents. “Sunday Realty has an in-depth understanding of the real estate consumer life cycle and is the only player of its kind offering specialised solutions. We are committed to changing the way Agents are perceived and experienced by Customers. Through SmartAgent connect, we are enabling Agents to leverage technology to meet the expectations of Customers,” said Joseph George, Founder and CEO, Sunday Realty. “We believe that agents are here to stay and any platform that can enable them to service the customers better has great potential. The Smart agent team with its rich operational experience and proven technology background is poised to achieve that”, said Ramesh Jogani.
Meanwhile, Aavishkaar – an innovator in early stage investing – has committed an investment of Rs 320 million in Connect India, a start-up organisation that is building a last mile network of distribution points for e-commerce across the country. “Since 2001, Aavishkar has invested across the under developed region of India and South and southeast Asia,” Aavishkaar founder Vineet Rai said while noting that this investment’s objective highlighted Aavishkar’s vision of seeking to catalyse development in India’s unserved regions by identifying capable entrepreneurs, providing them with capital, supplementing it with a nurturing environment and helping build sustainable enterprises.
Meanwhile, Paytm – India’s largest mobile commerce platform – became India’s first 100 million user product by achieving yet another significant milestone in attempt to revolutionize India’s m-commerce landscape, when it crossed 100 million “Paytm Wallet” users who carry out over 75 million transactions every month. With a vision of transforming India into a “cash-free” economy, Paytm’s RBI-approved secure mobile wallet is used by customers at over 80,000 merchants and plans to reach 10 million merchants by end of next year.
“We believe mobiles will kill +Internet+ dinosaurs as it’s a technology team’s playground and mobiles give a superior experience. Look at China – which has the world’s largest online marketing where even a yacht was sold online for US$ 25 million,” said Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Paytm founder and CEO.
“Today with over 100 million Paytm wallets, India has committed towards a less-cash society. The Paytm Wallet, which authorises inter-wallet or person-to-person money transfers and wallet-to-bank transfers, has also eliminated the safety and convenience-related concerns that accompany carrying huge amounts of cash.”
“Paytm is well into the momentum to bring half billion Indians into the mainstream economy – through this mobile payment platform – where consumers meet sellers and, since our launch in 2011 to June 2014, we achieved 10 million consumers. The RBI stated that of the $115 million cards transaction done in March 2015, $ 75 million were Paytm transactions. Consumers spend most on communication, energy – followed by food and shopping. Cash to digital money gives us a newer market as the unbanked customers, those in transit, half million below poverty line, use mobile phones.”
“Paytm is doing more business than most banks (4th largest in India in ATM-POS transactions) and have 80 per cent share of wallet users in India. Facebook and WhatsApp are the two biggest in the world with us the third, though we are the biggest such in India. We have a Rs 5,000 crore outlay plan for business and commerce in our vision to build an “ecosystem” of our affiliates for which more money will be required,” he said adding “investment (20 per cent to 40 per cent equity in companies) – not acquisition – is our goal.