Business Today

Catwalk on the Web

What Zomato and TripAdvisor did to eating out and travel, start-ups like Roposo and Wooplr hope to do for fashion retail.
twitter-logo Chitra Narayanan        Print Edition: June 21, 2015
Catwalk on the Web
(Graphic by Raj Verma)

Social conversations and recommendations around food and travel have shown they have the power to make or break the food and beverage outlets and shape the tourism space.

Now a host of fashion discovery apps and sites that run on user-generated content are beginning to influence apparel retail. Start-ups like Roposo, Wooplr, Violet Street let users who are fashionistas create and curate looks and direct conversations on styles. For instance, if you are looking for a little black dress, or LBD, then you just need to go to a fashion discovery app that will pull out its top picks and direct you to stores where you could get the dress. Unlike Pinterest where users pin content from here and there, the content is usually original on these social fashion discovery sites.

Both investors and smart retailers who understand the power of social discovery to drive e-commerce are investing in these apps. Roposo and Wooplr have bagged funding in recent months. Roposo, set up by three IIT Delhi alumni - Mayank Bhangadia, Kaushal Shubhank and Avinash Saxena - which had initially got angel investment from the likes of Flipkart's Binny Bansal, has just got a $5 million funding from Tiger Global. Similarly, Wooplr, set up by four McAfee employees - Arjun Zacharia, Praveen Rajaretnam, Soumen Sarkar and Ankit Sabharwal - has also just got a funding of $5 million from Helion Ventures. Wooplr had earlier got angel investment to the tune of $225,000 from a group of investors.

Unlike food and travel, where the written word carries weight, social fashion is a highly pictorial-driven place. Perhaps, this explains why ever since Roposo launched a mobile app four months ago, it has seen a tremendous spike in users contributing to the content.

As Bhangadia, co-founder Roposo, points out, users find it far easier to do photo reviews from the mobile where they just need to click and add a picture from the device. According to him, since the move to mobile app, 23 per cent of their unique users create content. "On the web it was low," he admits, though he says that features like lists and all see traction there. Roposo (the name is a play on Apropos) claims it gets two million visits every month.

Wooplr, which had launched its mobile app as far back as 2013, aims to touch five million app downloads in the next 18 months, says Rajaretnam, its co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer.

Social fashion discovery sites, Bhangadia explains, are a layer on top of e-commerce. Once somebody has bought a dress from an e-commerce store, you can post a review of that dress on a fashion discovery site. At the same time, it's also a place you go to before you buy. So it's a full circle around the e-commerce site.

What if the marketplaces themselves invest in a social discovery engine? Bhangadia says that is not a threat as "somebody neutral has to do it". For both Roposo and Wooplr, affiliate marketing (getting paid by e-commerce sites for leading users to it) is a revenue stream. Wooplr also has Social Storefronts to drive more leads and sales for SMEs. They will be charged either a subscription fee or on a pay per transaction basis.

So more the users better is the chance of monetisation for these sites. Aren't Indian users far more self conscious when it comes to posting about their shopping compared to China and elsewhere? Do they need incentives to post? "We do not incentivise generally. Only when we launch new features - such as photo reviews - we incentivise through coupons," says Bhangadia.

Rajaretnam of Wooplr feels India is catching up with China in terms of user generated content. "We are seeing more and more users being comfortable with sharing content online and we can expect a social commerce boom in the near future," he says.

(Additional reporting by Venkatesha Babu)

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(Follow the authors on Twitter: @ndcnn; @venkateshababu)

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