HomeShop18 fighting the perception game

By Sumantha Rathore , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | February 11, 2009
Within 10 months of its launch, Network18's 24-hour shopping channel has brands such as Apple, IFB and Nokia associated with it

Network 18's HomeShop18, the only 24-hour home shopping channel in India, has completed 10 months of operations. However, the channel has had its share of rough patches and had to fight against several odds.

One of the biggest problems for the channel was the perception that existed in this category. Over the years, teleshopping networks in India had earned a very negative image. Most of these networks were looked upon with distrust and scepticism.

However, HomeShop18 & #BANNER1 & # soon realised that the negativity is because of the brands that are sold on the networks, and not for the network itself. This is why the company decided to collaborate only with established brands and avoid magical products offering miracle solutions.

However, even this wasn't an easy task for the channel. For the initial months, none of the known brands were ready to be associated with a shopping network. So, it initially decided to pitch in smaller or newly launched products, and then, depending on the performance of those brands on the channel, the company pitched bigger brands.

Sundeep Malhotra, chief executive officer, HomeShop18, tells afaqs!, "Once the big brands saw the success stories of the other models, they were ready to start doing business with us. Right from the time the channel was launched, there has been a steady increase in the number of customers coming to our channel every month."

The channel successfully turned the brands towards itself. Today, it partners 300 known brands, which include respected ones such as Samsung, Canon, Nikon, IFB, Philips, Motorola, Apple, Kaya, Godrej, Tanishq and Jagdamba Pearls.

Not only did the channel manage to change the credibility of this domain by bringing respectable brands under its umbrella, it has also managed to do some real business. According to the company officials, HomeShop18 receives about 20,000 calls every day, out of which 35 per cent get converted to sales. To put things into perspective, every 20 second, a purchase order is placed. Interestingly, about 60 per cent of the shoppers at HomeShop18 are men.

According to the industry estimates, HomeShop18 does business worth Rs 1 crore every day.

Malhotra recalls that initially, they were not sure of many things such as which product to take on air, how it should be sold, what would be the right method of selling and what time slot should be allotted to which product.

The web version of the channel, launched in 2007, gave the brands a familiarity with the channel. In the first one-and-a-half months of the launch of HomeShop18, associations with big brands finally started taking place. Also, the money back guarantee and cash on delivery system helped in building the trust of the consumers regarding the network.

He says, "With our steady increasing success and wide expansion plans, we look forward to a breakeven by mid 2009."

HomeShop18 has multimedia presences in television, web, catalogue and print. Currently, the channel is available on cable television but is in talks with DTH players, including Tata Sky, Digital TV, Sun Direct, Videocon and DishTV, to expand its presence.

The three biggest selling product categories on the channel are consumer electronics, home appliances and jewellery. For promotions, the channel plans to start radio spots and mobile shopping to increase the sales.

HomeShop18 sells about 15,000 products across 15 product categories. Now, the channel doesn't want to restrict itself with just products. It plans to delve into services. Very soon, HomeShop18 will sell insurance and holiday packages on television.

"Till date, when a person plans his travel, he just gets to see the tariff rates of the package, along with the name of a hotel, in print. Here, we will take the customers for a live walk through the hotel, food and exotic travel destinations," says Malhotra. Insurance will also be sold through the channel and experts will guide people on the different types of policies available and the benefits associated with them.

The channel presently delivers the products to 2,300 small and big towns in the country. It is working towards expanding its reach and distribution target from 4.5 million households to 40 million households by the year end.

HomeShop18 will soon launch a loyalty programme by mid 2009 to improve its customer experience.

According to Malhotra, investment will continue in the infrastructure and logistical front. The call centre, currently manned by 350 telecallers, will add another 150 seats. "HomeShop18 is becoming highly popular across the country and has been growing at a pace of 30 per cent month-on-month since its launch. We aim to bring down the delivery time (which is seven days at present) for metros by 30 per cent," he adds.

To increase consumer orientation, cash card, EMI and credit card payment options will also be introduced.

To leverage the viewership of its network channels, HomeShop18 has some of its programmes running on channels such as MTV and CNBC Awaaz, and has also started 'Shopping Hour' on Colors.

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