“I was always entrepreneurial at heart”com
Pearl has been involved very closely with shaping the Indian Internet industry and has been at the forefront of the digital advertising evolution in India with extensive experience at premier companies like Yahoo!, Rediff.com and GE. She has been recently awarded ‘Professional Entrepreneur of the Year, 2012’ by Franchise India.
Currently she is the Co-founder and CEO at fashionandyou.com, India’s Leading Online Fashion, Luxury & Lifestyle Private Sales Club.
Prior to fashionandyou.com, Pearl was heading monetization for Yahoo! India. She played an instrumental role in charting Yahoo!'s leadership in display advertising in India. At Yahoo!, she was recognized with a Global ‘Superstar Award’ (20 across the company, 1st to receive the award in the Sales function in over 5 years & the first in Asia). She has a Masters degree from IIT Delhi (MBA in technology management) & a BE from Delhi College of Engineering. Hefre, Perl shares are experiences with Thinking Aloud!
TA: What inspired you to start this business? How and where did you get this idea for a business? What need did you see?
Pearl: I was always entrepreneurial at heart. The thought of going entrepreneurial had crossed my mind several times in the last two years of my career with Yahoo. I was sure I wanted to create value in the internet industry, but did not feel enthused about the idea of continuing in the digital advertising space. No particular opportunity caught my attention and interest till I came across the online private sale model. This business model serves a real gap that exists both for the consumer and for the brands in the luxury and high fashion space. This model is a big success in India like it has been in other parts of the world. The reason I stepped out to do fashionandyou.com was that I felt I had done enough on the internet media space. While this space is definitely evolving fast, I didn’t personally have much to gain by being in an operating role in an internet media company and hence I wanted to explore internet commerce. Everything came together in a very nice way and I took the leap.
TA: How did you finance the business? Was it difficult to gain investors confidence being a woman entrepreneur?
Pearl: Harish Bahl and I decided to team up to raise funds for this venture. With his experience as a serial digital entrepreneur and my decade long experience in the Internet space running the PNL for Yahoo! India, we clicked. In my opinion, Harish Bahl’s credibility and my experience were strong enough to raise our first round of funds from the Smile group and 2 European investors.
TA: What are your marketing strategies for this business?
Pearl: Our strategy is not just limited to traditional mediums but also utilizes innovative digital marketing techniques. We’ve used an effective and aggressive approach towards display, online advertising and social media. Currently, with over 1 million ‘Likes’ on our Facebook page, fashionandyou.com has become the fastest growing private shopping club in the fashion and lifestyle segment world over. We do intend to use mass advertising channels very soon; with this our marketing budget would increase substantially.
TA: How are you managing your time?
Pearl: I have been able to manage time between professional and personal front with the extended support of my family. To be able to balance the work pressure and personal life, family support is crucial. Having said that, I have not compromised on any of my assignments at work. I believe if today’s woman is focused she can pull off any challenging job quite well.
TA: What was the most difficult part of starting the business?
Pearl: Our challenge in the beginning was of course the fact that e- commerce in India wasn’t growing very strongly in the last few years (except in the travel sector) and when <"fashionandyou.com">fashionandyou.com< took on a challenge like introducing apparel fashion, Luxury and lifestyle as an online retail industry, we were apprehensive about whether consumers would buy products online or not. But through referral and virility, our consumer base has grown and today we have about 3.6 million members. So, that’s the testimony to the fact that people want to see this club grow.
TA: What are your expectations for the future with regards to this business?
Pearl: We are the largest lifestyle and fashion e-retail brand and not just another private sales website in India. We plan to maintain this position by providing superior customer satisfaction through a great shopping experience, exceptional customer service and a strong supply chain system.
The growth continues to be in double digits month after month and we’re expecting to triple in size this year. We will continue to lead flash retail sales in the fashion, luxury and lifestyle and are known as the most popular shopping destination in this segment for consumers.
TA: What are the problems faced by women entrepreneurs in business, especially from small towns?
Pearl: There are lesser opportunities available for women in small towns. Family support is important especially when she has children and when she has to devote considerable time at work. In big cities women do have child care facilities which are more evolved, whereas in small towns where we do not have such a facility women face additional pressure. Family support plays an important role in maintaining a balance between the professional and personal front. If a woman considers her job as a commitment and invests time and effort towards professional actualization, she can touch the heights of success.
TA: What lessons would do you like to give to other aspiring women entrepreneurs?
Pearl: As an entrepreneur, I would always advice other entrepreneurs to go after their instinct. And surround yourself with very smart, motivated and passionate people who also believe in your goal. Businesses are made and broken by the team working for them. FashionAndYou has been an effort of 800+ people working for it today.