A pioneer in online retail market and powerful women entrepreneur who can be credited for shaping the future of Nepali online shopping is how we can describe this influential lady, Anju Rai.
In October 2010, she launched her business fmirror.com and became Nepal’s first online retailer. Not only she went to become Nepal’s first online retailer in the history but also became the first retailer to fetch prestigious brands such as H&M, Forever 21 and e.l.f Cosmetics. We can only imagine how difficult it must be for her to take a big step in online retail market where nobody had invested before and knew what the market opportunities and demands were. We must applaud her courage and confidence for taking that risky decision to kick start Nepali online market which has today inspired and given confidence to other retailers to pave and invest their career in online retail market. We decided to interview this soft spoken lady for this week’s fashion Friday as her CV speaks volume and inspires upcoming and future entrepreneurs.
1) What inspired you to become an online retailer?
It’s a global world we live in and a lot of that has to do with easy access to the internet. In Nepal, more people are using the internet to connect with each other. However, the economic prospects of this has not been utilised to it’s fullest. That is where fmirror.com comes in. I thought it was a great avenue to explore because no one had ever tried it and it was a very easy way to shop. I was inspired by the fact how successfully different brands marketed their products online for their consumers and I just could not help but try online retailing in my country as well.
2) Being the first online retailer of Nepal, what are the benefits and drawbacks?
Well, the commencement of a business is never easy when you are the pioneer. But it has it’s pros too. At first it was difficult to explain people as how the entire mechanism worked and a lot of people were skeptic about the quality of the products. However, the customers who bought the products found our service satisfactory and then the marketing started from “Word of mouth” that is the customers talking bout our product and services with their peers, friends and family. Back then, since we were the only online retailer, we were the best place for online shopping since the market was monopoly and we were the only option for online shopping.
3) What types of challenges did you face when you first launched your business?
The biggest challenge was deciding whether or not to go ahead with turning the idea into the business. Once I mustered enough courage to actually go through it I launched my business. Making people understand the whole mechanism of online shopping was difficult like I explained before. There were two experiments I was undertaking while launching this business. One was to open online retail shop instead of the high street shop and the other, was selling only branded products. In Nepal people are more fond of “look-alikes” or what we could call the duplicates. Thus, it was a hard task penetrating the existing market and depicting the fact that the value of the brand goes way beyond just it’s name.
4) Can you briefly explain about your consumers and their age group?
My consumers are smart buyers. Not just because they use fmirror.com because they’re buying genuine products. They tally international market prices with what we are offering and are updated about the “do’s” and “do not’s” in fashion. As a retailer, I enjoy to knowing about my coustomers are slowly understanding the essence of buying branded products and are slowly building a credible source as well. They range to all age-groups, but if I were to segregate them on the basis of a common factor, I would say especially the working class.
5) Competing with Nepali high street shops must be tough, how do you compete with them?
Well, I believe I compete with myself more than any other store. I challenge myself to be more innovative and customer friendly with the products I offer. But at times, you do get a little annoyed to still see people being more optimistic about shopping from stores and paying more money for products that otherwise are pretty cheap. The competition is not fair in Nepal. I have seen a lot of stores put up their price twice or even thrice, the price I put up for apparels.
6) Do you feel that the the online retail market is growing significantly in Nepal?
Yes, definitely. The market is growing slowly. Some other online stores have joined the market as well and I’m happy that I created a way for people to follow. The idea still is not established because the medium however efficient it is I feel that it is still is not as satisfying as to when you are able to touch what you want to buy; but, free return-back policies have been deployed to make it more satisfying for the customers. Online still isn’t the most credible of sources, but what I can say with full assurance is that someday it will be!
In the current context, some retailers are expanding and growing. However, some have failed to expand and the reason for that obviously is down to the availability of copied products. Also, the price is a major factor. But I would like to believe that it is changing as well. People are starting to realize that the extra pennies they pay are working on their favor when you calculate the durability and the grace that the product emits.