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When Times Internet took a leaf out of NDTV’s book to re-enter e-commerce biz

04 April, 2017

Times Internet Ltd has relaunched its e-commerce business Indiatimes Shopping as GadgetsNow, a digital content site and e-tailer focussing on gadgets and electronic devices.

Primarily a technology news (mostly sourced from Times News Network) and reviews website, GadgetsNow has just one section devoted to e-commerce, wherein it is selling mobile phones, fitness bands, laptops, tablets, cameras, TVs and even white goods like refrigerators and air-conditioners, among other things. Prices are comparable to those on other e-commerce sites.

The website is currently in beta stage, with the old Indiatimes Shopping website redirecting to GadgetsNow.

Times Internet refused comment on the development.

Will content beget customers?

The move is in line with the rising trend of using content as a bait to attract prospective customers.

“Content-driven e-commerce enhances engagement, but I am not sure if it will have a huge impact in mobile phones. In gadgets, people are neutral as to where they buy them from. Also, for mobiles, content usually means reviews, which are readily available on Flipkart and Amazon. That’s the biggest risk in this initiative. Besides, the user of a content website is relatively more educated, so the addressable market through content is smaller,” said Shreedhar Prasad, partner, e-commerce and startups, KPMG India.

Content-driven e-commerce works well in categories like automobiles, insurance and fashion, where user engagement is higher, he said.

Prasad added that selling mobile accessories would be a smart move as they have higher margins, and people don’t really browse elsewhere for a lower price.

Last year, Medianama had reported that Times Group was rationalising its e-commerce business by bringing Indiatimes under the Times of India fold.

The report said that Indiatimes had stopped taking orders in August last year, and the products listed on its site were shown as either ‘sold out’ or ‘out of stock’. Citing people in the know, the report also mentioned that Indiatimes was laying off the chunk of its staff, giving them three months’ salary as severance pay.

Lessons from a peer
The move is strikingly similar to NDTV’s strategy, where its content website Gadgets360 (earlier called NDTV Gadgets) began selling electronic devices in 2015. Gadgets360 is backed by Paytm’s parent One97 Communications Ltd, Inflexionpoint (an IT supply chain company co-founded by former Apple CEO John Sculley), Pramod Bhasin (former CEO of Genpact), consumer-focussed VC firm Sixth Sense Ventures, Vindi Banga (former chairman of Unilever India), Hiro Mashita (founder and director of venture capital firm M&S Partners), and others.

NDTV runs five online businesses under its unit NDTV Convergence Ltd, namely apparel and accessories site IndianRoots, auto portal CarAndBike.com, gadgets marketplace Gadgets360, wedding preparations portal BandBaajaa.com and food site SmartCooky. In fact, the valuation of its online businesses exceeds the $97-million (Rs 646 crore) market cap of the listed firm. NDTV’s subsidiary, OnArt Quest Ltd, operates Mojarto.com, an online marketplace for art discovery.

In an earlier interaction with VCCircle, Gautam Sinha, CEO of Times Internet, had mentioned that the company was actively considering a re-entry into the e-commerce business.

Since the shutdown of Indiatimes Shopping, one of India’s earliest e-commerce companies, in 2016, Times Internet has ruled out a horizontal e-commerce play. However, Sinha had said it still harboured ambitions to return to e-commerce by entering niche segments.

“We will look for categories where competition allows us to differentiate based on our strength. At the moment, we are evaluating a few options. Depending on where the market is, we will get into some categories in transactions,” he had said.

Times Internet has set an ambitious target of achieving $1 billion in revenue by March 2022.

Indiatimes Shopping was set up nearly 17 years ago as a marketplace. In 2011, it began launching vertical sites as well and partnered with Nokia and Godrej to create their online store.

In 2013, Indiatimes.com’s e-mail service, Indiatimes Mail, shut down its operations. Indiatimes’ business-to-business sales division also scaled down at the same time.

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When Times Internet took a leaf out of NDTV’s book to re-enter e-commerce biz

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