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Updated: February 18, 2010 17:38 IST

At home and shopping

Shalini Shah
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Sandeep Malhotra at his office in Noida
Sandeep Malhotra at his office in Noida

Teleshopping is generally viewed as a deceptive world, a world where there are instant solutions to anything from baldness to acne, tummy fat, kitchen grease and annoying mops (They'll even show you clothes irons that can't puncture an inflated balloon but will smoothen out creases from truck-stampeded linen quite effectively). There are the rudrakshas and gemstones too. HomeShop 18 hopes to get rid of this legacy.

Almost three years since it was set up, in 2007, HomeShop 18 intends to deliver recognised brands in centres where they're otherwise unavailable, while at the same time expand its own portfolio of the existing 450 brands.

The channel's office in Noida is an all-in-one centre — studios (where tele-prompters are conspicuously absent), call centre, et al.

Sundeep Malhotra, CEO, HomeShop18, speaks to us about the channel's growth as well as lessons learnt so far:

How ready are Indian consumers when it comes to shopping without seeing and feeling?

Indians are very sceptical, especially because of the legacy of teleshopping, which is largely selling magic products rather than known brands. Things are changing. Now, people even get married on the Net.

Any surprising trends that you've seen since the HomeShop 18 started in 2007?

When we started we assumed that most consumers will be only from far-flung towns and cities, because of poor brand presence there. We discovered that 30 per cent of the buyers are from big cities. Also, we thought that only the homemakers would shop with us. We discovered that 80 per cent of the shopping is being done by the men.

What were the initial hiccups?

Three years ago, employees were scared to join us as options were many. Also, the brands which came to us came with products they were least aggressive about, or which had a very small margin for us.

What are the most popular segments on HomeShop 18?

Consumer electronics, kitchen appliances, home and kitchen, gift items and jewellery.

What is your aim?

We're trying to create a totally new technology. In general, an alternative distribution platform. There are a few things that we are the first ones to do. Like, we offer cash-on-delivery as a payment mechanism. We also offer a 15-day money-back policy in case a customer is not satisfied with a product. These are difficult to do, but we want to build trust among customers.

While we were initially thinking of outsourcing the call centre work, we decided that we wanted to build our own network. We want to build an organisation of Internet salesmen.

While we are selling products now, we might start selling services. You might soon be able to buy a holiday package or insurance from us. We're also looking at offering customers packaging options on the products. We want to enhance our reach as a channel.