It was mid-2013, India’s largest online fashion retailer Myntra was in a fix. While the business was on course, the company needed funding of about $50 million to beat the formidable competition in the fashion e-commerce space. Alongside Gurugram-based Jabong, Myntra’s closest rival, the Bengaluru-based company now had to contend with the big daddy of Indian e-commerce, Flipkart, which had also launched its fashion vertical by then. As one of Myntra’s early investors recounts, Mukesh Bansal, the founder and former CEO of the online firm, had no idea where the money would come from.
But it did. By February 2014, Myntra raised $50 million in a round led by Premji Invest, the family office of billionaire Azim Premji. And less than three months later, the momentous Myntra-Flipkart deal was inked. In May 2014, Flipkart acquired Myntra for about $375 million creating India’s largest fashion e-commerce juggernaut.
Two years later, in July 2016, Myntra acquired Jabong from Global Fashion Group for $70 million. Analysts say that with this acquisition Myntra was looking to create a differentiated proposition targeted towards women customers in a highly crowded online fashion space. Jabong had a strong loyal female customer base and Myntra wanted to tap into that.
Post Jabong’s acquisition, Myntra further strengthened its market leadership. Industry experts estimated that Flipkart, Myntra, and Jabong together boasted almost two-thirds of the online branded clothing market in India. Prior to the deal, Jabong was Myntra’s closest rival with close to 20% share in the country’s online fashion space, while Myntra-Flipkart together had about 50%.
However, things took a turn in May 2018 when U.S. retail giant Walmart acquired a 77% stake in Flipkart for $16 billion, making it the largest cross-border M&A deal involving an Indian business and the largest foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country. The deal valued Bengaluru-headquartered Flipkart at a whopping $20 billion.
In the last seven to eight years, the online fashion landscape in India has changed dramatically. While the space has attracted a host of niche players such as Limeroad, Koovs, and Voonik, competition from larger players (Flipkart and Amazon) who have uninterrupted access to funds has led to the death of several fashion platforms: Zovi, Aditya Birla Group’s e-commerce venture abof.com, Freecultr, Luxury Couture, Fetise Man, and Ladyblush, all of which were backed by investors.
Jabong too has shut down operations. Earlier this month Walmart-owned Flipkart formally shut down its online fashion platform as it plans to focus solely on Myntra.
“To drive better efficiencies across the organisation, we are consolidating our resources and scaling down operations at our Gurugram office. We expect this to impact 80 employees across levels at Myntra. We are committed to supporting these employees with compensation packages, extended health benefits and access to outplacement services,” said a Myntra spokesperson in an email response to Fortune India. “This was a tough decision, but we believe this move is critical to ensure the sustainable growth of our business in a rapidly changing business environment,” said Myntra.
A source who spoke to Fortune India on condition of anonymity said that some positions across levels have been impacted. “This is a reduction of 80 full-time roles which is 3% of the total workforce. Compensation packages will include three to eight months full salary based on tenure. Myntra will continue to have a smaller presence in Gurugram. About 5% of its workforce including catalog operations and supply chain team will be working out of its Gurugram office,” the source added.
However, shutting down Jabong was long-in-the-works. In 2018 all of Jabong’s functions were integrated with Myntra and some employees of both Jabong and Myntra were given pink slips to streamline processes, business functions and operations. The move impacted “less than 10% of the employees”, the company had said at the time.
Globally, online fashion retail is one of the largest categories in e-commerce, and things are not much different in India. “The fashion market in India is growing at a CAGR of 11% with online fashion growing the fastest, at a CAGR of approximately 32%,” said a November 2019 report by RedSeer Consulting, a research and advisory firm focussed on the consumer Internet market.
“Consumers tend to buy apparel the most from online channels in the case of fashion categories followed by footwear and accessories. Some international brands are exclusively available online giving customers an added reason for moving to e-commerce channels,” the report noted.
However, the fickle customer is unlikely to be loyal to one retailer, and will move to specific brands. Online retailers will be chosen on the brands they offer as well as the shopping experience and deals.