Curated marketplace TheBagTalk aspires to become BuzzFeed for Bags

TheBagTalkLooking for a carry-on bag that turns into a kick scooter to help you manoeuvre large airports? Or a line of sports bags designed by yesteryears’ popular cricketer Jonty Rhodes or TV host and actor Rannvijay Singh?

The soon-to-be-launched TheBagTalk, which claims to be the country’ first ever curated marketplace exclusively for bags and luggage, could be of help for you.

The Mumbai-based venture is the brainchild of Rohit Reddy, former director of innovation and strategic alliances at IDFC Bank, his wife and actor Anita Hassanandani Reddy and Tushar Jain, managing director of High Spirit Commercial Ventures Pvt Ltd, a manufacturer and exporter of bags. The three have bootstrapped the venture with $600,000, which will be launched later this week.

While several large e-commerce platforms operate in the bags and luggage category, it forms a minuscule part of their overall gross merchandise value (GMV), and hence doesn’t command much focus, says Reddy, on starting the horizontal venture now.

“The selection available isn’t broad enough to bring exclusive, hand-picked and unique collections of bags to the consumer. Additionally, the user interface and user experience of these sites are essentially geared up for their main categories (i.e. mobile phones and electronics), and hence you find less focus on product imagery and more on technical specifications and cost,” he says, adding that bags as a category grows in excess of 35% year-on-year, making it a serious segment to focus on.

Run by High Spirit Retail India Pvt Ltd, TheBagTalk will launch with 1,000 products, which will go up to 4,000 products by March 2017 and 25,000 products by December 2017. It will have both branded and private labels. The prices will range from Rs 400 to Rs75,000 a bag.

The marketplace is backed by a strong content platform where you can read write-ups on topics ranging from the coolest school bags in 2017 to protecting yourself using everyday items. “We aspire to be the ‘Buzzfeed for Bags’ in the future,” Reddy says.

The company has developed a range of private label brands to advance break-even and profitability. It has also tied up with several celebrities to develop their own range of bags.

For example, it has an exclusive Jonty Rhodes range of sports and fitness bags called the JR Range, where the cricketer is heavily involved in the design process.

“As a sportsman, I had always been more concerned with functionality over design, but in this range, I will have the dual advantage of being a potential customer, as well as working with a top design team towards an end product that will satisfy every customer, whether they are searching for either functionality or design!,” says Rhodes in an emailed response to Techcircle.

Rannvijay Singh says besides being able to give creative inputs for his RV Range, TheBagTalk offered him a chance to be associated with a new business venture. “Being associated with a startup is something I want to do. I have a business bent of mind and this is not the first time I am doing so,” he adds.

Business model
TheBagTalk’s co-founder Jain says the company will deliver products in one hour in 48 cities. These are places where his manufacturing facility High Spirit Commercial Ventures has its own distribution centres. The online platform will have both B2C (business to customer) and B2B (business to business) models and will bring manufacturers on board directly. It will also have an offline presence through ‘TheBagTalk Studio’ where consumers can interact with bags, before buying them online.

Expert’s take
Anil Joshi, managing partner at Unicorn India Ventures, an investment firm, says it helps a business if the founders have prior experience in a field, which seems to be the case with TheBagTalk. “They have manufacturing facilities, distribution networks, so that definitely helps in curating and bringing products that others don’t have,” he explains.

Joshi, however, feels logistics can be a challenge in bulk products such as luggage. “This business typically takes a longer period for repeat sales. Also, while private labels bring better margins, building them takes time,” he says.

Joshi’s caution is not without reason. Lenskart.com, run by Valyoo Technologies Pvt Ltd used to operate Bagskart.com but had to shut down the business over a period of time in 2014-15.

The luggage market in India is dominated by the unorganised segment, but players such as VIP Industries, Luxembourg-based Samsonite and Safari are the top three companies in the organised segment in India. While VIP is the market leader, Samsonite is the second-largest player with a strong market share followed by Safari, a distant third. Safari and VIP are both public listed firms. Last year in March, Samsonite International acquired luxury luggage rival Tumi for around $1.8 billion in an all-cash transaction.