Accel Partners, the venture capital firm which has backed Facebook and Groupon, Silicon Valley Bank (the subsidiary and commercial banking operation of SVB Financial Group) and K Ganesh, founder of TutorVista Global (now under the UK-based Pearson Group) have invested up to $5 million in Bluestone.com, an online jewellery store run by Bangalore-based Jewels Online Distribution India Pvt Ltd.
Bluestone.com was founded by Vidya Nataraj and Gaurav Singh Kushwaha in mid-2011. Before co-founding the e-commerce initiative, Nataraj was a senior strategy consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers in India. She also grew her family business Landmark Ltd, one of India's largest lifestyle retail chains selling books and music, before its acquisition by TATA Trent.
Kushwaha, on the other hand, is a graduate in Computer Science from IIT Delhi and has around 10 years of experience in the fields of technology, e-commerce and Internet marketing. Before starting Bluestone, he served as the CEO of Chakpak, an online entertainment portal which he had co-founded in 2007. Kushwaha started his career with Tavant Technologies, a global IT services & solutions provider, and subsequently worked with Amazon for around four years.
Bluestone.com offers a wide range of jewellery under five categories (further split into several sub-categories) including earrings, rings, pendants, bangles and bracelets. Various filters (such as gold purity, stones, occasion, stone colour, etc.) have been provided to help buyers select the right kind of jewellery. They can also filter products according to price range or opt for various EMI options provided by Bluestone. As of now, the company does not manufacture any of the products and outsources its designs to third-party manufacturers for production.
Vidya Nataraj is married to Ganesh Narayan, who is the joint managing director of C. Krishniah Chetty & Sons (one of India's oldest jewellers). And she claims that the inspiration to start a jewellery portal came to her only after marriage. In an exclusive interview with Techcircle.in, she talks about the company, the fundraising and future plans. Here are the excerpts.
Why did you decide on a jewellery store?
You will be surprised to know how much jewellery is selling online. Actually, it is the largest selling product on eBay India. Also, I have always been interested in retail and lifestyle. I was with Landmark for four years before it was sold out to Tata Trent. I was inspired to deal in jewellery post-marriage (my husband is also a jeweller) and I also realised that there's a gap in the market when it comes to fashionable, precious jewellery. The jewellery sold at conventional stores is not very exciting and it is very difficult to find the right kind of jewellery at the right price.
What kind of jewellery are you offering?
You will find precious jewellery in gold (white, yellow and pink), diamond jewellery and other precious and semi-precious gemstones. Next, we will be getting into silver and the entire solitaire range. But we won't be selling artificial jewellery at Bluestone.com.
Buying jewellery is an intimate experience. How do you plan to provide that online?
We are trying to create a complete shopping experience online and that is where our technology will come into the picture. We have featured high quality images on the site and also offer detailed specifications â€“ so that one gets the look and feel of the products, as well as all essential details. And if you look at our return policy, you will find that we have a 7-day money-back guarantee. So if you don't like the product after purchasing it, you can return it and get the entire amount back (including the return shipping).
Additionally, we offer a lifetime exchange policy (similar to those offered by brick-and-mortar retailers), which allows customers to exchange the jewellery with any of the products available on the site at that point in time. We also offer attractive EMI options and the jewellery on sale comes with third-party laboratory certification.
How do you source your products?
Bluestone is a proprietary brand in itself and we have access to international designs and designers. We also have a strong in-house design team. But we don't have a manufacturing facility right now and hence, we outsource those designs to third-party manufacturers. However, we provide them with adequate guidelines regarding the quality and other factors.
Do you offer 'cash on delivery' on Bluestone.com? Who handles the logistics?
As of now, we offer cash on delivery (COD) for jewellery up to Rs 10,000. But we are looking to increase that price range. And we have already partnered with a number of logistics companies like Blue Dart (it has a different team for jewellery), among others.
How do you propose to utilise the capital raised? Do you want to opt for physical retail?
Right now we are only looking at online space. We will primarily use the funding to revamp our designs and improve the user interface (UI). Going ahead, we will also provide a lot of customisation options for buyers, improve the backend technology to support the scale that we aim to achieve and increase the number of designs we currently have. We will also explore augmented reality as that will help enhance user experience.
How are you different from sites like CaratLane? How will you compete with big retail players entering the online space?
We are totally different from CaratLane. We are India's first 'higher end' and 'aspirational' brand. Bluestone.com is not just another online store. We are a brand that offers exclusive jewellery designs.
Also, the online jewellery market is still in its nascent stage and it is only going to grow. So there is room for more players. Although it's a difficult category to deal with and requires a lot of patience, it is also very attractive in terms of profit.
Online jewellery portals have managed to attract investors in India. In June last year, CaratLane.com, another diamond and jewellery portal run by Chennai-based Caratlane Trading Pvt Ltd, had raised $6 million from Tiger Global Management LLC. The company had said that it would use the funding to consolidate its position in the online diamond jewellery space and develop a larger national and international footprint for itself.