A Look at Future Group’s Online Foray: Present Tense

Kishore Biyani’s Future group re-launched its e-commerce business in 2010. At the time, the idea was to get to 10% of its overall sales from e-commerce. The plan was to push sales through online properties such as Futurebazaar, Ezoneonline and others.

Since then, much water has flown under the bridge. While Futurebazaar isn’t any close to what it set out to achieve, its traffic is dwindling. Futurebazaar’s traffic started dropping off sometime earlier this year. In the last three months, its global Alexa ranking has dropped over 2000 points. We don’t know if the revenues have taken a hit yet, but it seems likely.

Futurebazaar Vs Cromaretail Source: Alexa
Futurebazaar Vs Cromaretail (Source: Alexa)

Much of online businesses’ traffic woes could be linked to sweeping changes at the group, fire fighting to keep over Rs 8000 cr of debt under control.

In the last year or so, the company has sold off many assets to bring down debt. A majority stake in its investment advisory services business Future Capital Holdings was sold to Warburg Pincus last year. It has also sold 22.5% stake in Future Generali (a life Joint Venture) for Rs 300 cr. Pantaloon retail was sold to Kumar Mangalam Birla’s Aditya Birla Nuvo in 2012 for Rs 1600 cr. The online sites of Pantaloon retail (1,2), non starters from the go, have been shut. Another site, Pantaloonfashion.com, doesn’t sell online.

Kashyap Deorah, the president of Futurebazaar quit the company in November last year to launch a mobile payments company called JustChalo, which was acquired by US online restaurant reservations provider OpenTable in a stock-and-cash deal worth $11 million.

The team from Chaupaati bazaar which came in through the acquisition has moved on to other things, like Toppr.

Biyani wasn’t any less ambitious about his e-commerce business. In 2010, reports claimed that his target was to notch up Rs 1,000 cr in yearly sales from e-commerce. That seems like a far cry now. Even Flipkart, hailed as India’s largest online retailer is looking at gross sales of $500 mn this year.

By 2011, ambitions had tempered a bit. The company wanted to target a modest Rs 1 cr in daily sales from e-commerce. In other words, over Rs 350 cr a year.

Whatever the future of Futurebazaar is, it doesn’t look pretty right now. When there is a fire raging in the brick and mortar store, big retail probably has little time to spare for e-commerce.

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