Etailers make hay with poll merchandise

06 Mar,2014

By Harsimran Julka


Several online retailers are cashing in on election fervour by selling a wide variety of political merchandise , helped along by the willingness of citizens to flaunt their political affiliations.


They are hawking a range of personal accessories, home décor and utility items that are branded with images and logos of mainline political parties which will fight it out for the affection of voters this summer.


“We just launched our political merchandise category three months ago and are already seeing 30% of daily orders coming from this category,” said Sahil Baghla, founder of merchandise portal BlueGape, who started the business in 2011 while still studying at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur.


“We capture the political messaging of a party and present in a glamorous fashion on a product just like we would do for a Bollywood movie star. It appeals to the youth instantly,” said Mr Baghla, 22, who raised Rs 1.5 crore for his venture last year.


Online marketplace Snapdeal that first launched the ‘NaMo’ brand of phones aimed at followers of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, now offers merchandise for followers of the Aam Aadmi Party which include wall clocks and covers for phones and tablets. For BlueGape, customers for Aam Aadmi Party’s caps and T-shirts come mostly from Delhi and Bangalore.


Narendra Modi brand of mugs, shirts and clocks are popular amongst customers from Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. He added that products with Congress’ development theme or Rahul Gandhi as its ambassador are selling less, due to lack of a strong theme.


“Other political parties such as Samajwadi have mixed messaging which makes it difficult to make a merchandise around a theme for them,” said Baghla, who is aiming for 5,000 orders per day by end of this year. Entrepreneurs said the increase in social media usage is leading to greater willingness amongst people to flaunt their political leanings, a dramatic shift from the reticence evident during even the previous general election in 2009.


Tony Navin, vice president overseeing business development at Snapdeal, which raised $138 million from eBay last month, said sales of political merchandise have increased fourfold since last month. He said most customers for such merchandise are from tier 2 and tier 3 towns and cities, with an average age of 25- 40 years.


The trigger for selling political merchandise peaked in January, when sellers on location-based marketplace Tradus started retailing Aam Aadmi Jhadus (brooms) for Rs 5 each.



“The launch was an instant hit and we sold 2,000 brooms within two hours. Over three days, after the win of AAP in Delhi, about 6,000 brooms got sold on the platform,” said Mudit Khosla, CEO at Tradus, an online marketplace owned by South Africa’s Ibibo Group. With the maturing of Indian democracy, youth are now more open to flaunting their political affiliations, said Saurabh Kochar, founder of online portal Print-Venue , which is backed by German incubator Rocket Internet.


“We are seeing demand even from individuals who are ordering shirts, caps and even decorative pieces for personal use and to gift to their party donors and members,” said Kochar, a graduate of IIT-Roorkee, who started the online portal in 2012. He is seeking ideas for design of such merchandise.


Although this business is seasonal, entrepreneurs believe that with India’s large electorate of 81 crore voters, and heightened political activity, it will provide a strong stream of revenue. About 2.3 crore Indians are first-time voters, many of whom are hooked on to social media and will reach out for merchandise that proclaims their loyalties. “The youth now want to speak out about their identity,” said Mr Baghla of Bluegape.


Source:The Economic Times

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