Textile to e-commerce: Aditya Birla Group enters online turf with infinite fund! Other traditional players could follow suit!

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Even if you are a multi-billion dollar traditional business house, you are not safe from competition. And because the competition is coming from new-age enterprising entrepreneurs, the sharpest breed to have entered the Indian business space so far, the legends are beginning to align themselves with the prevailing trend.

Aditya Birla Group Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla gives a press conference in Mumbai on October 6, 2009. The board of UltraTech Cement, part of the conglomerate Aditya Birla group, met October 6 to consider a proposed consolidation with the cement business of group subsidiary Samruddhi Cement. India is the second largest cement market in the world, but its per capita consumption is one-eighth of China's. AFP PHOTO/ Sajjad HUSSAIN

The e-commerce industry is fast catching up with the Birlas and the Tatas of this world, and unless they adapt to this new drift, their long-held dominance over the Indian industry could soon be diluted. The Aditya Birla Group has taken the first step towards not allowing that to happen.

The Textiles-to-telecom conglomerate has entered pureplay e-commerce by launching fashion portal, abof.com, which sells about 55 brands, including those of the parent group. And it is not your run-of-the-mill e-commerce portal.

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‘abof’ will not give discounts and will display a curated collection only, rather than a lot of options, like every other online company today. “We were choosey about what we put on the portal,” group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla said. “It is easier to give many options than make a selection and then give that.” This is a brilliant philosophy, and a strategic business idea. By offering only limited items of high value, the Birlas are ensuring that they don’t have much competition. As a private and unlisted company, Aditya Birla Online Fashion (abof) will mostly cater to the 18-25 age group.

They have created a new team of about 200 people— mostly based in Bengaluru and poached from online players such as Snapdeal, Myntra and Zomato—over the last nine months.

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The Aditya Birla Group has realized that the Indian industry is undergoing a revolution, a paradigm shift, and that it will make good business sense to diversify into the online sector. There is no other way to ensure that the distance in financial status between the traditional powerhouses and the new-age business is maintained.

The Group sowed its first business seed in 1857, just when India’s first war of independence was being fronted by Mangal Pandey. It was really coincidence that Ghanshyam Das Birla laid the foundation stone of a business idea in the same year. That idea has now evolved into a global conglomerate that scored $45 billion revenue in 2014!

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