Consumers in India will soon be able to sell their closets on the Poshmark app, as the social marketplace prepares its second global expansion this year and third overall.
For the Redwood City, Calif.-based company, which opened in Canada in 2019 and Australia last February, the addition represents more than just a business move. When Poshmark launches in India by the end of this quarter, it will also be a homecoming of sorts for chief executive officer and founder Manish Chandra, who hails from the Delhi area.
“I grew up in India, and some of the ideas and inspirations and how we architected Poshmark came from growing up and spending time with my grandfather in the bazaars of Delhi called Chandni Chowk,” he explained. “People used to haggle, talk to each other and [I was] seeing people interact with each other.”
The platform encourages sellers and buyers to connect, offering mechanisms that allow people to follow each other, stay up to date with feeds and check out so-called Posh Parties, spotlight events with hosts who post product listings and recommend other items. Fans of a particular seller’s taste can see other products handpicked by that person.
Because it’s a destination for secondhand fashion, the business makes a strong case for sustainability, another theme that harks back to Chandra’s childhood.
“Growing up, a lot of the clothes we wore were re-fashioned and upcycled from clothes from other cousins or relatives,” he continued. “So to bring that whole circular economy, full stop, 50 years later is really, really fun and exciting.”
Chandra noted that sustainability, an important issue for Gen Z consumers in the U.S., also resonates in India.
“The younger Indian consumer is very sharply focused on sustainability. As a core concept, it has been there as part of Indian history,” he said. “As modernization [and] urbanization has happened, it sort of lost its focus, and now we’re back to where people are really, really focused on sustainability. So it’s an exciting time, in a way, to go back to the roots and bring circular fashion to India.”
Other ways Poshmark is adapting itself to this market is by natively supporting local payments and shipping systems, as well as adding relevant new categories of apparel. Users will be able to find saris, stoles, kurtas and more under “Global & Traditional Wear” or by searching for them. Some of those items will be available for Indian American consumers in the U.S. as well.
Some of the areas he seems most enthusiastic about are virtual Posh Parties and trends, which will be highly customized to this market. Programmed by local teams, they will cater specifically to the multiple geographies that extend across the country through regional channels — much like the marketplace has regionalized content in the U.S., he said.
A lot of that work will come down to the local employees, who have operated out of Poshmark’s India office for eight years to support the U.S. and global operation. This staff is its largest population of workers outside of the U.S., and it could be a key advantage that helps the company sidestep a typical challenge: Some fashion and tech companies speed into a new market, trying to quickly demystify a distinct culture or consumer mindset, only to find themselves struggling with an intense learning curve.
Chandra doesn’t believe that will be an issue. “Because we started having a local team, which was helping us in the U.S. back in 2013, the local infrastructure that our Indian business team has now is pretty strong,” he said.
Next week, the company will report on its second-quarter performance, and investors will be keen to see if, among other things, the platform managed to grow its active buyers from the 6.7 million reported in the first quarter. This latest launch comes too late to affect the next set of numbers. But it gives the company a new growth narrative and talking points.
International expansion is a major priority at Poshmark, so much so that it hired two new executives to lead the way. Sylvie De Wever joins as the company’s first vice president and general manager of international, while Anuradha Balasubramanian steps into the role of Poshmark India’s general manager.
Before serving as chief operating officer of Berlin-based learning app Blinkist, De Wever was at eBay, leading its expansion into emerging markets and serving as general manager of its Latin America division. At Poshmark, she will lead the company’s global growth, starting with India, where “the vibrant younger demographic…is a natural fit.”
Balasubramanian agrees, echoing Chandra’s experience.
“Having grown up and built my career in India, I have seen firsthand the strong parallels between India’s social shopping culture and the Poshmark community,” she said. “As we continue to see a shift toward more value-conscious consumers, we believe this is the right time to expand our marketplace and engage a new community.”
India, with its 622 million active internet users, has long been considered a key market for companies ranging from consumer tech to fashion. Little wonder why — its e-commerce market was projected to soar 84 percent, going from roughly $60 billion in 2020 to $111 billion by 2024, according to a March report by fintech firm FIS. It credited much of that momentum to mobile shopping, which FIS estimates will jump 21 percent annually over the next four years.
But that was before COVID-19’s Delta variant laid siege to India in April and May. Infections appeared to level off for a while, then the country reported the most new cases in three weeks on Friday, at 44,230. It’s hard to know whether the latest escalation in this pandemic will undercut the projections, or go the other way and accelerate them.
Either way, Poshmark is moving forward. It’s been working on this expansion for a year, and if experience has shown it anything, it’s that its “inventory light” model — with no warehouses or physical stores to fret over — has been a blessing, as Chandra has stated numerous times. And should a third wave hit his beloved home country, there may be reason for optimism there, too: Health experts believe that India will be better equipped to face that than it was during the spring peak.
Whether Indian consumers wind up staying home out of caution or celebrating after making it through these challenging times, one thing is certain: Poshmark wants to be there with them, either way.