I remember my first purchase of flowers on rediff.com somewhere in the 90’s. I was forced to use a credit card, the delivery took a few days and the quality of delivered flowers wasn’t as expected. Yet, it was a great to know that online shopping was possible and would improve in India.
In the year 2005, I setup my own online store selling computers. Facing 100’s of issues – including interstate taxes, poor delivery services, fraud rates and high transaction rates from payment gateways, I eventually shut it down. However, I was even more convinced that some day, online shopping would grow large in India.
From 2011, we’ve been seeing a regular release on new online stores. While most of them are limited to selling few kinds of products, most electronics, garments, shoes, fashion items etc, it’s only a matter of time before this changes.
The change probably started with flipkart.com selling books online, advertising aggressively and offering cash-on-delivery as a payment option. When they added additional categories for home and kitchen appliances, I tested them for delivery and pricing, they were almost perfect. “As good as Amazon” is what I could think – except their product range is restricted. All my books, computer accessories and home appliances now come from them.
Myntra.com is where I buy bathroom slippers. I haven’t moved to shoes yet but I know I will. They have a whole range of branded garments and other accessories.
I’ve tried lenskart.com to buy a pair of vision glasses. Not a bad experiment, that. At stores, I’ve always felt I’ll be overcharged and will be convinced into buying something I don’t really like. Online, no one can change my mind and I get to decide in the peace and comfort of my home. They also have bagskart.com, watchkart.com and jewelskart.com however their pricing is not aggressive.
Recent entrants like jabong.com, zovi.com, tradus.in, pepperfry.com, koovs.com and yebhi.com all offer similar products and it’s a matter of time before consolidation begins or some of these sites fade into oblivion. While these new .com’s try to create their brands, larger brick and mortar stores have also woken up. We now have shoppersstop.com and futurebazaar.com offering almost all their products online. Not just this, people are bringing different products and services online – so deliciousnow.com and mygrahak.com deliver gourmet food items or regular grocery right to your doors.
The Hindustan Times, in Dec 2011, reported “According to an Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) survey, the online retail market in India may grow to Rs.70 billion (over $1.30 billion) by 2015 from Rs.20 billion in 2011 as internet access improves.”
For online shoppers, the more stores the merrier. Once you get used to buying online, you just don’t enjoy shopping malls. I’m sure there are many companies and brands out there eager to enter the online shopping space in India and get a foothold. The path will not be easy but they will have to do it, unless they want to lose their customers to other brands and stores that have a strong online presence.