THE NUM­BERS GAME DE­LIV­ER­ING THE GOODS

E-com­merce boomed in 2012. Lo­calised in­no­va­tions such as cash on de­liv­ery will help close to 50 mil­lion In­di­ans carry out on­line trans­ac­tions in the next three years

Hindustan Times (Patna) - - YEAR REVIEW 2012 -

CEO OF FLIP­KART.COM 2012 will be re­mem­bered as the year when e-com­merce went main­stream in In­dia

For a year made in­fa­mous by the Mayan cal­en­dar as the last year ever, 2012 has been rather sig­nif­i­cant. In­dia’s over­all growth in 2012 may have been slug­gish, but there are signs of re­vival with the Lok Sabha vote for FDI in re­tail. Such in­vest­ment-friendly re­forms have al­ready started in other sec­tors like avi­a­tion, and lib­er­al­i­sa­tion in re­tail could help boost over­all growth fur­ther.

I be­lieve 2012 will be re­mem­bered as the year when ecom­merce went main­stream in In­dia. From a con­sumer’s point of view, the sheer breadth and range of things that she can or­der on­line to­day is mind-bog­gling! From or­nate solid wood bar units to minia­ture vin­tage car models to rare John Coltrane vinyl, to fresh broc­coli… you name the item and it is avail­able for you to or­der from the com­fort of your home.

Prior to this year, the range of items on sale via e-com­merce was rel­a­tively small, pre­dom­i­nantly re­stricted to books, movies and mu­sic. As for the fight to win con­sumers’ at­ten­tion, some­one re­cently told me, on a lighter note, that at one point dur­ing Di­wali this year, she saw tele­vi­sion ad­ver­tise­ments of as many as six e-com­merce brands... con­sec­u­tively, on one chan­nel!

At an op­er­a­tional level, the over­all ser­vice lev­els of e-com­merce com­pa­nies have im­proved dra­mat­i­cally in 2012. The speed of de­liv­ery has im­proved a lot, com­pared to ear­lier years. Third-party de­liv­ery net­works have spruced up their act to cater to de­mand­ing e-com­merce de­liv­ery stan­dards and have be­come a lot more re­li­able.

There were fewer doubts in 2012 around the ba­sic pipe­line that drives e-com­merce — In­ter­net pen­e­tra­tion. A re­cent global report by KPCB lays out the num­bers im­pres­sively.

One, the speed of mo­bile in­ter­net adop­tion in In­dia is al­most equal to that of desk­top/PC-based In­ter­net ac­cess.

Two, In­dia has the third high­est In­ter­net pop­u­la­tion among the top 10 In­ter­net-en­abled coun­tries, sec­ond-high­est yearon-year growth and is still the low­est in terms of per­cent­age of pop­u­la­tion with In­ter­net ac­cess. That demon­strates phe­nom­e­nal op­por­tu­nity. Add to that, In­dia is yet to fully ex­plore the op­por­tu­nity pre­sented by re­gional lan­guage con­tent, whether in e-com­merce or oth­er­wise.

The re­sult of this im­pres­sive range of prod­ucts avail­able, re­li­able ser­vice stan­dards and ex­plod­ing In­ter­net pen­e­tra­tion is the over­all ex­pan­sion of the e-com­merce cus­tomer base in In­dia.

Cur­rently, ac­cord­ing to var­i­ous re­ports, only about 15-20 mil­lion of the In­ter­net-en­abled In­dian pop­u­la­tion per­form on­line trans­ac­tions. Cash-on-de­liv­ery, as a hy­brid trans­ac­tion method unique to In­dia, and the sheer in­crease in trust in on­line trans­ac­tions us­ing credit cards or net­bank­ing, are ex­pected to in­crease this fig­ure to around 50 mil­lion in the next two to three years.

E-com­merce is not an iso­lated case of an in­dus­try ex­pand­ing and ma­tur­ing af­ter a pe­riod of start­ing up. Ev­ery in­dus­try has gone through such a cy­cle in In­dia. Bank­ing, off­line re­tail and tele­com are some of the sec­tors in In­dia that have seen this kind of evo­lu­tion and even­tual ma­tu­rity in re­cent years. 2012 proves that the time is ripe for e-com­merce to move into the next level.

(The au­thor is an alum­nus of IIT Delhi. He is co-founder of Flip­kart.com, an e-com­merce ven­ture head­quar­tered in Ban­ga­lore)

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