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What Will Be the Online Retail Scene in India By 2012
What Will Be the Online Retail Scene in India By 2012
By: Bikram K Singh

It is too early to talk about retail scene in 2012, but Amazon's announcement to enter India in the first quarter of 2012 has sped things up for everyone, for me as well. That is the reason why I am typing this article when half of the 2011 is still to go.

How it all started

Indian online retail foray started sometime around the end of the last decade of the twentieth century because of lack of penetration of plastic money (credit cards and debit cards), there was not much excitement about it. Very few people ventured to the bank to get a demand draft (DD) and then send it to the ecommerce website, which will send the product, but only after the DD is cashed.

I can give the first-person account of how slow the process was, and how frustrating it was, not just because of unavailability of plastic money but also because the Internet was still very slow and exorbitantly expensive (I remember paying around Rs. 200 for an hour for the Internet whose top speed was 56.4KBPS).

Indiatimes, Rediff, Yahoo, and Sify were the main players in the online retail store, but those were not the ones that created buzz. It was Baazee.com, an entrepreneurial venture that took shape in proverbial garage.

It was creating a ruckus in the community before it was acquired by eBay, the global auction website giant, in January 2005. The commotion stopped and everyone bowed in reverence, the Goliath had entered the market.

What now

Indiatimes, Rediff, Yahoo, and Sify still exist, but eBay is the one that pulls maximum crowd. We all love shopping on eBay. Indiatimes fared somewhat ok, but others didn't fulfill their masters' dream.

The second row of ecommerce revolution began around 2009. Groupon was creating series of ripples by its "deal of the day" strategy. The world of online retail once again changed, as social shopping stepped in.

This time, India was quick to join the party, and a complete army of deal hunting websites came to existence.

Its January-affair gain

Six years after the acquisition of Baazee.com in January 2005, Groupon announces the acquisition of SoSasta.com, the Indian blue-eyed social shopping website.

Niche is in

By 2010, the Indian online retail market had more players than there were customers. Niche ecommerce websites mushroomed. Everyone from Yebhi to The ITDepot to GadgetsGuru to Myntra to iBibo to MakeMyTrip to Yatra to CraftsVilla to Flipkart joined the party.

Some of them had same "done to death" ideas, whereas, others like CraftsVilla, Yebhi, Myntra, 24hoursloot, etc. has redefined the map of Indian online retail.

CraftsVilla is an interesting story. They have shown how ethnic products should be sold, and how to create buzz. The effectiveness of their campaign can be gauged from the fact that my wife, who never purchased anything online, is almost everyday buying an item from them. Not only that, almost every day I hear her mention CraftsVilla to her friends.

Why she is so excited about it?

Not just because the company sends what it promises, but because it does more. With every order, it sends out 2 small decorative candles as free gift, and one hand-written thank you note on a handmade paper saying how the purchase has helped so and so community in some hinterland of India.

Will it be January again?

No one knows for sure, but it will probably be the first quarter of 2012 when the giant of online retail, Amazon.com will set up its shop in India. According to a report, the company is taking its rounds and is engaged in discussion with Exclusively.in, Let's buy, and Flipkart.

Entry of Amazon in the Indian market will change the online landscape forever. The long wait of Indian customers as well as producers will be over, as both of them will get a new channel to exchange product and currency.

2012 could be the most important year in the online retail history of India. The entry of Amazon will completely change the market, as we know it today. The question is will small play coexist in the market, or will they get crushed under the heavy weight of international giants?

We will have to wait for 2012 to answer this.