ecommerce in India – How to make it popular – My Views

Over last few weeks, I read many articles on “Why Indians do not buy online?” There are around 100 mn internet users, but why only 10 mn users are using it? Fortune of many startups and VC who had funded them – hovers around question. I am associated with an e-commerce company for over 5 years and an active member of an elite club of e-Strugglers. With this experience, I would like to contribute to this discussion by sharing my thought and believes –

  1. Need Creation / Demand Creation India is a need centric country. Customers in India are smart and they discover and learn new ways of transacting… if and only if the new way addresses their real need.  If an e-commerce companies identify and address the real need of the consumer, it is either successful or will be so in future. Take for example –
  • IRCTC is an alternate to railway booking counter (which may be 7/8 km away from home/ office) and the long queue at those counters. It also protects the customers from unscrupulous agents who charges hefty commission in lieu of tickets. Within no time, IRCTC’s online ticket service gained popularity and even the customers in remote villages stated using their service. Currently they book around 4.5 lakhs tickets a day.
  • Flipkart’s Cash on Delivery (COD) is the most thoughtful solution to a consumer in an economy which is primarily cash based. Many, who do not have a debit/credit card, now purchase books and electronics online.
  • Makemy Trip, RedBus, Book my Show, PayTM also addressed a particular need in a much focused way to gain popularity.
  1. Logistics – Logistics is a big challenge both in terms of reach and cost. We only serve to the customers in a select region and ignore the customers in the other regions as we do not have necessary infrastructure to serve them. The concept of COD is also restricted and is not being percolated to the lower tier towns, cities and villages where this service is most desired. For e-commerce to grow in India, the opportunities outside those select cities have to be harnessed… may be by building a common infrastructure to deliver. If someone can use the service of e-choupal for ordering seed and fertilizers, they can also shop online. They just need to be informed, supported (with payment options) and serviced.
  1. Localization – Just imagine… a Tamilian will be more comfortable buying a Tamil book, if he/she can read about the book in Tamil and can interact with the e-seller in Tamil.  Most of the e-commerce sites communicate in English. In India, though many can read and write in English, but to have a strong connect with the customers, e-commerce sites have to communicate in the regional languages. This is a real challenge as India is a country with 18 official regional languages. I guess, e-commerce companies should start exploring the possibility of providing content in at least the important regional languages. This will make their online shopping experience comfortable.
  1. Payment Instrument – 450 million people in India are unbanked and out of the remaining banked population only around 20mn people has credit or debit card. This number is very low. But with the initiatives taken by the government and financial organizations to reach India’s un-banked population, I am confident that the e-Commerce is poised for greater adoption across India, in the years to come.
  1. Mobile Way – Innovation in the channel of sales is another important aspect. India has only 100 mn internet users, but more than 900 mn mobile phone users. Considering the popularity and reach of MVAS, I strongly believe that e-commerce will gain popularity in India through mobile way.  The telecom operators are working actively to tap their network to provide an alternate stored value payment instrument; which can be used by customer even in the remotest of place can make on online payment for a product or service. Since the mobile eco-system is so extensive and penetrated, e-commerce companies should innovatively foray into mobile as an alternate channel of sales.

Meri Pyari Mumma!

Meri sabse pyari mumma,
Meri baat zara tum sunna.
Tum kitni achi ho,
Mann ki sabse sachi ho.
Har wakt doosron ki chinta tumhe satati hai
Aur, sabke kaam mein tu khud ko hi bhool jaati hai..

Tumne hame itne saal bade pyaar se pala hai,
Tumko kaam mein help karna thoda sa jhamela hai 😉
But aapke saath yeh life khushiyon ka mela hai..

Bachpan mein jab chot hame lagti thi, dard tumhe hoti thi,
Galti karo toh maar hame padti thi, par humse pehle tum ro padti thi..

Bachpan se bas tumne hame sudhara hai,
But isse pehle sabse zyada aapne hi bigada hai
Papa ke kisi baat pe mana kar dene par,
dheere se humare paas aati,
Humare nirasha se bhare chehre ko dekh kar,
hum ko tum manati !!
Kehti “jao thode der bahar ghumne chale jana,
Par yaad rahe papa ke pehle hi ghar wapas aa jana”..
Doosre din fir movie ya shopping jana ho,
toh bahut naaraz ho jaati woh..
Zor se daant lagati humko,
kehti “ek din bhi ghar pe tik nahi paati ho”!!
Thodi der baad fir khud hi hame paas bulakar,
“bas aaj aaj chali jao” kehti hai muskurakar..

Hame bade ache se jaanti hai
Humare har expression ko pehchanti hai!
Humare kisi bhool par hume bade pyaar se samjhayegi,
Ki ek baar mein saari akal thikane aa jayegi..

Meri sweet maa aap mujhe jaan se pyaari ho
Sari duniya ek taraf, aap toh meri fairy ho!!
Solve kae deti ho chutki mein,
life ki har choti badi paheli,
Kehne ko to hai mummy,
par hai sabse pyari saheli…

[Above kavita (poem) is written by my sister Stuti Poddar. She is freelance jewellery designer based out of Kolkata.]

eCommerce vs mCommerce in India

What is eCommerce?

eCommerce in general refers to buying and selling of products or services over electronic systems. You choose your product or service, pay for it using your payment instrument (credit card, bank account, debit card or give an assurance that you will pay cash at the time of delivery), and after a few days, the smartly packed new products arrive at your door.

What is mCommerce?

mCommerce is in principle similar to ecommerce, but the activity of initiating a commercial transactions is over a mobile device. The Apple App Store & ngpay are the good examples of the two popular streams of mcommerce. While in the previous stream, the products offered by App Stores are generally delivered (downloaded) and consumed over the mobile phone, in the later products or services delivered are consumed elsewhere (e.g. Service of air ticket bought over mobile phone can be consumed at the airport).

Many confuse mCommerce with mPayments. mPayment is a convenient way to pay using your mobile phone for online or retail transactions if your mobile phone is linked to your payment instrument. Here mobile phone acts as a pseudo payment instrument but the charge is on is on the bank account or credit card.

mCommerce in India

Indian retail market has experienced high growth over the last decade with a gradual shift towards modern retailing formats. With growing numbers of mobile devices and mammoth wireless subscriber base (over 900 million), the focus is slowly shifting to mcommerce. Although mCommerce in India is in a nascent stage, but is moving in the right direction. Currently, Mobile Assisted Commerce (MAC) is very popular in India. Indians being bargain hunters use their mobile phones for price comparison at the retail store before making an actual purchase. Considering the popularity of MAC, popularity and reach of MVAS (caller-tune, ring tone downloads), growth in mPayment and mBanking over the last few years, reduction in price & increase in the use of smart phones & tablets, initiatives taken by the government and financial organizations to reach India’s un-banked population, I am confident that the mCommerce is poised for greater adoption across India, in the years to come. The market is virgin and is the right time to be ready with your mCommerce platform to reap the actual benefit of online commerce in India.

How do you make sure you’re ready for mCommerce?

If you have an eCommerce site, the chances are that it will be usable on smart phones like the iPhone, but it’s also likely that the experience won’t be that great. A better solution would be to have an optimized version of the website for mobile devices. You can still use your product database and images but it’s a good idea to detect what platform your users are on and if it’s a mobile device, offer the following usability enhancements: 1) simplified and thinner version of the website to fit the smaller screen; 2) Pre-populated data where possible to mimimize typing; 3) Cut down graphics to increase speed (product images and website design elements; 4) More concise text to increase readability; 5) Allow users to enter OTP passwords instead of 3D secure passwords while making payment.

Alternatively, you have to build a series of applications; each customized for a specific mobile platform and integrated it with the product database. To reach to a substantial user base, presence on Apple, Android, Windows, Blackberry & Symbian platform is a must. This approach requires huge investment and a dedicated team to build and managing the channel. A more convenient and prudent approach would be to host your offering on an existing mcommerce platform like ngpay. One tie-up will allow you to be present on all the platforms and access to the existing user base.

Hike in the price of Diapers… a funny photo story

My son expressing his concern over the hike in the price of Diapers post budget 2012.

Good Morning!

Let me check the news…

Hmmm….

News on my Diapers…. Yippee!!!

They made my Diapers expensive!!! How Dare???

I want to speak to FM…Call him now…

FM assures rollback…. Relaxes…. Now mumma can change my diapers without worry


Dhirubhaism

dhirubhaismI will rate the book as one of the best on work philosophy. The book explains many ground realities about human attitude in a very effective way. The book is simple, crisp, to the point, engrossing and an effective echo of Dhirubhai’s ability to communicate his message in short, clear sentences. The book is written by AG Krishnamurthy and interestingly, its forward is written by Mukesh Ambani, son of Dhirubhai and the present Chairman of Reliance Industries.

Dhirubhaism is an attempt by the author to capture the unique insights that Dhirubhai shared with the author / author have observed during his long association with Dhirubhai. Dhirubhaism, like most other “isms” is a philosophy or an attitude. The author, having closely observed Dhirubhai’s style of functioning has presented 15 of them. They are just simple viewpoints but executing them took courage and as a consequence showed spectacular results. For example – one of the Dhirubhaisms is “Bet on your people“. At the root of it, it entreats the reader to trust the employee to execute a job, after a judicious assessment of his caliber. But the trust that it advocates is that of complete faith and not half measures. Complete faith in the person’s ability to execute a project accommodating his weaknesses, not being ignorant of it. This is the uniqueness of a Dhirubhaism. Stretching the limits of simple truths or rather, living it completely.

In a nutshell, the book reaffirms Dhirubhai’s unique ability to bring out the extraordinary in ordinary folk and his ability to build mammoth projects in seemingly impossible environments. It must be read by everyone, who wants to learn about success mantras of Dhirubhai Ambani.

Many Lives, Many Masters

Many-lives-Many-mastersMany Lives, Many Masters is a great book, very compelling and an unstoppable read. The book is an interesting account of a traditional, conservative psychotherapist (Dr. Brian Weiss), who for the first time came face-to-face with the concept of reincarnation, the space between lives, presence of many Gods (Masters) and many other tenets of Hinduism.

Dr. Weiss discovered that in a trance like state, a person can share experiences from her previous lifetimes. In a series of trance-like states, his patient (Catherine) shared some unique insights into life, death and reincarnation. She remembers, living 86 times in physical state in different places on this earth both as male and female. She extensively recalled the details of each birth – her name, her family, physical appearance, the landscape and how she was killed by stabbing, by drowning, or illness.

The book definitely sheds a new light on life when you think that everybody is here to learn their lessons and that no deed (good or bad) goes unnoticed (Hindu concept of Karma).