Back in 1998, we did not see this coming. Perhaps, we never wanted to. With Fabmart, Bazzee, and First&Second battling head on to become the Amazon of India, somewhere down the line, things changed and now it’s a completely new ball game.
Rediff overhauled themselves, Sify wanted to monetize their toys, Infibeam tried really hard, Shaadi.Com promised to find your other half and late in 2000, the NASDAQ crashed. I remember K. Vaitheeswaran telling Forbes Magazine that he recalls the event very clearly. His venture, IndiaPlaza, took a beat down and succumbed to the pressure of financial overwhelming. By winter 2000, there were around a thousand eCommerce entities in India and every one of them crashed.
Post-2005, Infibeam revealed that they had survived and eBay promised to continue their support. The question of the moment was, did something survive the online depression? Did webmasters manage to overcome their financial troubles and did Registrars manage to create their presence in India? The answer, 2011. Ten years after the online depression, we now have boosted internet speeds, few more cars on the road, DTH to screen movies faster, and Apple stores coming up in the metros.
A friend of mine has now all grown up and is a developer that freelances for end-user products. Sadly, I never get to see him leave his home. He has been pretty much glued to his chair for the last three odd years. Enter his home and you shall see the best LCD screens, high-fidelity music systems, a Macbook Pro, and a few more gadgets I can only gawk at. Ask him from where he gets all these fancy gizmos and he shall tell you that he has never entered an electronic store in his life. He gets most of his products on the second and third day of launch at the best available rates. His source; Flipkart.
Hitesh Dhingra, CEO, and Founder of LetsBuy.Com has a lot to share while writing his success story. In December 2010, his online store recorded a sale of 1 Crore Rupees. By January the following year, his entity attracted three venture capital firms. Today, Dhingra sits on top of $6 Million and is expanding on a gigantic scale. With competition pouring in from Infibeam, Flipkart, Erodov, and the hundreds of other online stores, the retail market has been able to establish itself as an entity that is redefining the way customers make their purchases.
With the success of eCommerce in India, the bears are going where the honeybees dwell. Competition is stiff and has broken down the market into a niche-specific souk. Ambareesh Murty, Country Manager for eBay India claims to sell one product almost every minute. While eBay has its own niche to follow, other entities are not restricting themselves from diversifying the online world. Myntra gets into the fashion market, Game4U is a video game addict’s paradise and forums are the place to sell almost everything. With the rising number of internet users in India and tight schedules between work and home, window shopping is now becoming obsolete and is being replaced by eCommerce sites that offer everything a customer needs. While physically validating a product is not possible, online stores make up for it with their money-back guarantees, EMI offers, special discounts, and seasonal bargains.
Now that India is on the map for online purchases, does it mean that critical challenges will overcome its odds in being able to make eCommerce an asset for the end-user? As for now, it seems that post-2000, the internet managed to save its online shopping identity and has resurfaced better and bigger than ever before. However, before we make that next purchase from HomeShop18 or TradeKey, let’s stop for a minute and wonder if there will be an inflection point or will the coming years reinvent itself all over again.