The Indian e-Retailing scenario is expected to radically change soon. I must acknowledge – I love Myntra.com, Infibeam.com & Flipkart.com. Have spent hours and loads of cash on these sites – purchasing t-shirts, custom t-shirts, electronics – mobile accessories, printers, and innumerable books from these e-retailers in the recent past. But what happens when Amazon enters India?
Technically, online shopping or e-Retailing, as it’s commonly called as, is in its very infancy in India. Out of my huge collection of friends and acquaintances, I believe I’m the only one who spends money buying books, t-shirts, shoes, electronics online. Besides being risky in India since you have no idea what the product would look like when you get it in your hands finally (although it’s always promised it would look the same as in the photos online – most of the times, the photos are low definition ones which suck big time) or at times, don’t even have more than 1 photo to show in the gallery. Payment options are limited. And delivery times are extremely long. So, overall – if one carries out a survey offline, am sure, 95% of the people would prefer visiting M.G.Road in Bangalore and doing shopping offline rather than putting their hard-earned money to risk in e-Retailing. Thus, it never caught up in India.
When I returned from the U.K. in 2007, I was so utterly dismayed and grieved by the fact that Amazon.com didn’t have India operations. Especially, when I had purchased loads of items online at Amazon.co.uk whilst in the U.K. Anyways, had to find out a few websites which could offer a more-or-less similar online user-experience in India. The ones which really kind of caught on with me were: Myntra.com, Infibeam.com & Flipkart.com
Myntra – Lovely website layout with bright colors, since repositioning themselves and re-entering the market from ‘one-stop shop for custom gift items’ to ‘one-stop shop for sports & (recently) formal wear’, every bit of the site looks classy. Site navigation is good. Payment options are plenty – which is fantastic. The only thing that sucked and still sucks is their delivery time. And one of the goof-ups they recently did when I placed an order of 2 sets of shirts – 2 sets of 2 shirts each. I paid using my CC, and then receive an email confirmation after a few days – “Shipment Delivered”. I was like – wtf? Haven’t received anything. So called my landlord – poor guy says, no, we didn’t get anything. So, had to call Myntra customer care center, and the chap says – “Sorry Sir, a small mistake. It’s not delivered but soon will be. It’s a small error from our side!”. Besides that recent goof up, buying experience on Myntra.com has been excellent.
Pros: Excellent layout, lots of Ajax controls which increases user experience highly. 4 payment options – Credit, Debit, Net Banking & Cash-on-Delivery. Easy to navigate and to use.
Cons: Delivery times are long. Delivery is sketchy as well. Not good. Also, Myntra gives coupons for discount when you purchase another item from them. I have 4 coupons which expired and I couldn’t use them because the timelines are extremely short. This is poor business strategy – the coupons should be valid for at least 3-4 months (minimum 90-120 days) from your last purchase. Which guy on earth buys t-shirts every 7 days dude?
Infibeam – Just looks and feels like you’re shopping on Amazon.com already! Same layout used. Ample selections based on homepage and inner pages. Excellent footer links for quick navigation as well. I had purchased a HP printer from here and a few other mobile accessories, which were delivered rather, before the time mentioned in the ‘confirmation email’. Which was excellent. The items were in pristine condition as well, and needless to say, I was overjoyed. The site has an excellent payment page as well – easy to use and navigate.
Pros: Excellent layout for people transitioning from Amazon.com or co.uk. Also, social media sharing icons present next to items which is excellent. Offers are there on hand on most items which is excellent as well.
Cons: Not many. But one which I would strongly suggest is – a gallery of minimum 5 pics is necessary against every item. Sometimes, its 1 and pretty awful pic it is which can be a major downer for some people. E.g. I recently decided to purchase this one – BenQ LED 27” inches LCD monitor, excellent offer, but poor user-experience. Only 1 pic on display. Also, a review clip embedded from YouTube or CNET would have been excellent.
Flipkart – If you’re looking to purchase books online, go no further. Not sure of their electronics and mobile accessories stock in hand, but as far as books is concerned, well. I will be honest. I used to visit Gangarams in Bangalore on M.G.Road regularly to pick up books – on social media, digital marketing, programming and so on. Besides sucking big time on customer service, they don’t have many books on display when you are talking about things like – “web development”, “google adwords”, “email marketing”, “social media ROI” and so on. The sales reps stare at you as if you just called him – “Hey, what’s up fucker?” or something else. So stopped going there. And thank god, Flipkart.com came to my rescue. Since they have purchased more than 20+ books from them, and believe me, the site’s usability and user experience is spot-on. Much inspired from Amazon.com (since both founders were former software engineers at Amazon.com Development center in India), but nonetheless, it’s definitely a site which is bookmarked on my Mac.
Pros: Excellent layout. Ample payment options. Excellent delivery as well – clearly stating at the very beginning HOW MANY days it would take precisely for delivering a book which is available compared to one which is not available in India but they would be getting it. This is excellent customer service. Additionally, once something happened which impressed me even more. I placed an order of 3 social media marketing books with them. Very same day – a customer service rep calls me and says – “Sorry sir, there’s a small mistake. We had mentioned on our site that all the 3 books are available readily in India (soft copies), but 1 is out of stock. Can we get you the original one (hard-cover) from US at the same price?” I was like – “Wow! You serious? At the same price? Most certainly”. Since then never ever visited any other site for books. Buying books online means – “Flipkart.com”.
Cons: Guys, some work still needs to be done on ‘site merchandizing”. The above scenario is good example of customer delight, but if this happens too many times in a row, is bound to get even the most faithful ones pissed off.
Overall, we can see the results ourselves for past 6 months:
TRAFFIC FOR MAX PERIOD: Flipkart.com hasn’t grown much, and Myntra.com definitely growing leaps and bounds. Infibeam definitely needs some fresh blood.
DAILY REACH: Myntra.com has a lot of work here to do to catch up leaders Flipkart.com.Not surprising Amazon wished to buyout Flipkart.com whilst making plans to enter India. Though this may be a complete rumor, but right now, the biggest question is – When Amazon does enter India, and we have a site with domain name www.amazon.co.in (Now giving a 404 guys :)) to go to for all our needs, what are the exit options for Myntra, Infibeam and Flipkart.com. Apparently – as the rumor goes, Amazon was very interested to buy out Flipkart.com but the deal broke-off since price asked by Flipkart.com owners was too high! So chances are Amazon would go solo on their launch.
This could either mean –
Option1: Indian e-Retailers would either reposition themselves to cover more verticals, and expand their businesses to 2nd and 3rd tier towns and also, more importantly, grow themselves into foreign markets. Ceasing to do this means, either they will gradually see a fall in their traffic and gradually go extinct, or continue operating at lower margins and finally cease to exist.
On the other hand, if I were on the board of Amazon, I would do this to make the Indian e-Retailers go out of business soon
> Step1: Pump in a lot of money initially, rent out complete warehouses in tier1 cities and pile them up with items, and then undercut the pricing for every item online. E.g. for first 6-months, every item you purchase on Amazon India, you get a 50% blind discount on every item you purchase next.
> Step2: Also, decrease delivery times from the usual 5-8 business days (which is a norm in India) to SAME DAY DELIVERY.
> Step3: Also, another thing they could do which can completely kill off the Indian e-Retailers – create an ‘Indian network’ of business affiliate partners. E.g. Purchase a book, get a movie ticket free at the nearest INOX. Get 5 DVDs, get a ‘Mainland China coupon for INR 5,000’.
Option2: The India e-Retailers can opt to join Amazon.com retailer programs, and sell merchandize via Amazon networks. Technically, joining hands with Amazon to survive. Stringent investment rules in India could be one of the major reasons why Amazon would pair-up with one of the Indian e-Retailers.
Option3: If asked for a buyout, agree to a buy-out and cease to exist.
Option4: Go all out for an IPO, raise money and take on Amazon in its own game. But this will be extremely difficult since Indian mentality is far from matured to invest in e-Retailers. I worked for one of the leading brands on earth (possibly the 2nd most visited e-greetings website on earth, 123Greetings.com) when they went in for an IPO, and since then, they have been battered time and again, with the stocks falling all the time. So, overall, India and the Indian marketplace is still not a mature scenario for e-Retailing as a whole.
As of now, I or anyone cannot predict what the future will be like. But just as a small hint, let’s compare the traffic rank of Amazon, Myntra, Infibeam and Flipkart. Well, as the graph suggests, the Indian e-Retailers have tough times ahead.