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Doing up your home? Use the internet
Fatema H Kagalwala
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February 14, 2007

Think setting up the house with the internet's help is a crazy idea? Think again.

Online shopping for home decor items is slowly catching up.

E-commerce web site eBay India recently launched something called Dreamhouse -- setting up a house in two weeks, within a specific budget, by shopping for all items online.

Television personality Mandira Bedi played the celebrity host, doing up her new house in Bandra, a western Mumbai suburb.

How she did it

"Throughout the process, I never felt I had to compromise on quality or on choice," says Mandira. "The ease of selecting, buying and payment made it a very enjoyable experience for me. I am proud of my house!"

She decorated her three rooms in different colour shades. The living room's blue-cream-brown Mediterranean theme, the study's warm red tones and the bedroom's cool blue made her pad look even cosier. From the curtains -- which are actually cut-up saris -- to the bed to the candle stands, she chose and bought every item online.

What goes into it

Online shopping can be quite convenient: Create an account on the site, select the items and add them to the shopping cart. Select the payment mode -- credit card, cheque/demand draft or even cash on delivery -- and what you chose will arrive at your doorstep.

You can also interact with the retailer via e-mail.

"Online retailers are particular about their reputation," claims Rajan Mehra, country manager, eBay. "eBay has a ratings system for each shopping experience. Retailers maintain quality as well as accountability because they don't want their ratings to drop."

Some feel shopping online cannot substitute physically checking out what you want to buy.

"It is difficult to rely on one's savviness, as there are no standardised sizes in India for houses or furniture," says Nihar Mehta, interior designer and proprietor of Tribal Route, a store for handcrafted home decor items in Mumbai. 

"In the West, there are standard sizes, hence shopping online does not present the problem," Mehta continues. "Also, today's consumer still wants to go to the store to pick his stuff. S/he has the time to shop and look around at 10 places. S/he can haggle for prices, which in an online medium s/he cannot."

Bedi disagrees. "If one has a vision, a sense of space, and an idea about materials, s/he doesn't really need to see and touch the item before buying it," she says.

The Indian scenario

E-commerce, by all accounts, has grown in India in the last decade. But it is yet to explode.

"The main problem of online shopping in India is the lack of accountability and after-sales service," says Mehta. "Once you order the item, there is no guarantee when it will arrive. Or if it will live up to the specifications advertised."

Debipriya Bhowmick, 27, from Bangalore, agrees with Gupta. She ordered a hand-mixer online. "It was a horrible experience," she says. "The mixer did not look as classy as it did in the pictures. There were lots of un-stated specifications, which made the thing useless for me. The only plus point was that it was delivered on time."

Roadblocks

Timely delivery is still a hurdle in India.

"Tracking delivery systems is bad in India," agrees Mehra. "Right now, the focus is on reducing overall costs of shipping, providing insurance cover for higher value items and putting a reliable tracking system in place."

Indian laws too are not strong enough to protect the consumer.

"Even if India gets all the e-commerce laws in place, the country's legal infrastructure is not capable of handling the additional upsurge," feels Pavan Duggal, Supreme Court advocate and president, Cyberlaws.Net.

"Neither are our laws on cyber crimes are well-defined, bringing into question the security of online payments," he adds.

Checklist

Some tips to make online shopping for home decor hassle-free:


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