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Have keyboard, will buy

Abhilasha Ojha | August 08, 2005

Something must have clicked. E-commerce seems to be the New Age way of shopping for an increasing number of Indians.

According to research conducted by the Internet & Online Association, over Rs 570 crore (Rs 5.7 billion) worth of commerce was conducted online in India in 2004-05. By 2006-07, says the study, this figure is expected to grow four times to Rs 2,300 crore (Rs 23 billion).

What's causing this change in the spending patterns of Indians, a majority of whom are regarded as finicky and cautious buyers? Apparently, shopping enthusiasts are checking out products under innumerable categories -- and clicking away to purchase awesome kundan pendants, glittering diamond rings, fancy electronic gadgets, apparel and even furniture.

"I sell a lot of furniture on the Net and my buyers are not just Indians, they're from the US, Britain and Europe," confirms Mukesh Jain, manager, Indus Craft, a Jodhpur-based company that deals exclusively in furniture and handicraft items.

Jain and his wife ventured into e-commerce in 2002 when their relative in the US urged them to sell their furniture pieces on the Net. "It looked promising from an advertising point of view," says Jain, "and before I knew it, I was doing good business."

Avnish Bajaj, chairman, eBay, (India) confirms the trend has introduced not just an increasing number of buyers, but also a wide net of sellers who are increasingly relying on the Internet to sell their products.

"Every five minutes," confirms Bajaj, "a piece of jewellery is sold on our website." Besides jewellery, an increasing number of people are buying electronic gadgets, books, furniture and apparel.

"We're getting a lot of export orders too and apparel and jewellery top the list," says Bajaj. The company is satisfied with the Indian operations and Bajaj says it has extended its services to nearly 240 cities in India.

Vishal Anand of mahamaza.com, another site dedicated to e-commerce, is gearing up for the next big challenge. "We're overwhelmed by the response and now plan to bring out a range of cosmetics under the brand name of Mahamaza," he says.

The company launched in 2000 with an investment of Rs 800,000 and posted a turnover of Rs 90 crore (Rs 900 million) last year. Anand's idea was to penetrate into the smaller towns and cities of India.

"Convincing people to spend their hard-earned money for a product they saw on the Net was tough but I persevered," says Anand, whose company already has over three lakh distributors and an equal number of buyers.

He narrates an example where a well-known company in the business of bicycles challenged him to sell 30 cycles on the Net in three months. "I sold nearly 2,700 in one month alone," he tells us.

Anand has collaborated directly with companies like LG, Electrolux, Samsung to name just a few and is busy packing plasma television sets, air conditioners, laptops, microwaves and many more electronic gadgets to far-flung areas in India especially in regions of Bihar, UP and Rajasthan.

While eBay gives customers the option to pay by cash, cheque, demand draft or even by credit card, at mahamaza.com only demand drafts can be made. Moreover, at eBay.com wherein customers can bid for products listed under the 'easy buy' category, at mahamaza.com there's no such option.

In Bajaj's view, "The bid-and-win section is extremely popular with Netizens and it's a fantastic approach to lure them into checking out a wider range of products on our site." Sudhir Mishra, an avid net shopper from Lucknow, says, "I was a bit scared initially but gradually I have developed the confidence to shop online."

Bajaj feels, "Shopping on the Net is very safe and plastic money fares better online than offline." As a seller, Jain too has been witnessing a change. "Earlier, people were calling me and sending me cheques. Now, most of my regular customers don't have any qualms about typing the 16-digit number of their credit cards," he says.

Anand admits he's still learning through mistakes he committed in the initial years. "One family was shocked when their product was delivered at the door-step as they'd clicked on my website just for fun." Taking note of this, mahamaza.com started taking 100 per cent advance.

Meanwhile, we've clicked on a furniture product on eBay and are awaiting the result with crossed fingers.

Click-list

  • While buying any product make sure the seller is authentic
  • Check the feedback listing and run through what buyers have to say about the seller. It helps
  • Don't do Net-shopping for fun, if you're not sure of a product, don't buy it
  • If you're shopping for the first time on the Net, it's safer to purchase a product that doesn't cost too much
  • Call up the seller after you've decided to purchase a product. Find out all details regarding the product


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