It’s difficult to say exactly what is happening on the online shopping scene. To an outsider, it may appear like everyone at the party has had one flute of champagne too many. Analysts are gung-ho, private equity (PE) investors are going delirious writing cheques for online shopping businesses, and connected shoppers are lining up everywhere.
A report by industry body Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) and advisory firm Forrester, released last year, said e-commerce revenue in India would vault from $1.6 billion (around Rs.8,690 crore) in 2012 to $8.8 billion by 2016. Auditing firm KPMG says e-commerce investments were $242 million in the first four months of 2012 alone compared with $467 million for the whole of 2011. We are seeing the results of those investments just about now.
Some of those investments have tanked and some major e-commerce websites are running in the red, but the overall sentiment is positive. Google, in a study released in February, suggested the online shopping fever would only grow. Online shopping in India, the study said, grew by 128% in 2012 compared with 2011 and nine out of 10 online shoppers were going to spend more in 2013 as compared to 2012. What’s happening? Where are all these shoppers coming from? What are they buying? What’s online that you can’t get offline? Are you one of the few missing all the action?
There are all kinds of answers available, depending on the analyst you turn to or which online guru gives you gyan. But think about this: 18 years ago, Amazon went online, marking a watershed in shopping history. Amazon changed the way we shop.
Today, Amazon has redefined shopping for an entire generation, with thousands of online stores popping up, catering to every demand, lifestyle and price point. Today’s 18-year-olds have all been brought up in a world where online shopping is a natural way of life. They were born with it. Nitin Purswani, the Mumbai-based founder of Zepo Technologies (www.zepo.in), discovered a business opportunity in this. Zepo helps young entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) set up an online store with credit card payment facilities in literally a couple of hours, without having to step out of their homes.
“We made it easy for anyone to have an online store with a few clicks, without the need for technical knowledge,” says Purswani. Today, Zepo supports stores selling everything from coffee to prasad from places like Shirdi, Varanasi, Vrindavan and Mata Vaishno Devi, giving us an insight into the online shopping madness. Other companies like MartJack (www.martjack.com) and BuildaBazaar (www.buildabazaar.com) have corporate customers like Videocon, Wildcraft, Crossword and VIP using their online service to create instant online stores. These services are designed for use by business and not IT teams. They include online promotions, social media integration and mobile enablement.
Online offers innovative ways to shop and sell. There is collective buying, bidding, barter, second-hand stuff, last-minute pricing and discounts, and sellers can create an account on eBay or create their own personalized stores using a service like MartJack or BuildaBazaar.
We suspect your shopping habits will reflect the national trend: Apparel and accessories with electronics, baby products, home décor, furnishing, healthcare, nutrition and travel will be category leaders. But there is a lot of unusual stuff out there that we thought you’d love to buy. Where can you find the hip, crazy and wild? The stuff that makes life fun, interesting and exciting?
Here is what we did. We went shopping for you, stuffing our bag—and sometimes our imagination—with things you’d often be hard-pressed to find offline, all from Indian online stores. Take a look at what we found:
Straight away, let’s go over the top here. Exciting Lives has a jet fighter that you could fly. No previous flying experience required. Price: Rs.1.75 lakh a flight. The site features other exotic shopping options. There is down-to-earth stuff like flowers, mugs, gadgets and games as well. But c’mon, you can find those anywhere.
The Yellow Cycle
We loved the idea of being mentored by a top chef (offered only in Bangalore). It costs Rs.5,800, plus taxes, per person. You can pick from a range of cuisines and the meal for two that finally appears will be served to you and a guest of your choice. The Yellow Cycle offers several other unique experiences, such as a session with an image consultant.
Ever tried the sweet pleasures of body paint? Write a poem on your loved one with chocolate frosting for Rs.1,125. That’s Personal features other naughty stuff, from postcards to panties.
These are T-shirts that are flashy—and you should take that literally. Get togged up in a T-shirt that has a flashing LED panel on the front. Choose from an Apple logo to MTV, to droids from the Android logo and dozens more for Rs.749. It works on 4 AAA batteries. Xtees features regular T-shirts and others that can be personalized too.
This has to be the wackiest and most adorable collection of vividly Indian tees, boxer shorts, bags, zipper pulls, charms, USB keys, wrapping paper, handmade soap, fridge magnets, laptop sleeves, luggage tags, tins and a real assortment of things you cannot imagine. From Rs.70-1,350.
Off to a party? Want to team that sleek black dress with a flouncy hot pink feather boa? Or want funky eye masks, green hair spray, or decorations for your retro party theme? Sure, Dhol Dhamaka doesn’t do the most elegant props for a party, but they are cheap, fun, use-and-throw things that evoke a laugh, and are priced upwards of Rs.24.
Arun Katiyar is a content and communication consultant with a focus on technology companies. He is a published author with HarperCollins and has extensive media experience spanning music, print, radio, the Internet and mobile phones.
Disclosure: Arun Katiyar consults for One97Mobility Fund that has an investment in Zepo.