New Delhi/Bengaluru: Google India has decided to end its annual sale event Great Online Shopping Festival (GOSF), once the biggest sale event of the year for all online retailers, highlighting the fractious relationships among e-commerce firms as well as the declining appeal of such events in a market where deep discounts are the norm through the year.

According to two people aware of the matter, many e-commerce firms, including Flipkart and Snapdeal, showed no interest in participating in this year’s GOSF because of the high costs involved. According to them, last year, GOSF partners were expected to spend at least $2 million each on Google Display Network, social media and online videos.

GOSF was launched in 2012 and until last year, it was the single-most important sale event in e-commerce, helping online retailers pull in record sales and acquire new customers.

Starting last year, however, e-commerce firms, flush with fresh funds, shifted the action to Diwali, when shoppers typically spend freely on phones, clothes, shoes and other products. Flipkart, India’s largest online retailer, pulled out of last year’s GOSF after the bumper sales it generated during its Big Billion Day sale in October and in the weeks following it. The company also ran its own discount fest, Big App Sale, competing with GOSF last December.

This year, too, most large e-commerce firms including Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal and Shopclues launched sales before Diwali; these sale events will continue into 2016. With shoppers used to discounts of anywhere between 30% and 80% through the year, industry-wide sale events such as GOSF have lost their lustre.

It is also tough to unite bitter rivals Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal. These companies often take potshots at each other and are involved in a bruising, high-stakes war for dominance of India’s fast-growing e-commerce market.

Google India claims GOSF wasn’t planned to be a long-term event.

The objective of GOSF was to create awareness among consumers and build an ecosystem for merchants to attract new customers, said Nitin Bawankule, industry director, e-commerce, local and classified, at Google India. “Today the top three players have their own sales. India has many flourishing and successful e-commerce companies and there are multiple deal days being hosted by various e-commerce players delivering great value to shoppers across India. Users don’t have to wait for 12 months to get the best deals online, small and medium businesses no longer have to wait for www.gosf.in to find customers from all across India," Bawankule wrote in a blogpost.

Started in 2012, GOSF was one of the biggest e-commerce initiatives by Google. The concept was inspired by US’s Cyber Monday and every year Google tied up with hundreds of offline brands and e-commerce portals which offered discounts to online shoppers. Google managed to build a strong brand with GOSF. The initiative saw tremendous response, with most firms seeing over 350% growth in daily sales.

“Though we knew beforehand that Google was debating whether to go ahead with GOSF this year, we were a little surprised with the news too. The festival had gained popularity as it bought key players under one roof and offered discounts and deals across partner retailers as a medium to attract new users. Considering that GOSF did very well last year, we were expecting similar traction this year as well," said Rohan Bhargava, co-founder of Cashkaro.com, a cashback website.

Google too, saw a massive jump in number of retailers joining GOSF; in 2012 the number was about 90, which jumped to around 240 in 2013 and more than 550 in 2014.

According to Bawankule’s blogpost, India in 2012 had 130 million Internet users with only 8 million shopping online, and the total online shopping Industry was worth about $2 billion. Today, India has over 350 million Internet users, over 50 million online shoppers projected to reach 100 million by 2016, and the industry is already worth over $10 billion.

“We will continue to invest in initiatives to empower small and medium businesses and work along with the industry to make Internet a growth engine for the country," Bawankule said.

After GOSF’s success, Google launched similar initiatives in Israel and Singapore last year.

India is largely following the footsteps of China where individual sale events like Alibaba’s Singles’ Day are well received by the consumers rather than a large common platform.

Flipkart Ltd reported more than $300 million in value of goods sold over five days during its app sale in October.

Online fashion retailer Myntra, owned by Flipkart, also saw a fourfold jump in the value of goods sold during the week of sale.

Amazon India (owned by Amazon Seller Services Pvt. Ltd), too, reported a fivefold increase in the number of new customers on its site, compared with traffic on a non-sale day.

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