Friday, August 20, 2010

E-commerce in India

Nice post at VC Circle on a meet discussing the e-commerce situation in India and whethere it is at an inflection point. It is reflective of how my e-com experiences have been in India.

A few years ago, a friend of mine ordered one of those fancy massage gadgets from one of those online portals whose design goes from bad to worse with each redesign. We had to collect the parcel from the nearby post office. Collect it, we did and we surprised. Except when opened the
packet, it was broken into a couple of pieces and there was some clause about them not being responsible for damage enroute. Chastened by that experience first I was glad it wasn't me and then I vowed never to buy anything online.

Then a few years later, I had some points which I could redeem and I ordered a book that took half a million emails and phone calls and then some more effort akin to fighting a lion barehanded. It arrived within my lifespan and I was glad that I did arrive. Online buying seemed to be like those the photographers who promised to take pictures of you at tourist spots and send it by post - and rarely did.

In India the rule of thumb was that anything that you paid money upfront carried a risk of non delivery. Even shares.

Much water has flown under the bridge since then. And online is still far from becoming a way of life, but there are a good set of trusted service providers.

In my mind, ICICI and IRCTC were the prime reasons for building trust in online services. To this, a third element - credit card and ATM cards - have played a role in making online successful.

The first tickets I booked on IRCTC were delivered in a customized envelope within two working days and it surprised the hell out of me - I never visited a railway station for booking since then.

ICICI bank seemed to have a neat online interface (not the best, but any online interface beats going to the bank) and ICICI direct worked very well too. My dad reconciled each ATM transaction with his bank statement and satisfying himself that the banks did not debit him something he had not withdrawn.

Today most tickets can be booked online, including movie tickets. Flipkart is very good with books (havent tried their mobile phones though). Banking is almost entirely online and I hate it when I need to go to the bank - the live customer service experience is inevitably worse than the online one. This is true in general for most other interactions I guess.

But I am of the generation that took the e-commerce easily. But I am not entirely sure about m-commerce yet! Thats a generation gap? Perhaps

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