Sunday, December 11, 2011

On Retail

Swaminathan S Aiyar often has this knack of generating "Eureka" moments for readers. Well, I will speak for myself here. I used to a regular reader of his columns in the olden days of print only, but these days, I prefer to use twitter to pick and choose my readings - and I was pleasantly surprised to see another one in this column.

He argues that online shopping is the real threat to small shopkeepers, not necessarily big hypermarkets and he actually argues that nobody can actually stop it.

I am not sure about it in entirety, but then who can be "sure" about anything (usually 100% surety is surely wrong). But anyway, the Eureka moment was how he calls big box hypermarkers as 20th century and he uses the Thanksgiving data in the US to drive home his point.

And that part surely rings true. I am a big fan of online shopping. For one it allows me to shop in remote and get someone to deliver for one. It also gives one access to all ranges and sizes - which may or may not be available in that specific shop that you happen to reach. It also allows one to reach retailers and products you might otherwise find it difficult to reach.  It saves time - so if or someone is on a short trip, all I need to order my stuff and await delivery. I have tried all of these and I totally love it. But most of that is in the US context.

In India, I am a big fan of Flipkart - and it is worth checking if all bookstores are reporting the kind of numbers they do. Also, Amar Chitra Katha which is not always available in all shops (for god knows what reason). We are still some distance away from getting to big online shopping like the US - though much of KSRTC and Indian Railways and other travel stuff is best done online.

But whatever it is, he is right on the fact that indeed online shopping is the future (rather present). Also, why should a retail chain invest in costly land and people when it can all be done with a smooth online experience.  And why should we have to drive down someplace, search for parking, wait for billing - retail experience sucks in most places. So, more power to this idea and as long as the Maomatas of the world keep opposing FDI in retail and ignore online shopping, great for customers!

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