Friday 20 December 2019

E-commerce: Market empowering force for retail industry

E-commerce: Market empowering force for retail industryBy Rajneesh Kumar

With India’s retail industry set to be worth $1.2 trillion by 2021, the country’s job-creating segment of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) needs new ways to capitalise on this momentum. For new-age retailers, the solution is evident: ecommerce.

The marketplace model of ecommerce is designed to specifically empower local businesses, particularly MSMEs, artisans and traders, allowing them to benefit from economies of scale and access a pan-India customer base in an efficient, cost-effective and transparent manner. During the Diwali season, many online sellers saw 4-5 times growth over the month-long period. Lakhs of jobs were created to support the ecosystem backed by robust technological innovation.

The platform is also no more limited to traditional MSMEs. Backing by deep investments to develop digital infrastructure and skills, and support by policies and integration of MSMEs into the value chain have enabled an enhanced market access opportunity. New livelihood opportunities for lakhs across the value chain include jobs in management, analytics, research and logistics. With data and mobile phones becoming more affordable, India’s 700 million-strong rural population is being exposed to a wider variety of media shaping their buying habits, pushing them from being essentialsoriented to more aspirational. This trend is helping the adoption of ecommerce outside metros, connecting MSMEs with a diversified, heterogeneous and fast-growing customer base that best represents ‘Naya India’.

Availability of ecommerce apps in regional languages is further democratising ecommerce. Selling online offsets costs of maintaining a physical store, with fewer overheads and less capital outlay. Small enterprises and artisans can move beyond their local communities and fetch prices that truly reflect the worth of their efforts. They can also leverage the expertise of online marketplaces in supply chain and logistics. In addition, sellers increase their own convenience and autonomy by selling online, setting their own business hours.

One of the greatest benefits is how platforms share customer feedback and search trends to help identify market gaps and new business opportunities for sellers. Sellers are then able to tailor their products to better suit customer needs and build salience for their brands. Often, the process of recovering payments for offline businesses can be tedious. With online marketplaces, this is taken care of by the platform — the process is automated and reliable, with clear redressal mechanisms. This transparency and fairness eases what would otherwise be a significant burden on asmall retailer.

Currently, ecommerce represents only a tiny 3% of the overall $650-odd billion Indian retail industry. But as its popularity grows, it is opening up opportunities for several underserved sections of society, allowing them to participate and contribute to India’s formal economy. Ecommerce makes retail accessible to women, rural and young entrepreneurs, as well as marginalised artisan communities, expanding the overall industry. Technology and innovation, coupled with a tried-and-tested model that is scalable like that of ecommerce, bring tremendous value to India’s growth story. It is a true example of the potential of partnership between various industries.

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