Archive for December, 2011
How many of you order online for movie tickets, books, electronics or pizza these days? Compare that with few years ago, the patterns have changed haven’t they? It is like when ATM’s were first launched, nobody went to the machine to withdraw cash, interacting with a teller was preferred, until the trust in the technology grew and people started lining up at the ATM’s instead. It is the classic case of Tipping Point, after which a large majority accepts a new trend or technology.
These are exciting times we’re living in, with the Indian Internet Subcriber base touching 100 million and Mobile Subscriber base growing at exponential rate, they are converging together to form a force of tech-happy consumers. The e-Commerce story in India has been interesting, from introducing ‘Cash on Delivery’, the game of reviews, online payment options and adapting to Social Media. New websites are being launched everyday to compete with the big players in the arena. The Great Indian e-Commerce Dream is slowly Becoming a Reality, or is it? This is what we set out to discuss at the 85th Social Media Breakfast (New Delhi), to understand the evolution of Online Retail in India, starting from early days and taking it to the future.
Those were the days
Back in decade, e-Commerce story in India had just started, the focus was at serving foreign customers shipping products in India. The US to India flow of gifts, India to India ordering and shipping was rare, with VPP as popular option for payment/shipping. The internet penetration in India being the reason for this sluggish growth.
Back to the present
Internet subscriber base has touched 100 million and growing by the day, consumer confidence is increasing in online payments and more players are joining the game, a classic case of industry wide growth. Though Mani Singh pointed out that its becoming a sellers market with increasing numbers. Even though customer expectations are more realistic now compared to the past, expectations of discount with every purchase are common. With new players entering the online retail arena everyday, the noise has increased as well.
Ravi Mathur and Kaushik Pal echoed an interesting observation – a customer today is more educated about products than the salesperson. I remember this from last week, when I saw a teenager arguing with the salesman at a popular electronic store about specifications of an upcoming smartphone. With un-boxing videos and tech reviews becoming popular on video, its making an informed customer out of everyday Joe.
Kartik Suri shared his experience from Frankfurt Book Fair (Germany) this year, that bookstores are fast becoming showrooms for new titles and authors interactions, and book sales are happening mostly online.
With the mobile smartphone users increasing, perhaps we’ll see mobile based retail like what this South Korean campaign did. Other popular trends like group buying and mobile commerce are waiting to be ignited in the Indian online space as well.
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We’ve seen it in the news, streams on facebook walls and discussion over the watercooler. It is quite a debate on censoring Social Media. With ruling politicians in India (Kapil Sibal) making noise on it, international reactions from Ban Ki Moon (current Secretary-General of the United Nations) and Hillary Clinton voicing opinions on it. It is interesting to note that World’s largest democracy is engaging in battles over the future of how information can be monitored and circulated online. This was the hot topic at the 84th Social Media Breakfast in New Delhi. Our aim was to stir up a discussion, and look at the current evolution of Social Media as a platform to communicate.
The Meetup turned out as expected, a divided house on the issue of Social Censorship in India, though towards the end we agreed to have a consensus on having a user poll to determine the winner. Social Media unlike the traditional media channels is wildly democratic, everyone has a voice and the source of stories get lost when it receives the viral status. You cannot ban people from expressing or censor if they have something to say.
With great power comes great responsibility
Was Spiderman right in saying this? Social Media is giving powerful tools to the people to communicate, to voice their opinions, share their ideas and biases at the same time. Its a wildly democratic new kind of online society building up, which can topple governments, bring big brands to task, can cause riots and can spread the viral love. On one hand, someone morphs pictures of sacred religious figures in one part of the world, and riots break out on the other side of the globe. On other hand, funny videos bring everyone together in one great viral glue. The world has never seen sharing information at this speed, evident from the fact that governments are figuring ways out to control this beast. China on one side are clear about their censorship policies, companies not complying with them are shown the door (Google). Countries like India are still figuring out what to do with this monster, which looks like the tip of an iceberg.
So we reached a consensus
With the discussion divided on the issue of censoring or monitoring social media, we did agree that the framework to prevent abuse on Social Media must evolve organically. If some users can abuse the medium, others can clean it. It was decided to have a user poll by way of this post, both views are expressed below, What do you think?
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