Research estimates by KPMG and the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) suggest India had 137 million internet users last year.
But, despite the e-commerce boom, the number of online buyers in the country constitute less than one-fifth at 25 million. Compared with US and China, where online buyers make up roughly half of the total internet user base, in India the number is minuscule (see table).
This despite the surge in e-commerce sites like Flipkart, Myntra, Jabong, Snapdeal and Tradus that lure shoppers with multiple discounts, cash-on-delivery, no-questions-asked return policy, free shipping etc.
“This shows there is a long way to go for e-commerce players before they can attract a larger share of internet users,” says Harminder Sahni, managing director, consultancy firm Wazir Advisors.
Experts say despite an offering that spans every product category, there are still more brands and non-branded products that have still not made it to the online platform.
“E-commerce sites need to improve their product mix and give more options to convert internet users into online shoppers. Something like exclusive online stores for brands that display the brand in its full glory can perhaps attract some more customers,” says Sahni.
Last week, key e-commerce companies Myntra and Jabong raised money from investors to spruce up their talent, technology and supply-chain platforms.
“There is huge potential for e-shopping in India,” says Praveen Sinha, co-founder, Jabong.com.
But Meghana Virdhe, a marketing professional who spends at least two-three hours everyday “just being online”, admits she has “never made any online purchase.”
28-year-old Virdhe says despite glancing through some e-commerce sites, “I have not felt excited enough to make a purchase. I prefer walking in stores, personally going through the range on offer, touch and feel, and then make a buying decision.”
Retail experts say despite the convenience of placing orders through smartphones and laptops, there is still a segment of net users that is hesitant to strike an online deal.
“It is for companies now to break this inertia by coming out with something more than what they already offer,” says Sahni.