That time of year is back. The season of joy and celebration beckons consumers to spend. This year, traditional retailers will face stiff competition from emerging e-retailing sites. Among the first e-commerce groups to cash in on the festive season are group buying sites, which sell a host of products online, which are rapidly expanding their reach in India.
The three months from October to December is the period when consumers across the country love to spend owing to festivals like Dussehra and Diwali. According to Ravi Vora, Vice President of marketing at Flipkart.com, this quarter of the financial year is the most anticipated period by all the traditional as well as virtual retailers as there is a spike in demand for almost all the products in the market.
The buzz-generating online retail site Flipkart.com, which earlier this year became the first Indian Internet company to receive a $1 billion valuation, plans to introduce new categories for DVD players and home theatres.
"We are also launching a Diwali special ad campaign and already many firms based in Bangalore have approached us for special deals in gift vouchers for their employees," says Vora.
"We are expecting a 30 per cent increase in the number of offers availed by customers this season. We are rapidly diversifying our product section," says Sandeep Komaravelly, head of marketing at Snapdeal.com, a group buying site that offers customers deals, or discounts, on products. Snapdeal gets 1.5 million unique visitors a month.
Even though internet penetration in India remains minimal at about 8 per cent of the population, strong e-commerce sites can expect robust growth this quarter, says industry watchers.
"The most vibrant of the e-commerce sites can expect an average of 60 per cent growth, quarter on quarter," says Harish Bijoor, CEO of Harish Bijoor Consults, a consulting firm that specializes in brand and business strategy.
Tradus.in, a venture of Indian social networking site ibibo.com, wants to double their non-books catalogue this season.
"This is the second festive season for us and the trend of gifting is going up year by year. We are also adding 50 per cent of our total workforce in the next three months," says Rahul Sethi, President, e-commerce, at ibibo Web Pvt. Ltd.
For Ferns n Petals, an online florist and gift retailer, Diwali is the biggest occasion after Valentine's Day and Rakshabandhan, says its CEO Pawan Gadia.
Many group buying sites target NRI customers who want to buy gifts for relatives around the world.
"I think these companies should focus more on the NRI consumers, as lot of people want to gift something to their relatives back home," says Shaily Shah, a research analyst at Gartner, an IT research and advisory firm.
Travel sites also see a surge in customers.
"We also offer 'value packs' on some of our packages. So if a customer purchases a holiday package from us before a particular date, he/she is eligible for a value pack with benefits such a free sightseeing, meal coupons, etc," says Manish Kalra, Marketing Head of Makemytrip.com.
According to a recent report 'E-commerce Market in India', published by IAMAI (Internet and Mobile Association of India), the internet commerce industry in India is estimated to grow by 47 per cent and reach Rs 46,520 crore by the end of 2011. The size of the e-commerce market was Rs 19,688 crore in 2009, and was estimated to be around Rs 31, 598 crore in 2010.
Relatively new entrants like Synergy coupons.com are also trying to woo a growing base of e-commerce customers by introducing unique tools.
"We are the only company in India to introduce mobile apps which can be downloaded from our site, through which our customer can browse and buy deals," says Ajit Chauhan, Director of Synergy Promotions and Marketing.
And if one wants to share the joy and prosperity, he or she can log on to the website of Child Rights and You (CRY), where they can contribute to society by buying the products on sale. Proceeds go to charity. Priya Patil, General Manager of resource development at CRY, says, "The funds thus raised will go to child rights' projects spread across 6700 villages and slums of India."