The continuing growth of e-commerce is among India’s biggest success stories in recent decades, significant for its scale and deep-reaching impact. With a turnover of USD 50 billion, India was the eighth-largest market for e-commerce in the world in 2020. According to the India Brand Equity Foundation, India’s e-commerce market is expected to touch USD 111 billion by 2024, USD 200 billion by 2026, and USD 350 billion by 2030 – a growth helped by the increasing traction for online fashion and grocery in the past few years.
As of last year, India had the third largest base of online shoppers in the world. This could double to 350 million by FY26 with the addition of a a large number of sellers and customers from not only urban but also semi-urban and rural markets. Looking at the steep growth in online shoppers, India is well poised to surpass the US to have the second-largest shopper base in the next one to two years, states a recent report by Bain & Company.
Factors contributing to the booming e-commerce growth
E-commerce has become popular in smaller towns and cities (Tier - 2,3,4, and beyond) with the continuing rise in smartphone penetration and digital literacy. Consumers prefer the convenience of having things delivered to their doorstep. E-retail growth has provided sellers, including those in small cities, access to a broader shopper base.
E-commerce has made it more inclusive for customers across socio-economic backgrounds with the help of user-friendly apps and interfaces; support for Indian languages; features such as voice-assisted navigation; and prompt resolution of consumer complaints. It has also become more affordable with the introduction of financial constructs such as EMIs, Buy-Now-Pay-Later, and reward programs, and the inclusion of widely used payment methods and platforms such as UPI, and co-branded credit cards apart from cash on delivery. Today, e-commerce serves nearly all the PIN codes in the country, bridging geographic, linguistic, and social divides along the way, and fulfilling the lifestyle aspirations of millions with a wide selection of products by local as well as global products and brands. With all this, Seller growth in India has outpaced e-retail growth, with the number of sellers increasing by 35 per cent annually over the past year, with approximately 40% of new sellers coming from tier-2 or smaller cities.
The success of e-commerce in linking Bharat to India can also be attributed to government initiatives such as Digital India, Skill India, Startup India, Make in India, and JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhaar, and mobile) trinity. Last year, the government proposed a plan to develop modern warehousing zones through the public-private partnership model. These warehouses will include cold-storage facilities – an essential element in the supply chain of e-commerce platforms offering foods, beverages, medicines, and healthcare products.
How e-commerce empowers sellers, helps in nation-building
The essential element driving the growth of commerce is the trust that online marketplaces and e-commerce platforms have earned amongst micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and entrepreneurs – two of the key contributors to our economy. What is truly driving the growth of e-commerce is the trust that online marketplaces and e-commerce platforms have earned amongst micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and entrepreneurs, two of the key contributors to our economy. It may be noted that while 4,06,936 MSE sellers and service providers were registered on the government-promoted GeM portal at the end of March 2021, this number grew to 7,41,756 in a year, a growth of a whopping 82 per cent.
E-commerce has given them a platform to take their offerings to a pan-India market and earn higher incomes. Making the transition from traditional offline operations to a technology-enabled online business requires some adjustments, and the good news is that it is very easy to adopt. Moreover, most e-commerce players provide handholding and training related to onboarding and cataloging, as well as strategic guidance to scale the business online. Many offer skill development training during the course of their association. When it comes to growing their business, Indian MSMEs are often impeded by the management of cash inflow and planning of adequate financing. E-commerce players ensure payments are made quickly on receiving the orders thereby solving for a reliable and faster cash flow. Many of them conduct training programs to educate sellers on best practices for efficient and profitable business operations. Some MSMEs find themselves unable to borrow from the organized financial sector owing to the procedures involved, while the informal financial sector is unreliable. In their bid to embrace more and more MSMEs, some of the leading ecommerce players have sought to address this issue by facilitating easy access to credit through trusted lenders and fintech platforms.
E-commerce is enabling greater participation of female sellers and underserved sections of society in the mainstream economy. E-commerce has provided them with the means to lead a financially independent life of respect and dignity. The female founders of homegrown brands such as Rudraaksha (women’s western wear), Urbano Fashion (men’s and kids’ wear), Ritupal Collections (handbags), and InternationalDesi (wrist watches) are among the many who testify to the role that ecommerce has played in giving wings to their dreams. Government programs such as the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Rural Livelihood Mission (DAY-NRLM) program, too, have helped in bringing lakhs of artisans, women-led local businesses, and self-help groups into the ecommerce fold. Products made by SHGs find considerable interest among consumers, and ecommerce platforms are a very effective way of showcasing them to the masses.
Ecommerce companies, owing to the spread of their operations across several allied industries, sectors, stakeholders, and communities, are well positioned to enable market access for underserved and underrepresented sections of society and create growth opportunities for entrepreneurship, livelihood, skill development, and community development – all of which are important from the point of nation-building and driving social development and economic growth.
As the demand around the festive season spirals, the role of ecommerce in galvanizing innovation, partnerships, and social harmony becomes even more evident. Festivals are often the biggest single-day revenue earners for MSMEs and sellers. With consumer sentiment and product demand peaking in this period, all members of the ecommerce ecosystem – including sellers, logistics partners, supply chain and corporate teams – work even more closely with each other to deliver the best experiences and maximize revenue. It is as good a time as any to see the role that individual stakeholders play in making it all possible, and how ecommerce, in turn, creates value for millions of consumers and sellers.
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