Sunday, April 29, 2012

E-Commerce India - Health, Fitness, Personal Care and Beauty Products Online

quote about misery and beauty by anne frank
With better education, burgeoning economy and increased disposable income, people in India are looking at health, fitness and beauty more consciously. Health is certainly a top-priority for any family member and especially the bread winner. Fitness, which was perceived to be more for the Bollywood and Cricket stars, is understood as state of mind and body for one and all. Beauty is associated with both women and men these days.

Traditionally, people were used to more physical hard work and the fitness levels were obviously high. As the options to travel and eat-out were limited, the scope to become ill has come down (or rather increased?). Consulting a doctor and a pathologist, if something is perceived to be not right, used to be a norm.

In modern days, checking blood pressure and diabetes is a child's play and no one bothers to see a doctor for the same. There are self-use devices, which can help with the task. These devices were available only outside India a few years back, but they are available even online now.

Oral hygiene and Eye Care are the terms that one learn feverishly for exams during school days and forgets them conveniently till they hear about the word 'Insurance'. There are e-commerce sites like HealthKart which offer these products online now.

Beauty and personal care products were available only in cities some time  back. But things have changed:
  • Make-up is not meant only for occasions like marriage, it's a daily need especially for corporate women.
  • Thanks to advertisements, people are conscious about dandruff and hair-fall; hair-care is a commonly used word now.
  • Who wouldn't want a smooth and fair skin? Special skin-care is a necessity for many.
  • Bath is becoming more of a pleasure activity with bath-tubs, body oils, bath-gels and bath bubbles.
  • While showing respect by touching feet is declining, ironically there are plenty of products available to pamper one's feet - like feet scrub, insoles, gels, powders and stones.

With growing needs across different segments (men, women, seniors) in the country, there was a good business case to setup online stores with the beauty and personal care products. Websites like 365Gorgeous and MedPlusBeauty offer products for medical and beauty purposes.

There is no denial that human body needs proteins, minerals and vitamins for efficient functioning of all the organs. People are taking to the gyms to improve their body fitness (maintain body mass index, reduce body fat, improve stamina) for longevity with little illness. There is increasing awareness about taking extra nutrients before and after regular exercises to reach fitness goals. There are sites like MyNutraMart, which sell these nutrient supplements online.

If I am a frequent user of certain beauty, fitness, personal care or medical products (not regular medicines, but the ones available online without prescription), there is comfort and convenience to order them online every time. Is it not?

Friday, April 27, 2012

E-Commerce in India - Buy Electronics (Gadgets, Computers, Home Appliances) Online

man vs computer - a quote by william kelly
India is certainly not a manufacturing hub for electronics. But when it comes to leveraging gadgets and other electronics, Indians are tech savvy and consume electronics to the best of its availability. Though the advancements in terms of technology usage are not at the same level as in developed countries, the interest and enthusiasm is much more.

In the new millennium, people have adopted using computers not just for work but also for infotainment purpose at home. Laptops and Notebooks have gained popularity in the households. With the evolution of such devices into convenient, easy-to-use and one-for-all-purpose Tablets, such gadgets are known to one and all. Photography is a hobby for many and travel-bugs are doubling as shutter-bugs. Featured phones are out and smartphones are trendy. Washing machines are replacing maids. TVs and Refrigerators are 'needs' rather than 'wants'.

Where would one buy these gadgets? With improvement in dealer and distributor network across India, folks in tier-3 and lower also have opportunities to buy some of the electronic items locally. There are many secret places where people get 'good deals', but the genuineness and warranty would not be available in such cases. People are shying away from such places for obvious reasons and adopting to online world for good bargains.

Online e-commerce stores have improved from payment (more payment options, less declines), shipping (remote places are no more 'remote') and policies (free return in many cases - no questions asked) perspective. Buying big & heavy (washing machine) or expensive (Laptops and Cameras) electronic items online is no more an issue. Sit at home, explore, research, compare prices and buy the best possible electronic item that fits your requirements and budget.

Here are some options to buy electronic items online.

Online Exclusive Electronic stores
Online Shopping Malls selling Electronics
Online Deals for Electronics
Price Comparison for Electronics Online
Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Sites for Electronics Purchase

Players like Apple are releasing latest products in India more or less simultaneously when they launch them elsewhere in the world.  There is plenty of choice and feast for the gadget freaks. If 'electronic' items are not sold through 'electronic commerce', what else will? :-)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

E-Commerce India - Buy Gold and Jewellery online

stars gold digging and opportunities
Traditionally, Indians love to buy gold in the form of Jewellery. Not just women but also men wear them as ornaments on their body. It is a custom to adorn women during marriage with Gold Jewellery. The bride carries the gold along with her and that gets passed to the next generation for a similar purpose. The quest for gold had never ceased to excite people in India. No wonder, India is the largest importer of Gold in the world !

For all practical purposes, people purchase gold from neighborhood Jewellery shops in the form of ornaments or pure gold as bars and coins. This involves multiple visits to different shops and cost comparisons (making charges, wastage charges, stone charges, taxes etc) across all these shops. In modern days, gold is purchased not just for ornaments, but also from an investment perspective and to hedge against inflation. This led to purchase of pure gold in the form of bars and coins from even banks and post offices. With increase in demand, finance gurus have come-up with innovative products around gold - like e-Gold and Exchange Traded Fund (ETF).

Interestingly, gold can be purchased in different formats from different online sources - thanks to technology !

Gold and Diamond Jewellery
Yes, Jewellery can be bought online. There are online stores like Bluestone and CaratLane, which offer extensive collection of earrings, bracelets, rings and pendants. With wide range of collection and better pricing options, people are not hesitating to buy online from these e-stores. Branded Jewellery stores like Tanishq also provide online buying options.
Bars and Coins
If one is interested to buy gold for future use or hedge against inflation, then one would select this option. One can buy such gold bars or coins from traditional Jewellery stores. But they can also be purchased online from banks like ICICI these days.
If you are concerned about keeping the pure gold safe once you buy the same, you can even buy it online and keep it safe with a custodian. National Spot Exchange Limited (NSEL) offers the facility to not only buy the gold online but also keep it in the demat format, unless we need delivery.
Exchange Traded Funds (ETF)
If one is looking at gold as a pure investment option, buying it in paper format is not a bad idea at all. In case of Gold ETFs, a fund house purchases gold on behalf of investors money and makes it available for trade on exchange. National Stock Exchange (NSE) provides such a facility for investors and traders in Gold.
Gold Futures
If one is interested in hedging their investments against inflation, he or she can purchase gold in the Futures Market online. MCX exchange provides a platform to trade in such gold futures.

With standards and transparency available in different channels, purchasing gold online is becoming a genuine option for customers. Once the trust is established, online Jewellery stores must be laughing all the way to the bank. Retailers must be happy to get a good bargain - be it Akshaya Tritiya or Marriage !

Apparently, if lot of e-commerce customers buy gold online, then the same customers would not think twice to buy low-priced daily-use commodities like Vegetables, Groceries and Apparel online. Is it not ?

Monday, April 23, 2012

E-Commerce India - There's an online portal for every kind of Job

a quote on working hours by robert frost
From agriculture dominant country, India has moved to services domain in a couple of decades. One of the barometers of economic development is the employment growth across all sectors. With 6-9% growth in GDP in the last two decades, people were fortunate to find all sorts of jobs across country. With colleges in different regions, talent in pockets for certain areas, skills in abundance in a few states and opportunities galore far and wide, how would people find suitable jobs even if they are aplenty?

Applying technology, job portals have come to the rescue. Due to growth of Information Technology (IT) sector in the new millennium, people were aware mainly of these IT job portals, but there exist a portal for every possible type of job. Here are some of those portals which made finding jobs easy on the Internet.

Provides an opportunity to post resume for jobs across different industries / sectors and designations. Most of them started with the IT job opportunities but expanded to all other domains. Each of them must be having millions of resumes in the repository. These portals also offer simple services like resume development, provide information about different professions and salary level validation.
If you are looking for a maid, driver , cook or cashier, this is the specialized portal to visit.  There is a provision of police verification and health insurance check of job seekers, for the benefit of employers, through their service. Their mission seems to create a positive impact to the 'bottom of the pyramid'.
Candidates fresh out of a college, especially from tier-2 and lower always find it difficult to seek a job.  Recruitment in the campus is not meant for all colleges and even that does not go smooth sometimes. This portal provides an exclusive service to show job opportunities for such freshers, who are ready to conquer the world.
Securing a government job  was the norm with previous generation in India, after gaining a good academic record. If one is interested in such government jobs, this portal seems to provide good help.
If one is more interested to improve their professional network over a period of time and potentially seek a job from employers, this India-based website would be helpful.

I believe there would be lot many specialized job sites in India. The job seekers get to register on these sites for free; the job portals draw their revenues from the employers. It's a win-win situation for all the involved parties.

E-Commerce in India has blossomed with online travel business to start with. After that, online classifieds, especially matrimony and job portals, flourished pretty much. I wonder if all those folks who got a job through any of these job portals take a moment to admire the technology behind the scenes for their success and happiness !

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Digital Education in Schools and Online (Internet) in India

quote on formal and self education
Nobody denies that education is the key to improve standard of living in a society. Not just talks but there is a lot of action around education ecosystem in India.

Right to education enactment is going to bring education to the poorer masses. Government, on their part, apart from running public schools, supports mid-day-meal schemes through public-private partnerships in many places.

Social Entrepreneurship and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) are bringing enough change in society through positive contributions to education domain. Distribution of computers and volunteers from corporates teaching kids in rural areas, has brought smiles to many a people's faces.

Non-Government and Non-Profit Organizations are providing a helping hand to educate the folks in rural areas.

The emphasis is more on primary and secondary education as there is a huge school drop-out during school education. Private schools are able to apply the technology better and make a difference. Companies like Educomp and EveronnSystems have brought technology to the classrooms and re-inventing the way subjects are taught in the school. Extensive use of audio-visual aids, especially the animated content, helps student visualize and remember the concepts much better.

Tutions, which are meant to support certain students in their areas of weaknesses have become commonplace. They have become similar to schools in terms of operations and management. There is no comfort and convenience for students who attend these tuitions, as the work load has only increased. With this background, many websites have evolved for online learning- tutorvista, meritnation, extramarks and learningnext. These sites provide extensive study material and online assessment modules, which help students to prepare themselves in chosen subjects of their class, at their own pace. Most of these sites offer modules that are packaged and available for purchase online marking an era of e-commerce in education in India. There are sites which offer online tutoring service as well.

I happened to watch the meritnation advertisement in TV, which prompted me to write on this topic. Their site includes student material for both CBSE and ICSE boards and relate to the school curriculum of these boards. They seem to offer lot of personality improvement tests as well, which includes testing aptitude, skills and interests.

Personally, I prefer that students learn all fundamentals effectively at school and the rest throughout life from books, Internet, social interactions and travel. But the access to wonderful content through any means - TV, Radio or Internet (even through subscriptions like in case of meritnation) - can never be discounted.

With the evolution of personal gadgets (smartphones and tablets) and communication technologies, education in schools and on the Internet is going to change forever in not so distant future !

Friday, April 20, 2012

E-Commerce India - Shop for shoes and socks (footwear) online

I was sad because i had no shoes until i met a person who had no feet
Who buys shoes and socks online? That would theoretically be lot of people - students, professionals and senior citizens; does that not cover the entire population who knows about shoes and socks? :-)

Way back in 80's and 90's, wearing 'canvas' shoes for playing sports at school was a big deal. Students used to get real sports shoes only after going to college. After brands like Reebok, Adidas and Nike arrived in India, there was no stopping of students from buying these brands. Just like any other products, cities were the starting point for shoe sales, but they penetrated into smaller towns also very fast.

Now the same shoes are available online as well in India. There are dedicated online shops which sell shoes only, like BeStylish or Fashos. The latter offers 'personalized' shoe store, which you can customize once and visit every time to check-out the latest that matches your preferences.

There are shoes-only online stores which turned into full-fledge online shopping malls like Yebhi.

There are other lifestyle e-commerce stores like Jabong and Myntra which sell footwear along with apparel and other items.

Branded companies like Bata and PUMA sell their exclusive footwear in their own online stores.

I really wonder how long it takes to get a correct pair of shoes by purchasing them online? As there is a return-offer from literally all the shoe stores, I can order 5 pairs and keep the one that I like most, returning the rest. But given so many variations like color, size, design, look & feel, what is the probability of someone liking what they order in the first instance?

With success of in USA, the model of online stores in niche spaces like shoes has increased across the globe. Zappos has soared from zero sales in 1999 to 1 billion USD gross sales in 2009 and got acquired by Amazon. If anyone is interested in building their startup into a large-scale enterprise, they should read 'Delivering Happiness' by Tony Hsieh, CEO of then Zappos. It is not about rags-to-riches story, but about encouraging proper culture in an organization, which ultimately leads to delivering happiness to customers.

Talking about the niche areas in footwear industry, it is interesting to watch Footsy Design, a company which sells socks online. They design the socks, get them manufactured and sell only online right now. A niche space and a unique model brings socks for all occasions - day or night, office or home, indoor or outdoor - and age-group.

Thanks to these e-commerce stores, I am improving on 'footwear vocabulary' - ankle boots, loafer shoes, hiking shoes and ballerina shoes. It might take 6 months for me to get a hang of this vocabulary.

While the feet are getting so much of attention and choice, what about our head? Someone should be thinking about designing well-branded hats for all those last-mile logistics guys, chasing time to meet e-commerce customer requirements. For all those faces in the crowd - Hats Off !

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Shop online for a pre-owned car anywhere in India

quote by henry ford on giving something for a dollar
Gone are the days when people call them 'used cars'; the correct term is 'pre-owned car'. No one is hesitant to buy a pre-owned car if it suits their budget and other requirements and one gets a good bargain. But where would one buy or sell such pre-owned cars?

In earlier days, the cars are usually serviced in a local car care center. The one who understands about the health of a car is the mechanic, who handles the car regularly. He also doubles as a broker who can give hints and pointers - how much would the car sell for at any given point in time? who are the potential buyers? He can bring the sellers and buyers to the table for a discussion and negotiation.

With people moving to authorized service centers, at least two channels were possible to sell or buy pre-owned cars. One is the authorized service centers opening their own pre-owned car exchanges. The other model is for a 3rd party to open an exchange to support pre-owned cars from any vendor. While both the models are adopted in the market, the latter has become popular and come online too. Check out these sites for the concept.

The passenger car brands are not far behind. Companies like Tata Motors and Mahindra have their own sites - and - which offer pre-owned cars purchase online.

Many of these sites also provide information about new cars, prices, reviews, insurance and dealers information.

I guess there are different models again in this domain. The retailers can  directly post their car-for-sale online in some of the sites. In a few sites, only the dealers are required to register and post the vehicles on their behalf. There are sites like, where the cars are auctioned online.

Even if the car information is posted online for browsing by others, the buyer would need to physically see the vehicle before confirming the purchase. Obviously, this part of the transaction can only happen offline.

What next after shopping for cars online? How about setting up an online shop to buy autos, buses or even trucks? I bet those vehicles also would be sold online by 2020 if not earlier !

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

E-Commerce India - Online Gift Registry is here !

quote on technology as gift
Inviting someone for an occasion personally is an Indian tradition. With onset of mobile phones and increasing travel distance between people, invitations were extended over phone calls. After e-mail has arrived, people just started sending scanned invitation cards. Attending the occasion, irrespective of the mode of invitation, is the norm in many places of India. But what about the gifts? Guests always had the choice of giving the gifts based on their perception of hosts interests and lifestyle. What if the hosts make that choice as well ?

That concept of 'gift registry' has arrived in India as well. The host can visit a gift registry portal, make a wish-list and share this list with the guests. The guests are obliged to buy those gifts for the host. Some such gift registry portals, which seem to be making an entry in India are mentioned below:

In a way, it makes absolute sense. How many times have we not got the gifts which we stash in a cup-board for long or worse, give it away to some one else? Instead, if we decide and let the other person know what we want, the gifts become completely usable and memories can be cherished. But being very modest people, due to our culture, environment and up-bringing, would we be able to make a bold wish-list? With metropolitan culture spreading around, there should definitely be a segment, which would create and share such wish-list.

From another perspective, it is just a small twist in the sale of gift items - context of occasion and wish-list. The e-commerce store should be able to sell more items when compared to plain selling of items. Wishberry site allows even creation of simple cash gift, where the host picks an amount for which a gift is required and the friends can pool money to provide that 'cash gift'. Shreurjoy site is designed with fantastic user experience including navigation and look & feel. But these sites seem to be not thoroughly tested or used much as there is some default test content seen around.

Technology has brought unimaginable convenience and comfort to the people, but bringing a change in culture or tradition is rare. Every change has resistance until adopted in abundance. What do you think?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

E-Commerce India : Book a Cab or Car for rent online

In 90's the mode of travel for a common man is train or bus for long-distance; flights are only for rich few and government servants. After getting down at the destination, a bus or auto-rickshaw is a common last mile connectivity option. For those going on pilgrimage or for people touring other places for pleasure (rare though), the options for comfortable travel were less and a few were expensive. Travel in the new millennium has become so common that even going abroad is not a big deal anymore. In the entire travel experience, leaving aside the mass transport like flights, train or bus, rental car has become the most important aspect.

With airports becoming large and international, they are inevitably transferred to the outskirts. Transferring self from residence to the airport is itself a challenge.

With travel to nearby places out of interest and passion becoming commonplace, week-end getaways turned into routine. Most of the times, a rented car is preferred over the personal for convenience and comfort.

Going around in the city for shopping, sight-seeing or even to social meetings is not uncommon these days. Given the chaos and madness of traffic in Indian cities, a chauffer driven car is considered a better option, if possible.

Thousands of 'Tours & Travels', who operated rental cabs locally have done so to win the loyalty of the local customers and get repeat business. Talk to anyone who travelled by a rental cabs, the chances of hearing about their awful experiences is highly probable. International players like Hertz and Avis have entered India pretty early but were catering mainly to corporates. Local city taxi services were preferred by public but there was no cross-country brand with reputation that has won the hearts of people. EasyCabs and Meru partnered with Airports in offering better services, but there are enough unhappy customers. If one looks for local travel agencies and private car operators there are thousands of them all over the country.

There are umpteen business models existing within this car rental business and the cab driver is yet to see many incentives apart from a 'job' in this service. Just like in any other industry, they are the important cogs in the wheel and their significance can only be realized when the wheel stops. This industry is quite fragmented and in spite of presence of numerous e-commerce companies in this space, there is no brand which has an across-the-country image yet.

With this background, there are a few companies which are setting-up operations across the country. They seem to build a nation-wide brand with reputation. Two such companies are OlaCabs and Savaari. One can go to their sites, search for a required car rental package and make online payment for the service. While OlaCabs is operating primarily in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore, Savaari service seems to be available for 10s of cities in India.

Interestingly, 'cheap', 'low-cost', 'driver' are not the words present in these e-commerce sites, rather they seem to use the words 'chauffer' and 'quality'. Hopefully, the 'chauffeur' does not get a raw deal while the branded company makes its millions !

Can people expect a clean car, timely service and a no-nonsense chauffeur from these companies?

Monday, April 16, 2012

E-Commerce India : Learning Assessment Online with fun

education is progress discover of ignorance
Kids get introduced to quite a few topics in the school and outside. It is important for parents and teachers to ensure that what they learn is reinforced from time-to-time. Typical way of assessment in the schools is through exams at the end of month, quarter or year. What if there is an opportunity to quickly check their learning progress in fun way in between? Mybeehive provides a platform for such e-assessment.

There are courses in english and mathematics meant for nursery to grade 6 students. These modules reinforce the learning in academics and does not seem to substitute tuitions. Parents can buy specific modules and help their wards take the basic quiz in their chosen course. The results can be reviewed to check the progress of the individual student. Incremental progress would help the student advance to the next level with strong foundation. There are lots of other interesting elements in the site including games and stories. Parents can even buy worksheets, which they can download and print, to engage the kids in a meaningful way.

When I was doing my engineering, we had annual system and the exams were conducted only at the end of the year. I wish a system like existed way back then !

Professional exams at a higher level are also going completely online these days. One such case is the Common Admission Test (CAT) for MBA aspirants. Obviously, there were hiccups in the beginning, but the sailing seems to be smooth now. Similarly, with the advent of e-assessment platforms like mybeehive, I guess the stage is getting set for any exam to be conducted online ! If kids can take these fun learning assessment online, why can't 10th class, PUC and degree students?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

E-Commerce India - Flowers for any occasions from anywhere across globe

flowers by henry beecher
When I was a kid, flowers (roses) were typically given to a teacher during teacher's day. Gifting flowers  during any other events or occasions was unknown in those days. Perhaps we got influenced by the west, the trend of gifting flowers has become commonplace in India. Flowers are generally gifted as a token of love, appreciation, admiration, warmth or best wishes.

In the pre-internet era, there were physical flower shops, primarily in cities, which can quickly create a bouquet and handover to the customers at the shop. With telecom revolution, floral merchants have started taking the orders over the phone. With advancements in Internet, the floral business has come online.

Roses, Tulips, Carnations and Lilies are ordered online from different corners of India to be sent to their near and dear ones. There is no dearth of occasions in India in terms of festivals - Diwali, Dasara and Christmas form the prominent seasons for flowers according to my friends in this business. Corporates would always have flowers ordered during visits of guests and that is not very rare. People have adopted to sending flowers during the moments of joy and sorrow.

Are the flowers best left on the plants as a part of the nature or they should be nipped and made into bouquets in the living rooms, halls or corporate enclosures? That's a subjective question better left to an individual.

There are supposed to be about 30 million non-resident Indians across the globe. With most of them having roots in India, sending flowers to near and dear ones in India during important occasions must be emotionally satisfying for them. I have no doubts that these desis would be admiring technology for this invaluable service.

Just like any other e-commerce business, the request is initiated online, but the order fulfillment needs extensive network across the country for delivery. Most of the online floral businesses seems to deliver flowers across 1000+ locations across India. Some of these websites are mentioned below:

Flowers are also used for Puja, decoration during events like wedding and for wearing in the hair by women. For Puja, people invariably prefer flowers from their garden. For decoration during the events, the flowers are still obtained from local markets. Interesting, the flowers like jasmine adorned in hair in some parts of India are not sold online yet. Any takers for this niche domain? :-)

Friday, April 13, 2012

E-Commerce India - Bus ticket booking is easy but not the road travel

travel quote by James
There are endless reasons for people to travel all the time. I guess one of the reasons that there existed many joint families earlier is the daunting task of travel once in a while. Making travel arrangements for two-way journey and accommodation would take more than one person or family. Things cannot be planned much earlier and advanced booking was a novel concept.  With kids, baggage and the fear of losing either of them, getting seats for travel must have been  troublesome.

One has the luxury of realizing travel plans as much in advance as possible these days. The Road Transport Corporation (RTC) in India has certainly increased and also improved the quality of buses traveling across the country. As there is more demand than the supply, private bus companies have mushroomed. There is always a rush to book tickets for a long week-end and during festival season. Redbus has seized the opportunity and built a travel site to book bus tickets. Makemytrip has started flight ticket bookings way back in 1999. Travelling by flight must have been a privilege of 1%, while travelling by bus is known to 99% of people in India. From that perspective, it looks ridiculous as to why no one thought about bus ticket booking online earlier !

Pure vertical (bus tickets in this case) e-commerce players always specialize in their domain and offer good service. If one looks at, they can see umpteen trivial features which add up to convenience of the end user.

  1. Show the pictures and videos of a bus class in which you can book tickets
  1. Indicate whether movies are shown, water bottle & blanket are given and charging points available
  1. Number of seats available with specific mention about window seats
  2. AC or Non-AC bus indicator
  3. Ratings given by the members on bus quality, punctuality and staff behavior
  1. Capability to book the tickets from mobile and also travel with an SMS ticket on mobile (paperless)
  1. Can book through Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system over phone

What more does one need to conveniently book a bus ticket? Their site talks about booking 8 million tickets till date. That is a good number for a company of about 6 years old (for a perspective, both facebook and indian mobile subscribers have about 900 million subscribers).

One also needs to know that redbus can book tickets only with private bus operators. State RTCs have their own sites for bus ticket booking. Even some of the private bus operators have their own sites for bus booking. Managing the inventory of seats in a bus is not an easy task. It must be interesting to note that there are other bus ticket travel sites like, and even which have not become so popular for different reasons.

While the travel planning through buses has really become easier, how about the roads on which these buses are supposed to travel? They are getting better but the pace does not match the growth of travel planning sites !