E-Commerce – A Blood Bath

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What happens when India’s largest online retailer locks horns with the world’s largest? Well, boom. Of course.

And that is exactly how it has been going down for the past couple of days. To begin with, Flipkart had been promoting its oh-so-epic Big Billion Day sale since September end, building up anticipation levels within their regular users and inspiring new ones. In today’s age, where the common man resorts to e-commerce before taking any major decisions regarding product purchase, one would have (people like me, Pro-Flipkart all the way) expected this sale to be earth-shatteringly-mind-blowing; but alas, it fell before it could rise.

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THE UP-SIDE

Target of $100 million on Gross Merchandise Value:  10 hours, Bam!

Amazing discounts: 90% on Nokia Lumias? That’s how we roll.

THE DOWN-SIDE

Site crashes: Well, why won’t it? It’s only the most crucial day in our career.

Out of stock items: um…any doubt? We are so popular, that our stock just happens to run out before the sale…

False prices? : Increasing the original price is directly proportionate to an increase in the discount value, this known as – The Discount of Illusion.

Cancellations and more: The products on our website are so famous that they get over-booked within minutes. Too bad all you late comers, you just ain’t lucky enough!

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Summing it up, apart from the Flipkart memes that had been going around on social media sites, the sale was a big disappointment, to the extent that its founders – Sachin and Binny Bansal – had to send out apology e-mails to all customers just a day after we received e-mails inviting us to shop at Flipkart.

However, this was not the only hurdle they faced, as the online wars had begun.

Snapdeal and Amazon took to their forts and came out with all guns blazing.

  • They mocked the Big Billion Day sale via online and offline resorts (Who wouldn’t?)
  • A bigbillionday.com was created which was a pseudo name for amazon.in on Monday (wicked ideas all around aaand sabotage!)
  • Equally appealing if not better discounts were offered by its rivals (by the power vested in me, I now announce – DISCOUNTS!)
  • Snapdeal had sales worth a crore per minute with over lakhs of products sold. #SWAG
  • Amazon’s Diwali dhamaka from 10th October onwards is being anticipated for it might just knock your socks off!
  • Flipkart, too, ain’t behind on this one, it has bought the domain name DiwaliDhamka.co.in, which directs users to Flipkart (Well Amazon just got screwed over)!

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THE REAL DEAL

The truth of the matter is that however hard these online retailers are pitted against each other, the ones to suffer are the big buck companies who manufacture these products. Why, you ask? Well, if you are to sell a mobile phone which is priced at 40K in just 20K, and then who is to incur the loss of more than twenty-thousand Rupees per piece sold? The online-retailer? Um…No. The company of course!

1.  Their livelihood is being threatened by massive discounts offered on fresh-pieces via online retailers by violating business agreements with said companies. #HijackingProducts 

2. Customers are more likely to seek the comfort of their beds! #LazyGeneration

Moreover, “The way e-commerce is progressing, several shops may have to shut down, which will jeopardise lakhs of jobs,” said The All India Mobile Retailers’ Association’s secretary general Dhiraj Malik. He accused e-commerce firms of cartel-like behaviour, discounting products and selling them below cost prices. “This in turn has impacted our sales by 30% and profitability by 60%,” he said. This shows that not only are these battles going to get bolder, they are going to cost people their daily bread.

Moving on, in an effort to compete with the leading native online retailer, Amazon is set to invest $2 Billion in India in order to cope with the oh-so-many festive offers (Well, ain’t that a bummer, Amazon? A thousand festivals for a thousand gods, $2 Billion ain’t going to cut it) that we look forward to, more or less like a tradition! However, the silent reaper in all this fiasco is eBay.in, which started giving its pre-Diwali discounts 25th September onwards and continues to do so till the 23rd; with up to 58% on mobile phones and laptops accompanied with their hot deals, the sensible man would be found lurking here.

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THE GOVERNMENT ANGLE

In India, where retail traders are plenty but customers only a handful, offering massive discounts, without proper consent, by e-retailers becomes an area of concern, which led to a string of complaints from traders whose empty shops are echoing with the sound of their own footsteps.

“Now there are many complaints. We will study the matter… Whether there is a need for a separate policy or some kind of clarification is needed, we will make it clear soon,” Nirmala Sitharaman, who is also the Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs, said.

The Traders Union of India had no choice but to take their grievances to the govt. seeking a way out. This has brought not only Flipkart but also other leading names under the govt. scanner which is all set to put limits on the extent to which these websites get carried away in a battle for the top.

The entire scheme goes like this:

  1.  Festive season begins (Every month).
  2.  Online retailers offer big discounts to trap you (You poor fish-in-a-pond).
  3.  They stock-up on products from offline traders/retailers (their backbone).
  4.  Discounted stocks are usually old (Old is always gold, apparently.).
  5.  Consumer purchases without comparing prices (oh, love is blind).
  6.  Both consumer and traders are unhappy (Well, no shit Sherlock!).
  7.  Complaints are flying haywire.
  8.  End result: Government kicks their ass.

 

CONSUMERS: HIGH ON EXPECTATIONS, LOW ON PATIENCE.

As a person whose default reaction is “Flipkart se mangwaalo” *just order it from Flipkart*, I was quite taken aback with the all-hype-and-no-show put on by these sites. Being one of my top bookmarked webpages, I sat on my laptop, already having tallied prices and products beforehand, ready to spend those minimum bucks (or so I thought) at appx. 7:55 a.m. Soon, half an hour into the sale, scanning each section, this is what I concluded:

  • The ever promised products priced at rupees Zero were pre-sold out (a slight dent in the stocks, I presume?)
  • Discounts on major products were not more than a flat 10% or a flat Rs. 2000 off (Standing ovation)
  • Product delivery is taking ages (Next-day delivery? What a farce.)
  • Product delivered is not of top-notch quality (Broken limbs of cyber-soldiers)
  • Promissory coupons are somewhere getting lost in the phone lines.


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Sorry for being harsh, but it was more of a stock clearance sale that thought us consumers to be sitting with blindfolds around our brains, whiling away our resources in complete awe of the situation so anticipated, because apparently according to big guns like Flipkart, what you hear or see is not what you get or deserve.

This being said, if we talk about over-subscriptions like those on alibaba.com, that too three-times over, it failed to backfire even though it is a Chinese company *pun intended*. In a price-sensitive country like ours, playing with consumer emotions has dire consequences because we, being Indians, would prefer the next best bet that is offered to us on a platter, in this case in the form of Snapdeal and Amazon, who provided not only better, more humane discounts, but also promise such sales throughout the year.

Being carried away in the heat of the moment, for example, advertisements claimed the price of the iPhone 5S at a whooping Rupees 16,000 but alas, the same story continues and was put up for not less than Rupees 22,500. False claims and big guarantees are not going to help you survive this era of price wars going about, especially around festive seasons, because then that raises a question not only doubting your stability as a leading online retailer but also your credibility to deliver.

However, a promise of mending its glitches has been made by Flipkart (that’s a first) via this image, but offering SOPs (Stock Ownership Plans) to consumers shows how vulnerable you really are.

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Consumer satisfaction has gone down memory lane, only cyber-wars remain. Their online rivalry has become so intense that they would do anything to take down the weakest and we are left to suffer. The only way to conclude this would be if our knight in shining armour – The Government – was to step in and keep a tab on all these over-the-roof sales that are risking lively hoods and customer gratification.

 

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