Coming soon, an e-marketplace only for tribal sellers

Source: ETRetail.com, Jun 29, 2020

New Delhi : Tribal artisans will soon be able to sell their products at the click of a mouse with the government gearing up to launch a specialised e-marketplace for them this Independence Day.

“We will launch the website – Tribes India e-Mart – on Independence Day on August 15. It will be similar to selling your products on e-commerce giants Amazon or Flipkart. The difference is just that it will be only for tribals,” Managing Director of TRIFED Praveer Krishna said.

A trial run of the e-marketplace will continue from July 30 to August 14.

The government had set up Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India in 1987 with an aim to provide fair price for products of tribals across the country.

The agency functions under the Union Tribal Affairs Ministry.

Krishna said tribal artisans will be trained and asked to register themselves as sellers on the website.

“The staff at our 15 regional offices across the country and state government officials working with TRIFED will train these tribals and help them get registered,” he said.

The objective is to bring around 5 lakh tribal artisans online, thus connecting them to a larger national and international market, he said.

Around 5 lakh tribal items across 20,000 categories, including textiles, paintings, home decor items, jewelry, and metal crafts, will be available on the website.

The products of tribal sellers will undergo a strict quality check and a committee will fix prices for each item.

There will be local collection centres from where the products will be supplied across the country.

For every Rs 100, Rs 70 will go to the tribals sellers, Krishna said.

“We will start with around 5,000 tribal artisans on July 30. The target is to connect 5 lakh tribal artisans to the platform and give them access to a larger market,” he said.

“This is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of an aatmanirbhar (self-reliant) India. Our motto is ‘go vocal for local, go tribal’,” he said.

The worth of a shirt they (tribals) sell in local markets for Rs 200 is Rs 1,000 in Delhi, Krishna said, explaining the economics behind the idea.

Best quality organic products will be delivered to buyers, who will have the option to return the item within 15 days if they are not satisfied with it, he said.

On Saturday, Union Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda launched tribal products on Government e-Marketplace (GeM).

This will help government departments and officers purchase tribal products directly from the website without going through a lengthy process of floating a tender and receiving bids, Krishna explained.

With more and more people going online to meet their various needs – be it for business operations, shopping and communication, an important strategic push has been to adopt an all-encompassing digitization drive to map and link its village-based tribal producers, Munda said.

Draft e-commerce policy soon, to be stricter on data norms and discount

Source: Business Standard, Jun 24, 2020

New Delhi: The government is set to release the second draft of the proposed e-commerce policy soon, which would focus on domestic traders and have more scrutiny on predatory pricing, multiple people in the know said.

While no decision has been taken on the deadline for the final policy, sources said Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) Secretary Guruprasad Mohapatra is set to hold a review with his team in the next few days to take stock of the draft policy and submit it to the commerce minister.

Sources add that the DPIIT is planning its own set of recommendations on data localisation and non-personal data, independent of those laid out in the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019. “Data localisation remains a big concern and despite there being broad government norms on the issue, it would have to be tailor fit for the e-commerce sector,” an official said.

Pricing — a prime complaint of domestic retailers — is set to be the focus, with the government considering an annual review of discounts given by e-marketplaces.

The initial draft of the policy had proposed a sunset clause for predatory pricing that included zero-payment offers, flash sales and unlimited offers. It had also sought to define these practices and set fixed norms for each but despite multiple inter-ministerial consultations, work on this front has moved slowly. Officials say the new policy will definitely put a cap on pricing and penalties will be outlined for transgressors. Information about pricing may also need to be submitted in advance.

The new policy could make it difficult for a lot of e-commerce firms to continue with their current business models, which many allege are distorting market dynamics.

Crucially, the new draft seeks not to incentivise foreign investment in the sectors, instead pushing to reward small retailers that put their goods on the digital arena. The government is also keen to work on a scheme to help traders migrate and integrate their businesses on digital platforms, sources said. As a result, the Confederation of All India Traders is set to be invited to all official stakeholder consultations which have so far included only online players.

The last time a draft of the policy went public was in February 2019 when it faced heat from companies and civil society alike. While Indian businesses argued the interests of domestic businesses were not protected sufficiently, consumer groups said it was heavily tilted in favour of players such as Ola, MakeMytrip and Paytm (all funded by marquee foreign investors), rather than consumers and small businesses.

One of the most contentious issues in the draft was that of potential custom duties on electronic transmissions.

Currently, there is a temporary moratorium on putting custom duties on electronic transmissions which is enforced by the World Trade Organization. But the government had earlier said India reserves the right to tax online retail. Now, sources say the government is unlikely to change its earlier position on the issue.

Online sales doubles for top consumer brands in India due to Covid-19

Source: ETRetail.com, Jun 24, 2020

KOLKATA/MUMBAI: India’s largest consumer goods companies saw Covid19 led disruptions significantly boosting online sales in India and for several e-commerce sales and contribution to overall business have doubled.

This is true for top deck companies like Hindustan UnileverITC, Parle Products, LG, Vivo and Godrej.

Senior executives said several consumers continue to buy online rather than venturing into stores for fear of catching the infection, while several brick-and-mortar stores are still shut due to liquidity issues.

India’s largest fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) company Hindustan Unilever, that sells products in over eight million retail outlets, said a fifth of stores in its direct coverage are yet to open.

“But that doesn’t mean that if a store has not opened, demand is lost. Many modern trade outlets continue to remain shut, leading to the rise of the omni-channel. Even when modern trade stores reopen, there might be some initial hesitation because of crowds,” said HUL chairman Sanjiv Mehta.

B Sumant, executive director at ITC Ltd, said the conglomerate has seen robust growth in sales of its FMCG products on e-commerce platforms with customers preferring the convenience and safety of home delivery during these challenging times.

Online contributed just 1% of groceries sales in the country until mid 2017, which nearly doubled to 1.9% by 2019. Industry estimates this may shoot up to over 4-5% this year.

According to the latest Nielsen report, online contribution to India’s FMCG sales rose nearly 50% year-on-year in the March quarter as consumers increasingly shopped from e-grocers, while local grocer’s share fell 220 basis points, entirely overtaken by ecommerce and modern retailers.

BK Rao, senior category head of India’s largest food company, Parle Products, said demand for online purchases during lockdown shot up by even 100x, but companies could not fulfil it due to worker shortages and supply disruptions.

“But now that those issues are solved, there will be a big jump in sales,” he said. He said for Parle, online contribution has doubled to 4% of overall sales.

Puma India MD Abhishek Ganguly said e-commerce sales have grown 40% over last year. “Several first-time online buyers who bought essentials are now buying other categories,” he said.

Even consumer electronics brands said e-commerce contribution to overall sales doubled to 8-10% from pre-Covid average and could go up further, said Godrej Appliances business head Kamal Nandi and president of industry body CEAMA.

Several companies such as LG, Samsung, Xiaomi, Vivo, Godrej Appliances and Panasonic have taken initiatives to take their offline stores online.

LG Electronics India head for online business, Deepak Taneja, said online sales in a few categories like television, washing machine, mobiles has grown two times from pre-Covid days.

Mobile phone sales tracker Counterpoint Research estimated that e-commerce share in total smartphone sales will account for 45% in 2020 and sales volume decline in online will be lower at 5% as compared to 19% in offline stores. Last year, online accounted for 38-39% of overall sales.

A Morgan Stanley report estimated the immediate impact of Covid-19 will likely fade in a few months, but it could significantly alter the dynamics of India’s digital economy.

“We see a large online shopping base in the country going forward as Indians refrain from going to stores/malls to buy their daily needs. We also see online penetration in fresh and grocery increasing, which has the power to lift the overall size of the Indian e-commerce industry,” the report said.

A new e-commerce policy to curb Chinese imports

Source: The Economic Times, Jun 19, 2020

New Delhi: India may soon make it compulsory for e-commerce companies to display clearly whether a product being sold on their platform is made in the country or not, as the government seeks to curb Chinese imports.

The clause is likely to be a part of the e-commerce policy that the commerce and industry ministry is drafting. “We will mandate e-commerce players to display whether a product is made in India or not. We are actively looking to enable that. This will help cut out Chinese goods,” said an official aware of the matter.

China had a trade surplus of about $47 billion with India in the first 11 months of the fiscal year ended on March 31, 2020.

“It will be like a checkmark, wherein consumers can decide to buy goods made in India,” said the official, adding that the policy would soon be put in public domain for comment.

The Draft National E-commerce Policy, which the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade had floated last year, mandated e-commerce companies to make seller details available on the marketplace website for all products. It had proposed that the full name of the legal entity, its address and contact details be provided.

“Sellers must provide an undertaking to the platform about genuineness of products they are selling and the same must be made accessible to consumers,” the draft had proposed, as part of a measure to check online sale of counterfeits.

Experts said the move to have clearly labelled goods on e-marketplaces was a positive one and would support Atmanirbhar Bharat mission, besides giving consumers the option of buying locally made products upfront. “Given the sentiment today, it syncs well with the country’s agenda of self-reliance and will alert people to what they are buying,” said an expert on e-commerce. The draft policy may also pitch for a regulator with powers to penalise those who spread misinformation. The policy aims at promotion of e-commerce, jobs, rural productivity and exports.

India’s e-commerce market to see 300 mn shoppers by 2025

Source: LiveMint.com, Jun 11, 2020

India’s e-commerce market is set to clock $100-120 billion in gross merchandise value (GMV) and 300-350 million shoppers by 2025, a report by Bain and Co. said.

Currently, the e-commerce segment in India accounts for 3.4% of the overall retail market with 100-110 million users, and an online GMV of around $30 billion, the report prepared in partnership with Walmart-owned Flipkart said.

India lags behind China in e-commerce penetration with the neighbouring country, which had a 14% online retail penetration at the end of 2019. According to the report, “increased mobile and internet penetration, with improved logistics and payment infrastructure” helped China stay ahead. Between 2000 and 2006, when internet-based commerce was still booming globally, only 1% of India’s population shopped online. This number remained static until 2012. By 2019, 11% of India’s population shopped online. China, on the other hand, saw a staggering 62% of its population buying products online by 2019. “Worldwide, e-retail has witnessed a predictable growth trajectory, starting with an increase in shopper penetration triggered by a sharp drop in data prices. China had similar levels of shopper penetration as India, eight years ago, which grew from 8% to 40% triggered by a drop in data prices and improved e-retail infrastructure,” it added.

Amazon India expands packaging-free shipping initiative to over 100 cities

Source: Business Standard, Jun 03, 2020

New Delhi: Amazon India on Wednesday announced that it has expanded its Packaging-Free Shipping (PFS) initiative to more than 100 cities in the country.

PFS is a sustainable packaging solution in which customer orders are shipped in their original packaging without any additional packaging, or significantly reduced packaging, it said in a statement.

Amazon first launched PFS in India in June 2019 in nine cities and within a year, the company said in a statement it has been able to expand this programme to more than 100 cities.

More than 40 per cent of customer orders shipped from the company’s Fulfilment centres are now packaging-free or have significantly reduced packaging. With PFS, multiple customer orders are secured and transported in re-usable totes during deliveries, it said.

Products that are shipped packaging-free include tech accessories, home and home improvement products, shoes, and luggage. Liquids, fragile items, and personal care products that need additional protection during transportation continue to be shipped with packaging.

BigBasket, Grofers, others may clock $3 billion sales

Source: ETRetail.com, May 22, 2020

Bengaluru: India’s online grocery market could top $3 billion in sales this year, a 76% increase over last year, as the spike in demand for home delivery of fresh produce and staples seen during the nationwide lockdown is expected to sustain through the rest of the year, analysts and industry executives said. The $1.3 billion in additional online grocery sales could be the biggest driver of overall e-commerce sales, which is expected to grow by just $2 billion in 2020, Forrester Research said.

India’s ecommerce industry is pegged to grow by 6%, equating to about $35.5 billion this year, according to the Forrester Research. “While the demand seen over the past six weeks may not sustain, a lot of households have tried ordering groceries online and that should remain in the longer term,” said Satish Meena, senior forecast analyst at Forrester Research. A similar trend is unfolding in the United States and other global markets, he added. BigBasket and Grofers reported a fivefold increase in demand during the initial phase of lockdown but the numbers have fallen from their peaks, although order volumes continue to be high.

BigBasket continues to fulfil over 300,000 orders a day, compared to 150,000 orders before the crisis, Hari Menon, CEO of BigBasket told ET. “Demand continues to be very strong. In May, we are growing by around 35% over April. We have scaled up on our people availability because of which, in most cities, slots are available,” Menon said. SoftBank-backed Grofers also said orders are at elevated levels.

“We continue to see a surge in demand with a daily gross merchandise value that is 60% higher than pre-Covid-19 levels. This is lower than the 2X jump that we witnessed in the first week of the lockdown as consumers are now buying what they really need, instead of stocking up excessively,” said Albinder Dhindsa, CEO of Grofers.

Winds of change in e-commerce and retail have approached a gale force

Source: LiveMint.com, May 21, 2020

Retail in India, both online and offline, has been witnessing monumental changes over the past two years. Offline modern trade grew at 20% and gained share in India’s approximately $900 billion product commerce market. The expansion of Flipkart and Amazon across categories, and Swiggy and Zomato in food delivery in the past two years, is more than what offline players had managed in 20 years, placing India on track to “leap-frog” from traditional commerce. Vertical specialists, such as BigBasket, Myntra and Nykaa, began to upend incumbent offline players. And, sure enough, regulatory uncertainties kept everyone on their toes.

But in the past 50 days, the winds of change have approached gale force. Facebook’s investment in Reliance Jio, promising seamless hyperlocal commerce, is but the most prominent example. Offline stores DMart and Big Bazaar have scaled up delivery and online shopping, Vishal Mega Mart and Spencer’s have partnered with Uber and Flipkart, and multiple hyperlocal grocery plays, such as Saffola Store on Swiggy, ITC Foods on Domino’s, 24Seven on Swiggy, have debuted. The speed of innovation has been unprecedented and new models have unfolded in a matter of days.

This is potentially another pivotal moment for Indian retail and, e-commerce, in particular, which is possibly more game-changing than cash-on-delivery, cheap data and shift to smartphones. Bain and Co.’s consumer sentiment survey done through April shows that about 35% of urban shoppers increased their online purchases in existing categories; 30% bought more categories online; and 8% were first-time online buyers. Homemakers, who earlier insisted on multiple shopping trips, shifted to WhatsApp orders to get products home-delivered from kirana stores. There is reluctance to step outside, and increasing salience in budget shopping.

Changing consumer preferences and multiple new business models will blur the traditionally hard lines between offline and online. Jiomart and other hyperlocal models are a partnership between offline “unorganized” players and digital commerce. Organized offline businesses such as DMart, Spencer’s and those across fashion and electronics are offering digital ordering channels and home delivery, at times partnering with e-commerce players.

Similarly, e-commerce players are experimenting with multiple models, often with offline partners. It will be increasingly hard to distinguish between ‘e-commerce-only’ players and ‘offline-only’ players. The crisis has given impetus to the offline-to-online transition that has long been coming.

Innovation will be critical as retailers reconcile to dynamic and challenging shopper needs coupled with age-old retail challenges of thin margins, high capital intensity, fragmented supply chains, and small order values.

Some like Flipkart are reconfiguring the supply chain by direct tie-ups with FMCG distributors. Local grocers are finding ways to deliver more consistently to shoppers than labour-strapped larger counterparts. Shoppers, looking for reliability, have driven a 30x surge in traffic in April to websites of offline chains delivering essentials.

Post-covid Indian shoppers will care about convenience and value as always, but they will also desire a safe experience and will care less about variety. While this is a complex ask, near-term restrictions on goods movement, labour shortages and soaring demand for reliable delivery have stretched integrated models and benefited innovative partnerships and emerging ecosystems. These new retail models will need to create their paths to reliable experiences at scale. Consumer promise apart, retail and e-commerce in particular hold hope for significant employment creation and support for small businesses. The industry and government need to jointly accelerate e-commerce and retail recovery.

E-commerce firms grapple with deliveries amid curbs

Source: LiveMint.com, May 12, 2020

BENGALURU: E-commerce firms are finding their operations hobbled because restrictions in red zones are hitting their ability to deliver non-essentials, including consumer electronic devices, in green and orange zones.

With major cities in the red zone radar, where only essentials can be supplied, large e-commerce firms have been forced to focus on delivering non-essentials in smaller cities. But this is proving difficult.

“…While the progressive exit plan from the lockdown is in effect, many of our marketplace sellers in red zones across the country have reached out seeking clarity from the government and local authorities about their warehouse operations to serve customers in the green and orange zones. With sellers being an integral part of the e-commerce marketplace ecosystem, clarity on this front will significantly enhance and streamline operations, particularly for micro, small and medium enterprise sellers,” a Flipkart spokesperson said.

Non-essentials, particularly mobile phones, electronic gadgets and apparel, constitute a large portion of business for e-commerce firms. But they have been compelled to deliver essentials such as groceries, with their smaller-margin play, during the lockdown.

Consumer electronics has been the best-selling category among non-essentials for Paytm Mall and it believes demand for non-essentials, including work- and study-related items are likely to double over the next few weeks. It saw a surge in searches for and sale of mobiles, masks, trimmers and laptops, with a 1.5X rise in sales as compared to March.

“…However, there are some problems with supply, for example, a substantial number of electronics manufacturers and suppliers are in the red zone. Hence, our teams are signing up merchants in orange and green zones for creating city-level supply in categories where it’s possible. Some collection points for products for our logistics partners also fall in the red zone so at the moment are not open for any operations. While we have made alternative arrangements, we hope these supply chains would free up as soon as they turn orange or green,” Srinivas Mothey, senior vice-president, Paytm Mall, said.

Sellers on Amazon.in have received orders for smart devices, electronics, kitchen appliances, clothes and other work and study from home enablers from customers in orange and green zones.

“…We urge the government to allow an expanded list of priority products in the red zone which will not only serve urgent needs and spruce up economic activity but will also ensure citizen safety in a high-risk area,” an Amazon spokesperson said.

E-commerce firm Snapdeal said its sellers rapidly restored their operations and within the first week, it started shipping orders from various commercial hubs, including steel utensils from Salem, footwear from Amritsar and apparel from Gurugram. In the first week of delivering both essentials and non-essentials, 75% of Snapdeal’s orders came from orange and green zones, which were all non-metro locations. “…The permission and procedure to reopen various kinds of commercial establishments, including offices, warehouses, shops, etc., vary depending on local assessment of the covid-19 threat at any given point of time and is regulated by state and central government advisories. Sellers in some cities, despite being in orange and green districts, are not able to ship orders because of additional restrictions imposed due to apprehensions of rapid increase in infections in these cities,” a Snapdeal spokesperson said.

Non essential e-commerce in the red even in green & orange zones

Source: ETRetail.com, May 07, 2020

BENGALURU: Ecommerce leaders including Amazon and Flipkart have been able to recover only one-fifth of their pre-Covid-19 demand even after they opened up sales of non-essentials across smaller towns and cities which fall under the Green and Orange zones, as per analysts and industry insiders.

These companies said initial orders have come in for electronics, phones, kitchen appliances, even as they await the opening up of business in high-demand areas which fall under the Red zone.

As per estimates by Forrester Research, regions in Green and Orange zones accounted for 30-35% sales of ecommerce firms prior to the lockdown.

This is also because offline stores have opened and they had faced several headwinds during the lockdown, including forced cashless payments, longer delivery timelines and limited selection.

In some cases, etailers said they have not been able to open up fulfillment and sorting centres that fall in the Red zones, where infections continue to rise. “Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines didn’t clarify the operations side of ecommerce… And, hence, confusion among local authorities for non-essential warehouses in Red zones is still there,” said a top executive at an e-commerce firm on condition of anonymity.

A report by RedSeer Consulting also points to customers in smaller cities and lower-income groups curbing discretionary spending, which means spending on e-commerce will remain lower than normal as they largely service non-essential and discretionary categories. “The outlook for the industry looks bleak,” said Satish Meena of Forrester Research. “We have already reduced our growth forecast for 2020 to around 6%…as of now, there is limited demand plus credit is also going to be difficult,” he said. Without disclosing order volumes, ecommerce companies confirmed that people have only bought items that they deem essential in the last 48 hours, including electronics, laptops and home appliances, partly due to pent-up demand from the last 40 days.

Apparel has been hit the worst, they said. “We are seeing an increase in searches for products in categories such as laptops, consumer electronics, mobiles, air conditioners, coolers, t-shirts, and other essentials,” said Anil Goteti, senior vice-president at Flipkart.

“We urge the government to allow an expanded list of priority products in the Red zone which will not only serve urgent needs and spruce up economic activity but will also ensure citizen’s safety in a high-risk area,” an Amazon spokesperson said.