Amit Valaya, 32, a diehard fan of vintage cars, recently bought a Willy’s Jeep for just Rs 2 lakh through an online portal. “I thought it would take a lot of legwork,” he said.
“However, I selected three cars on classified websites, met their owners and bought this vehicle in a week.”
Many like Valaya are exploring their passions via websites.
For instance, women and hostel students order pasta kits and international gourmet foods to understand the flavours.
Online stores selling stamps, collectibles, rare antiques and furniture, handicrafts and gold coins are seeing soaring sales as the innovation of product categories draws customers in.
“Non-traditional products are among the fastest-growing in Indian e-commerce,” said Deepa Thomas, e-commerce evangelist, eBay India.
“For instance, if one is looking for just ‘turquoise’ colour watches, it’s easy to search products online rather than offline. Now people come online first when they have specific needs.”
Pinaki Roy, 28, currently doing his PhD at IIM Ahmedabad, has a unique weakness for moleskin-covered diaries, which he buys on eBay. “It is not available at stationery shops or on most e-commerce sites in India,” he said.
Families are trusting online portals to buy babycare products or gold jewellery – not the typical Indian mentality earlier.
"Gone are the days when consumers desired physical touch before buying. Finally, we are gaining their trust," said Mukul Bafana, co-founder, Jabong.com.
“Customers have started asking for products beyond the traditional categories, which is pushing online portals to innovate harder.” Jabong, he claimed, has seen a 90% jump in gold coin sales in the past few months.
“We have seen huge aggression building up for vintage cars – costing upwards of Rs 25 lakh – on our website,” said Amarjit Batra, country head, OLX.in.
“We are witnessing postings from places like Vadodara, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Hyderabad, Ahmadabad and Chandigarh. Some dealers buy vintage cars for use in weddings, photo-shoots and tourist rides.”
For antiques and collectibles, the average price is Rs 30,000-80,000.
The non-traditional online category of ‘intimate wear’ is attracting female consumers, as the privacy and anonymity of internet shopping and a wide choice are attractive.
Neelu Sharma, 28, a school teacher, recently ordered lingerie online.
“I felt a lot more comfortable stating my requirements than at a physical shop. One gets to try the products at home, to re-order and to enjoy the flexibility of payment on delivery.”
Online retail has found a new way to attract consumers, say industry experts.
“To sustain the growing competition and lure consumers inside, physical stores offer freebies and discounts.
Online stores are offering both along with unique, not-easy-to- find products,” said Nilotpal Chakravarti, spokesperson for Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).
“Moreover, for the time-starved consumers, online shopping offers a helping hand and is evolving on a daily basis.”
E-tailing, which started from selling homogenous products such as books and CDs, moved to fashion apparel and accessories, and is now showcasing more unique or unusual things, has found consumers responding along the evolution.
Online market place, getitBazaar.com, for example, has listed e-stores selling more unusual fare such as achkans, mojris and safas in apparel, rare coins, lunar drop arm awnings, and specialized, branded cliff-climbing gear.
Kiran Murthi, CEO, getitBazaar, said, “One of our USPs is availability of unusual items not found on any other e-commerce site and only in very selective offline stores. We are seeing an increased trend of demand for unusual categories.”