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Shopaholics invade the virtual world

We love shopping, especially the type that includes going to different shops, looking and getting a feel of the product and, of course, bargaining. Radhika Pancholi tells more.

business Updated: Jun 06, 2008 22:40 IST
Radhika Pancholi

We love shopping, especially the type that includes going to different shops, looking and getting a feel of the product and, of course, bargaining.

But, slowly an increasing number of Indians, bogged down by high inflation, rising fuel rates and odd working hours, are discovering the joys of shopping in the virtual space. Whether it is buying jewellery online, booking a sofa set through shopping catalogues or even taking that facial appointment, booked online, young India is getting over the initial scepticism of using technology to shop.

“One of the reasons why virtual shopping is set to grow is because unlike organised retail stores, which are confined to a certain number of cities, virtual retail can grow across the length and breadth of India,” says Sundeep Malhotra CEO, Home Shop 18, which is increasing its presence in the virtual space through its website and 24-hour home shopping channel. He may be right.

Ravikiran Ghaisas has a customs notified shop in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra. Whenever the need arises, Ghaisas logs on to sites such as eBay, indiaplaza.com and amazon.com to search for the product he is looking for. “I use many virtual shopping websites to order gadgets such as cameras and electronics parts for my business,” says Ghaisas.

But, contrary to popular perception, electronics are not the only items to be shopped for online. According to Deepa Thomas, Senior Manager, Pop Culture, eBay, “Jewellery is the most popular item shopped for on eBay, with a piece of jewellery being sold every seven minutes, followed by collectibles such as stamps and rare coins. Electronics and gadgets come a distant third.”

“We have been pleasantly surprised by the number of customers ordering home improvement products such as furniture through catalogues,” says Rajiv Nair, Business Head, General Merchandise, for Hypercity Retail and Hypercity Argos.

Hypercity is a Mumbai-based retail store that has tied up with the UK’s Argos to sell its merchandise through catalogue and Internet shopping.

“We have realised that 42 per cent of merchandise ordered through catalogue are home improvement products. Toys and fitness products caught on during the summer holidays, but big electronic items lag behind as people still prefer to order only small home appliances in the virtual space,” he says.

An Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) report states the virtual retailing market is pegged to grow to Rs 9,210 crore in 2007-08. “As Internet connectivity grows in India, e-commerce, which has been growing 30 per cent a year thus far, is set to grow at a much faster rate than anticipated,” says Malhotra.