Group buying is a hot phenomenon across the world. Simply put, this is the business of marrying e-commerce with something that is part of old saying, "cheaper by the dozen."
Group buying websites give you very good offers and discounts by partnering manufacturers, retailers or even spas and salons. By bringing buyers together in an assured way, these sites save marketing and promotion costs for sellers and service providers.
For customers, the easy part lies in registering on websites and putting in mobile phone numbers and email Ids on which offers are received. Once a quorum of buyers/customers is reached by those putting in offers, the discount kicks in.
Groupon, the company that spurned a takeover offer by Google, acquired SoSasta.com in India to signal its serious intent. Many local players such as Snapdeal.com and Mydala.com have been at it. But these sites, usually offering city-wise deals, remain focused on the premium lifestyle category - much like many e-commerce sites in India.
You can buy neckties, makeovers, holidays and other trendy things on these sites but I wonder if these are game changers. For one, I have seen big boys like Rediff enter the scene, use their brand power and raise their profile. What this means is that business survives - or does not - by merely skimming the surface of the opportunities and act like old fashioned fast moving consumer goods companies. They build a brand, get into some partnerships and pull on with market share.
Seriously, I think the scope for group buying or other forms of social commerce is tremendous in India, where value-for-money is an enduring concept.
So I asked myself: why can't these companies do car pooling?
By simply searching for "car pool India" on Google, I came across sites such as Carpool.in, Carpooling.in, poolmycar.in and Commuteeasy.com that offer such services. I would love to hear from readers if they have used these services-and whether they are working like they say they do or want to.
My point is that e-commerce and social commerce are still superficial in India, while Internet and mobile penetration are growing by leaps and bounds. There are about 80 million Internet users in India and 850 million mobile customers - and geographical positioning and 3G bandwidth are taking off.
I would expect entrepreneurs to go beyond the usual upscale urban lifestyle products and services to revolutionise the business next year.