The newspaper advertisements intrigued Ratna Deb Choudhury. She needed to buy a mobile phone and the ads said she could buy it by using a computer and internet. So the 78-year-old resident of Ranchi, in Jharkhand, summoned her grandson.
“What is this Flipkart? What does it do? I saw an advertisement that it is selling mobile phones at a discount. I want to buy one,” said Choudhury. After a brief explanation, she bought a Micromax smartphone from Flipkart.
That phone, bought six months ago, exposed Choudhury to the internet. It also ignited a process that refuses to be doused. Choudhury, who was one of just two girls to graduate in mathematics from the Banaras Hindu University in 1960, remains a quick learner. On the last count, she had shopped three times each on Flipkart and Amazon – buying utensils, kitchenware and bedspreads – and recharged her mobile a few times by using a Paytm wallet. Shopping is only about a sixth of her internet use. Most of it is watching cookery and stitching shows on YouTube and reading.
No wonder, the HT-MaRS smartphone survey shows 58% of the people above 45 years spend time shopping while doing nothing at home. Another 63% do it while watching television.
AK Sinha, 65, retired as the principal of a government school in Ranchi. After his wife died last year, Sinha’s son, who lives in London, introduced him to buying books online. Now Sinha says he does most of his book buying on the internet while watching television in the evening. “They show too many ads,” he says.
The e-commerce business in India is indeed booming. In the 10 years to 2015, it rose from nothing to an astounding $20 billion. Millions of Indians now shop online.
According to Morgan Stanley, e-commerce was 0.2% of India’s GDP in 2010. That has grown to about 1.2% of GDP in 2016, up six times, and is expected to touch 4% by 2020, up 20 times.
That’s nothing compared to the potential. E-commerce is still just 3% of the retail buying in the country. Think of the room for growth. That’s where smartphones come in.
As stated in Monday’s edition of this series, most Indians are embracing the internet for the first time on the mobile phone and not a personal computer.
The country has 371 million mobile internet users; the first six months of this year alone added 65 million, says the Internet & Mobile Association of India. It’s therefore no surprise that 60% to 70% of the online buying in India happens on the mobile phone.
Krita Raut, 33, editorial manager at POPxo, a fashion and lifestyle portal says, “Styles change so frequently these days… Who has the time to go to the mall every week and check it? It’s faster here.”
She is pointing at the Myntra site, where she is choosing a gown for her friend’s wedding a month later.
Raut is not a deal hunter, but she is part of the 42% of women in this survey who spend most of their free time at work on e-commerce apps and websites.
Divya Jain is different. The 29-year-old content writer with Microsoft visits an e-commerce app only when she has to buy something on discount. Her last buy was a Barbie doll for her niece.
The survey shows 41% women buy online for lower prices. For men, the number is lower at 36%.
Pallavi Sharma, mother of a toddler, says though she started buying online sporadically years ago, her buying went through a drastic change once her son, Shanay, was born. “It started with diapers. Now almost everything I buy is online, even grocery,” says Sharma.
Buying behaviour changes drastically in the younger age groups. In 18-35 years, more than 75% of the shoppers browse more than they buy. Nitesh Kumar, 18, a Class 12 student, says there is so much available online that it’s confusing. “At times I end up with 10 T-shirts in my cart, though I want to buy only one.”