Indian Hinterland is Online Business Savvy

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trend1Ramkumar Narayanan, GM, eBay Product Development Center, demystifies popular perceptions about online shopping habits and trends in India’s small towns, at the Nasscom Product Conclave 2013 in Bangalore recently

If I am an e-commerce company like eBay, the challenges are how I get goods to India’s hinterland. The problem is not the spending power. There is a misnomer that people who are in heartland of India don’t have spending power. The question is availability. Since they can’t do comparison shopping, they go online. If you talk to the ecommerce companies they will tell you that this is one of the fastest growing areas, but it is fraught with all kinds of problems logistics, payments, and delivery, among others. But the opportunity is huge.

45 million people in India use the internet without knowing that they are using the internet. They use telecos’ portals, they consume entertainment content, they click a button and something happens, they might not know underneath that there is internet; they just know that they are watching a video. That will change, as semi smart phones take off and as telecos bring down costs of access.

Reconciling payments versus auction

We have seen through our data about eBay India becoming a galvanizing force for a lot of folks who want to be entrepreneurs. They are not technology entrepreneurs but are people who are looking to build a livelihood. We have about 45,000 sellers on the eBay platform in India of which 15,000 are actually selling globally and it has created a cross border trade business. On the payment side, we have been looking at that business for a long time, it has a regulatory impact. So we have had to work around some regulation issues for supporting our eBay India business. There is a lot of interesting payment models that are emerging.

eBay and vernacular content?

I think there are a lot of challenges in creation of content, searching of content, which language to actually go after. In some cases, page views were higher in Hindi language sites than in English language sites. The geographic shift will necessitate all of this, to think about how to handle vernacular content. The challenge with that is fragmentation also. For example, 22 countries in the Middle East have only one language.
Interesting insights from eBay data and that is report on what’s happening in the Indian market. What we have seen is that there are 4,306 unique locations in India from which people are transacting on eBay, which means they are buying and selling and both domestic and international. They are not in the top metros. That’s an indication of internet penetration into the heartland of India. It also tells us that people are savvy, they figure out even if there is a language barrier, device barrier, people are figuring out ways to get online if there is value.

Opportunities to build apps on eBay

We have a rich set of APIs, we have a whole team which supports our buyers and sellers, and they are third party people who build tools on top of eBay platform, we are constantly looking for people to come up with good used cases that they can talk to us about. We have a development center in Bangalore and a Pay Pal development center in Chennai.