Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Amazon of India

E-commerce scene is improving in India at a rapid pace and it is certainly a promising space set to explode.
As the internet connection is becoming cheaper and ubiquitous in India and as internet is becoming an obvious communication medium for upcoming generation of India, this space is to grow even quicker.
Having said that, online shopping has been available in India for years now through the big daddies of the online space like indiatimes, rediff, sify, homeshop18 etc. India found it's ebay in the form of Bazee (which is now ebay india) but India is yet to find its Amazon. If I ask myself the question - Do any of the 'bid daddies' have it in them to become the Amazon of India?, the answer would be 'NO'. (Did you notice caps?)
While I was in UK, I loved to shop through amazon for these reasons:
- Unbeatable prices
- Ease of use
- Customer Service Quality.... the trust factor and transparency.

I feel 'the big daddies' are way behind on the 3rd parameter here and that is good enough a reason for me to believe that they are certainly not going to be amazon of India.
After a couple of not so good experiences, I personally have decided to not purchase through them. I would rather shop from traditional offline market.

But then, online shopping is certainly a huge opportunity in India and there certainly are a few players who may be at the nascent stage at present but are growing by leaps and bounds.

If I have to choose possible Amazons of India, I would go for 'FlipKart'. From the look and feel of the site, I feel even Infibeam might be almost there but I don't have personal experience of shopping @ Infibeam.

As for FlipKart, my first order on Flipkart was on 6th march 2008 which might make me one of the first few customers of FlipKart. Since then I have order many books through them.
I get the same feeling while shopping with FlipKart that I used to get with amazon in UK.... the very important - transparency and trust factor! On almost all occasions, I received my books in less than 24 hours of time with neat and clean packaging!

Flipkart has recently ventured into selling items other than books as well... like movies, music, games and mobiles. And my latest purchase on FlipKart is a mobile phone [Samsung Monte S5620, to be specific :)] Probably this was my first purchase of an electronic item from an online store in India (for the very same reasons - transparency and ....).

I had a very good experience with flipkart and hence I ordered the mobile from them even-though at a couple of places it was available a little cheaper (by some Rs 100/150).
Now let me describe shopping experience -
- As I said price was not the lowest. For example, Infibeam was selling it at Rs 8875 but with a tagline that "Applicable Local Taxes,Octroi charges shall be born by the customer". The tagline suggested an unknown price factor and hence I choose not to go with them. Also, If I have to try an online shopping site, I would first try it for an item like books where quality of the item is not a big concern.
- I ordered the mobile for Rs 8999 on 31st July, 2010 (Saturday).
- I received delivery yesterday on 3rd August, 2010 (Tuesday). while they mentioned that possible delivery time will be 5 to 7 days, I received it on 2nd working day itself! Same - great experience as was with books!
- The courier guy asked for Rs 380 for octroi charges (and got receipt for the same)!!! I did pay the charges to the courier guy at that time as I's busy but I did post a mail to flipkart saying I would have appreciated being informed upfront about octroi charges.
My mail content -
Hi,
I received this order (referring to mobile order) but I had to pay Rs 380 as octroi charges.

While I understand that this may be fare and valid charges that FlipKart has no control over, I would have appreciated if this was mentioned (the way InfiBeam does) upfront while placing order.

I have had good experiences of shopping books with FlipKart especially for the transperancy in the transactions.

I always used to brag about FlipKart infront of my wife and you have given her a strong reason to taunt me :)

(It's not about Rs 380 - it's about transperancy and trust factor.)

Regards,
Sarang.
I wrote the mail yesterday afternoon at about 3:30pm and received a call from them today at 11am. (I love their turnaround time - be it order delivery or customer service)
The flipkart-guy informed me that courier-guy is not supposed to collect octroi charges and it must have been some misunderstanding on the courier company's part. Also that if I would have called them immediately, the confusion would've been sorted out.
However, they have promised to refund the money in terms of discount coupon in 24-48 hrs and I accepted as I will invariably purchase a book in future and it would certainly be through flipkart. (I didn't ask for cash back- not sure if they would've agreed to give cash back but I feel they would have)

I feel that such operational issues are bound to happen once in a while but what I loved is that the company is willing to rectify those and that too pretty quickly (Did you notice bold font?).

[I would certainly love to apply for IPO of this company if it lists today :)]

P.S. I used PhoneCurry to choose the mobile phone. They have decent interface to search mobiles... making it easier to find best value for money!

Cheers,
Sarang.

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