Will E-commerce Be The Dreaded Nemesis?

The Indian brick-and-mortar stores are certainly in a very uncomfortable position. Their shelves are overflowing, finance schemes have been made available, and freebies are being doled out. The manufacturers at their end have gone to the extent of matching online prices for some products, offered lucrative dealer schemes, run mega advertising campaigns, and not given in to the pressure caused by the rupee slide and import duty hikes. And yet there is a mere trickling in of the consumer. The party is threatening to be a flop show!

Demand is just not forthcoming. For the rural buyer – Minimum Support Price hikes, farm loan waivers, election related spending in the run-up to the 2019 elections – none seem to entice him. His urban counterpart too, confronted with inflationary pressures from rising crude oil prices is just not taking the plunge.

On the other hand, the two leading e-commerce companies, Flipkart and Amazon are just not letting go. With immense fund backing, higher storage capacity, a major expansion in its network of delivery hubs and delivery staff and thus speedier delivery, they are announcing new deals daily. Bank offers, Amazon has lined with HDFC Bank whereas Flipkart has joined hands with SBI Bank to offer 10 per cent instant discount, no cost EMI, 10 per cent cash back, exchange offers, they are hell-bent on breaking their own past records. It is not just the city slick, but also many first-time customers, with a large portion from tier II and III cities, that are ordering in. Large appliances have joined the ever-favorite cellphones and television sets basket; as have the leading brands, the earlier online ones. It is one continuous party happening.

Will the brands achieve the targeted 20 percent higher sales from the dealer network? Will the consumer exhibit loyalty to his neighborhood store? Will the festive season bring cheer to the brick-and-mortar network or will it sound their death knell? We will only know this once the festivities are over.

We wish the dealer fraternity a very happy Diwali and may Goddess Lakshmi shower them with wealth, prosperity, grace and abundance!

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