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Covid-19: E-commerce giants still eager to source from India

Sangeetha Chengappa Bengaluru | Updated on July 07, 2020 Published on July 07, 2020

Players say rising virus cases in the country won’t stop them from promoting Indian products in overseas markets

Some of the biggest e-commerce players in the country say they will continue to source products from Indian sellers for their global customers, despite India becoming a Covid-19 hotspot.

Asked whether its global selling business has taken a hit as overseas customers become chary about buying from India, an Amazon India spokesperson said: “Our global selling programme continues to see strong momentum as Indian entrepreneurs innovate and respond to the needs of global consumers even during Covid-19 times, resulting in the programme seeing a healthy year-on-year growth.”

Amazon’s Global Selling Programme, launched in India in 2015, has grown from 32,000 sellers in 2018 to 60,000 sellers today. They sell over 100 million products across Amazon’s 15 marketplaces; the top selling items include leather products, bed linen, STEM toys, jewellery, Ayurveda products, tea, shampoos and soaps. In January, Amazon announced its commitment to enable $10 billion in cumulative e-commerce exports from India by 2025.

Strong demand

Customer demand for Indian products from around the world continues to be strong on e-commerce marketplaces like eBay India (eBay IN-CBT), Etsy.com and Amazon.in despite India becoming the third- worst hit Covid-19 nation in the world.

Vidmay Naini, Country Manager, eBay IN-CBT, told BusinessLine that he has not seen any decline in the volume of orders, as the company has taken all due precautions from the first-mile packing to the dispatch process, to ensure safe delivery of products to its global buyers. With over 10,000 active sellers in India who have access to 174 million buyers in 190 countries, eBay IN-CBT is perhaps the first e-commerce marketplace to offer cross-border trade opportunities to Indian sellers since a decade ago.

Pointing out that the potential for cross-border trade for Indian sellers is immense, Naini said: “The overall global e-commerce business is around $4 trillion as per emarketer.com. According to various estimates, the B2C cross border e-commerce potential for Indian sellers is approximately $1 billion at present. However, if that potential can be unlocked through building a retail-export oriented, efficient, low-cost trackable shipping; retail-export friendly policies and ease of customs clearances; retail export awareness among MSMEs, manufacturers and brands; and ‘Made in India’ product awareness promotions in host markets; this opportunity could exceed more than twofold.”

Cross-border trade

When queried about the size of its cross-border trade business, Flipkart, the country’s largest e-commerce marketplace, did not respond. Sources said Flipkart had discontinued its cross-border trade business, which was initiated in mid-2017, by entering into a 10-year commercial partnership with eBay. This was soon after eBay made a $500-million investment in and sold its India business to Flipkart. However, after Walmart acquired a 77 per cent stake in Flipkart in 2018, eBay pulled out of the partnership to start over as an independent entity, following which Flipkart shifted its focus solely to its domestic business.

Attracted by the huge cross-border trade opportunity for Indian artisans, craftsmen and creative entrepreneurs, global marketplace Etsy.com set up a team in India in 2018 with a corporate office in New Delhi. “Sellers from India have been using Etsy to share their crafts with the world since our early days. Currently we have more than 1.6 million items listed from sellers in India who have access to over 46 million buyers. We know that buyers from around the world are interested in unique items from Indian artisans. In fact, at Etsy, we see that buyers who purchase from Indian sellers have a higher life time value,” said Himanshu Wardhan, India Managing Director at Etsy.

Even Indian global subsidiaries of international apparel brands are looking to enable cross-border e-commerce to some markets where they have rights to sell. Omnichannel solutions provider Acer Turtle has been approached by some of these brands to enable cross border e-commerce to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal. “These brands normally appoint a distributor in these markets to enable offline sales, but are now looking to sell online through our platform Rubicon. Even Indian apparel brands want to sell to the Middle East on our platform to cater to demand from a large NRI population,” said Nitin Chhabra, CEO, Ace Turtle.

Cross-border trade is becoming more relevant in these times as retailers and brands would want access to as much demand via as many “storefronts” as possible, given the demand fragmentation that has happened due to Covid, observes Mukul Bafana, CEO, Omuni (Arvind Internet).

“Marketplaces, discovery sites, marketing channels abroad and international selling via Indian marketplaces offer retailers and brands a chance to create more digital storefronts to generate more orders,” he said.

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Published on July 07, 2020
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