By Indira Guerrero
New Delhi, Oct 8 (efe-epa).- E-commerce has taken off in India after emerging as an important shopping option during the strict lockdown in the market of 1.35 billion people.
The total lockdown, declared across the country at the end of March to contain the spread of Covid-19, propelled the growth of the online shopping sector even as the rest of the economy collapsed with an overall contraction of 23.9 percent between April and June.
Three months of strict confinement have reshaped the shopping habits of the Indians.
Before the lockdown, there was a clear distinction between consumers who shopped online and those who preferred to go to physical stores.
But “the problem of limited availability and fear of getting infected created a new shift in consumer behavior and their buying patterns leading to a new wave of online consumers,” says a recent study by e-commerce-focused supply chain solutions provider, Unicommerce.
“Among other things, the pandemic has given a major boost to India’s e-commerce and it will be considered as a major turning point for the country’s e-commerce ecosystem,” the study adds.
Right now, at the threshold of the country’s peak season for sales that fall between the start of the festive season and ends with the major Hindu festival of Diwali, leading online retailers, Amazon, Flipkart, and the Indian conglomerate Reliance, are bolstering their operations with thousands of new employees and the expansion of distribution and storage systems.
Market leader Amazon India, which has 350 million registered consumers, announced the hiring of at least 50,000 new workers to improve its call centers and delivery network and unveiled an expansion plan that includes 10 new warehouses and the expansion of seven existing centers in 19 states across the country.
“Recent times have shown us how important a role Amazon and e-commerce can play for customers, sellers and the overall economy alike, providing customers with an essential service by fulfilling customer needs while maintaining safety,” the company told EFE.
Meanwhile, Flipkart, which is owned by American retail chain Walmart and has a registered consumer base of 250 million, has announced the hiring of 70,000 new temporary employees to expand and strengthen its supply chain.
Restrictions on mobility due to the epidemic and the continuous increase in infections in the country, which already has 6.8 million cases, add to the favorable conditions for a market that was already growing due to the rise in internet users.
The government-sponsored India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF) says India – the world’s second-most populous country after China – is the fastest-growing e-commerce market.
It is expected to grow at 1,200 percent by 2026.
Paving the way for the growth of the industry, which quickly adapted to the conditions of the epidemic, has been the digitalization of the economy with one of the cheapest internet services in the world that serve some 500 million users that are expected to reach 830 million by 2021.
Statista.com, a portal specializing in market data, estimated that the value of the e-commerce market in India is $64 billion, up 15 percent from 2018, and will be $84 billion by 2021.
However, the study by Unicommerce says that “recent trends indicate that the industry will reach the number much sooner, with people reluctant to physically visit the stores even after the lockdown is lifted.”
Although the process of lifting the lockdown began in June, the volume of orders was 17 percent higher as compared to those before the lockdown.
“This signifies that consumers are getting more inclined towards online shopping,” according to Unicommerce.
Strong competition in India’s e-commerce sector and the dynamics of the economy during the epidemic is pushing retailers to go online.