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India's online revolution: Are we there yet?

Online advertising may be doing great in India, but I think ecommerce has a long way to go here. Take online retailing. It seems the best of our shopping portals are still struggling with their basics. I have had many unsatisfactory transactions with indiatimes shopping (shopping.indiatimes.com). For one, their books are hardly in stock. It seems that they are only interested in selling gift items, and the books section is just there out of plain neccessity. Once you're transacting online, you expect a certain transparency and responsiveness. Sadly, no one seems to bother at such portals.

I recently received a gift certificate from my bank for indiatimes shopping. Thankfully, the amount of the GC was not substantial, because I havn't been able to use it to date. Initially, I ordered for a book. When I recalled placing the order a week or so later, I logged on to check the status and saw that it was (as usual) 'out of stock'. Strangely, they did not consider informing me of the status of my order. Secondly, they the money was was not refunded to my GC. As a result, it's still unsuable. Obviously, I don't want to waste my time trying to complain to them because their responses are not helpful at all.

Earlier, I had the same experience with the Fabmall website (later, www.indiaplaza.in). I placed an order for a book and there was not option for cash-on-delivery; which I consider the safest option considering the management of these sites. As the book was not easily available, I chose to pay at Reliance World outlet for which I got a receipt. The amount was Rs 180. After that, I never received my book. I tried getting in touch with them but I knew that my efforts would be in vain.

The pathetic manner in which our ecommerce websites, esp. of online retailers, are handled is a shame. We already widely use our credit cards and online banking for ecommerce, but what is lacking are trustworthy options to shop and transact online.

Its even more surprising to see a poorly managed corporate site of a popular brand name. Reliance Communications (www.relianceinfo.com) is not a badly designed website, its even easy to navigate. Yet, what you will not find here is up-to-date information. All the available handsets are not shown online. There is no mention of their prices and as a result, they are sold at different rates at different franchisees. Another personal experience here: I recently bought a handset from Reliance, cheaper than the MRP from a dealer. I used it to send an MMS and immediately received an SMS that I could retreive all my MMSs at the reliance website. When I logged in, I was told that my handset does not support the MMS feature. Wow, Reliance does not even know what handset I am using at present. So much for customer database.

Looks like as far as ecomm is concerned, India is still having teething troubles. One good word here, though - I have never had problems with my online banking accounts and even if I did, they were sorted out. Here's another catch again - after my ICICI internet banking passwords expired for not logging in during the first 15 days, getting another set was a lot like snatching a piece of meat from a hungry tiger. It took to me months on end to get the new passwords - sometimes my identity was not verified, sometimes the courier guy never made it and what not.

Maybe something like foreign investments might do something to help our ecomm industry. Our Indian companies are taking way too long to pull up their socks.
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1 comment

Consumer said...

You should complain in writing to the relevant people, with a link to your blog entry to save yourself the effort of describing your ordeal again. Hopefully, that will get you a fast response and more comments for the entry too!

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