Gargi Sarkar, Inc42
7 Oct 2023
The Indian ecommerce industry anticipates a stronger festive season compared to last year with over 20% sales growth, driven by the D2C segment’s expected 40% QoQ surge
The overlap of festive celebrations and wedding seasons, particularly with a later Diwali this year, is predicted to further stimulate demand
Despite the evident purchase intent, retailers are preparing for a possibly neutral festive season as economic challenges may hit consumers’ spending
As the festive season rings in its 10th anniversary in the ecommerce realm, giants like Flipkart and Amazon are prepping for their annual mega sales, set to begin on October 8. This year, however, they will face tough competition from newer players, including Meesho, which carved out a significant slice of the festive sales pie last year.
With new entrants like Tata Neu and JioMart, and fashion and lifestyle ecommerce players such as Myntra, Nykaa, and AJIO, the stage seems to be set for a fierce showdown.
For these ecommerce platforms, the annual festive sales aren’t merely about revenue generation; they’re pivotal customer engagement and acquisition opportunities. These events lure consumers with compelling discounts and promotions, giving a considerable boost to their yearly sales targets.
Through strategic marketing blitzes, they also aim to amplify brand recognition and glean insights into shopper preferences. Following last year’s subdued festivities, market analysts have predicted a revival in shoppers’ enthusiasm this year, forecasting a robust 20% surge in sales.
The festive season this year is set to witness a remarkable upswing in the ecommerce sector’s gross merchandise value (GMV). According to consulting firm Redseer, the GMV is anticipated to see an 18-20% surge, amounting to INR 90,000 Cr, a leap from INR 76,000 Cr in the previous year.
“The preceding quarter (April to June) witnessed a subdued performance in both offline and online retail sectors, primarily due to persistent inflationary pressures. However, the scenario is expected to undergo a transformation during the upcoming festive season. Festive periods tend to unleash latent consumer demand, prompting individuals to open their wallets more liberally,” Ashish Dhir, EVP (consumer and retail) of business consulting and services firm 1Lattice said.
There is a growing focus on electronics and appliances as traditional categories of interest. However, fashion and beauty are also emerging as important categories. The emergence of luxury goods is another important segment, which will likely make waves during the upcoming festive sales.
The ecommerce industry anticipates a stronger festive season compared to last year with over 20% sales growth, driven by the D2C segment’s expected 40% quarter-over-quarter (Q0Q) surge. However, average user spending is likely to remain flat.
Further, Tier III cities and beyond are becoming key revenue contributors, particularly in the fashion and beauty categories. Although consumer sentiment has improved, retailers are wary that buyers could maintain a cautious stance when it comes to spending lavishly.
While there is much to look forward to, let’s delve deeper into what shoppers and retailers can expect from this milestone year, which marks 10 years of festive sales fervour in the Indian ecommerce space.
D2C Brands To Lead The Charge
Notably, the Indian market is projected to have 500 Mn+ online shoppers by 2030, growing at 12% compound annual growth rate from 205 Mn in 2022, according to a 2020 report.
As far as the upcoming quarter is concerned, industry experts forecast that the homegrown ecommerce sector will likely see impressive growth of over 20%.
Playing a pivotal role in this escalation will be the D2C segment, predicted to grow more than 40% QoQ from October to December. Established ecommerce giants like Amazon, Flipkart and Meesho could also be looking at an approximate 30% uptick in sales, according to experts.
Tracing back to the inaugural ecommerce festive sales in 2014, the industry’s GMV was recorded at INR 27,000 Cr. Fast forward to 2023, the GMV is poised to touch an impressive INR 5,25,000 Cr, a nearly 20-fold increase, per a RedSeer report.
Festive Ecommerce OffersAverage User Spending Could Remain Muted
Despite the rise in GMV in 2022 compared to 2021, average expenditure per shopper held steady at INR 5,200 during the initial four days of the festive season sale, according to a RedSeer report.
This year doesn’t seem poised for a significant spike in individual user spending either. However, there is a silver lining in the form of rising consumer activity in smaller towns and cities. On the flip side, elevated living costs in metropolises like Bengaluru and Mumbai could dent extravagant consumer spending, noted Devangshu Dutta, the founder and CEO of Third Eyesight, a boutique management consulting firm.
Yet, with the growing online shopper populace in these cities, there’s potential for the average order value (AoV) to reduce as more users flock online to shop.
“As the online shopping base continues to expand, the average spending per user naturally tends to decrease. This phenomenon occurs as more people venture into ecommerce, with platforms like Amazon and Flipkart extending their reach to cover a broader audience. However, it’s essential to note that this drop in the average ticket size is a common trend when the customer base expands,” Sangeeta Verma, director of digiCart India said.
Consumers Sentiment Positive, But Retailers Remain Realistic
With the waning impact of inflation, India is witnessing a positive shift in consumer sentiment from the previous year. Unlike several developed nations wrestling with inflation, India has remained largely untouched by its dual impact on demand and supply, experts suggest.
For example, Flipkart delivered strong gross merchandise value (GMV) and sales growth in the company’s second quarter of the financial year 2023-24 (FY24), Walmart’s chief financial officer John David Rainey said during an earnings call.
“In India, the distinguishing factor in terms of festive demand is that it’s not merely brand-driven; consumers here are eager to spend, and the purchase intent is notably high. Unlike some developed economies grappling with inflationary concerns, both the demand and supply sides in India have not seen any impact of inflation. The consumer demand continues to stay buoyant,” Chirag Tanjeja, cofounder and CEO of GoKwik said.
The overlap of festive celebrations and wedding seasons, particularly with a later Diwali this year, is predicted to further stimulate demand, 1Lattice’s Dhir added.
Nevertheless, a note of caution reverberates among retailers. Despite the evident purchase intent, retailers are preparing for a possibly neutral festive season as economic challenges may hit consumers’ spending.
However, a recent study conducted by Nielsen Media India and commissioned by Amazon India says otherwise. According to the report, 81% of consumers are enthusiastic about shopping during the upcoming festive season. More importantly, this positive sentiment towards online shopping is not limited to metropolitan areas but Tier II and III cities and towns.
Ecommerce Platforms Ramp Up Efforts To Woo Sellers
In this year’s festive season, a standout trend is ecommerce giants’ intensified drive to court and captivate sellers with multiple strategic offerings like enticing commission rates, equipping them with advanced selling tools, enhancing the overall selling experience, and broadening their outreach.
Recently, ecommerce heavyweight Meesho made its platform accessible to non-GST registered sellers too. Not too behind in the race is Amazon India, which unveiled its multi-channel fulfilment (MCF) last month for D2C brands and retailers. This initiative is expected to aid sellers in managing customer orders from diverse channels.
Meanwhile, Flipkart flaunted its impressive seller growth, citing a tally surpassing 1.4 Mn — a notable 27% jump since 2022. Meesho currently has a seller base of 1.3 Mn and Amazon has over 1.2 Mn sellers.
Echoing the seller-side optimism, digiCart’s Verma said, “As a seller, we hold a very bullish sentiment. We’re so confident that we started stocking up well in advance. The robust build-up is evident from the current numbers. Mature sellers will expand into existing and new categories after.”
A recent survey by Redseer revealed that sellers are projecting a 15% increase in festive sales year-on-year. Even though the recent sales momentum on ecommerce platforms has been somewhat subdued — with only 40% of those surveyed reporting a 10% quarterly hike — there’s palpable enthusiasm for a significant festive sales boost across a multitude of product sectors.
Who Will Drive The Festive Ecommerce Growth?
Tier II and III cities and towns are expected to be the biggest contributors in this year’s festive season sales. According to experts, customers from these cities and towns are keen on giving their wardrobes and beauty kits a festive makeover. Although Tier I cities are spoilt for choice with numerous offline stores, spanning both legacy and contemporary brands, such luxuries are scarce in smaller cities.
However, this is steadily changing now. Some of the prominent D2C brands that have emerged from the country’s Tier II & III towns and cities are Raipur-based Drools, Mohali-based Lahori, Kanpur-based Phool, Coimbatore-based Juicy Chemistry, just to name a few.
Furthermore, consumer demand in the eastern regions of the country, along with enhanced connectivity in the Northeast, is also on the rise. Semi-urban and rural areas are fast emerging as the driving force behind the new wave of ecommerce growth, a trend expected to be pronounced during the festive season.
Considering that a whopping 65% of India’s populace resides in rural regions, the untapped ecommerce potential is immense, according to the Economic Survey 2022-23.
Yet, fostering trust will be paramount. Residents in these regions typically bank on word-of-mouth endorsements and recommendations from local retailers when exploring new products and brands. This is expected to give local D2C brands a much-needed boost in the upcoming festive season.
What’s Beyond The Festive Sale Fervour
As festive trends leave their mark in the ecommerce landscape, we’re likely to witness several transformative strategies. Central to this evolution will be Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) schemes. Yet, the traditional cash-on-delivery remains a preferred choice for many.
Ecommerce brands are increasingly prioritising customer retention, recognising that fostering enduring relationships offers more value. This shift is evident in the rise of loyalty programmes.
Notably, Flipkart introduced “Flipkart VIP” – a direct competitor to Amazon’s Prime – right before the festive sales kickoff. Simultaneously, Meesho debuted a loyalty initiative, targeting both customers and sellers.
Apart from the dominant themes, a few other noteworthy trends are slated to redefine the festive shopping narrative. Black Friday, for instance, is set for a revamp. Gen Z’s influence, especially their propensity to favour specific brands, will be significant.
Last year, for D2C brands, the Black Friday event overshadowed the traditional Diwali and Dusshera festivals in sales figures. GoKwik data indicates that brands on their platform saw a staggering 63% rise in GMV during the Black Friday sale, contrasting starkly with the 10-day Diwali sales.
Also, Christmas, too, is evolving. The allure of winter holidays and modern gifting practices are propelling this transformation, turning Christmas into a significant commercial event.
Given that the final leg of 2023 (October to December) will host almost all the major Indian festivals, the ecommerce players are in for a treat. Even though there will be a lot of cut-throat competition among ecommerce players, there will be no dearth of opportunities for them to woo customers who are eager to splurge to add more flavours to their festive celebrations this year. Going ahead, we will keep a close eye on the ecommerce players and D2C brands that will emerge triumphant after the great Indian festive showdown.
(Published in Inc42)
India’s economy is in focus globally, and is also at an inflection point.
Join Devangshu Dutta at the Asia-Pacific conference of UFI, The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry. Registration Link: https://lnkd.in/dq89_rY3
See you at UFI Asia-Pacific Conference in Kuala Lumpur!
Oil shocks, financial market crashes, localised wars and even medical emergencies like SARS pale when compared to the speed and the scale of the mayhem created by SARS-CoV-2. In recent decades the world has become far more interconnected through travel and trade, so the viral disease – medical and economic – now spreads faster than ever. Airlines carrying business and leisure-travellers have also quickly carried the virus. Businesses benefitting from lower costs and global scale are today infected deeply due to the concentration of manufacturing and trade.
A common defensive action worldwide is the lock-down of cities to slow community transmission (something that, ironically, the World Health Organization was denying as late as mid-January). The Indian government implemented a full-scale 3-week national lockdown from March 25. The suddenness of this decision took most businesses by surprise, but quick action to ensure physical distancing was critical.
Clearly consumer businesses are hit hard. If we stay home, many “needs” disappear; among them entertainment, eating out, and buying products related to socializing. Even grocery shopping drops; when you’re not strolling through the supermarket, the attention is focussed on “needs”, not “wants”. A travel ban means no sales at airport and railway kiosks, but also no commute to the airport and station which, in turn means that the businesses that support taxi drivers’ daily needs are hit.
Responses vary, but cash is king! US retailers have wrangled aid and tax breaks of potentially hundreds of billions of dollars, as part of a US$2 trillion stimulus. A British retailer is filing for administration to avoid threats of legal action, and has asked landlords for a 5-month retail holiday. Several western apparel retailers are cancelling orders, even with plaintive appeals from supplier countries such as Bangladesh and India. In India, large corporate retailers are negotiating rental waivers for the lockdown period or longer. Many retailers are bloated with excess inventory and, with lost weeks of sales, have started cancelling orders with their suppliers citing “force majeure”. Marketing spends have been hit. (As an aside, will “viral marketing” ever be the same?)
On the upside are interesting collaborations and shifts emerging. In the USA, Jo-Ann Stores is supplying fabric and materials to be made up into masks and hospital gowns at retailer Nieman Marcus’ alteration facilities. LVMH is converting its French cosmetics factories into hand sanitizer production units for hospitals, and American distilleries are giving away their alcohol-based solutions. In India, hospitality groups are providing quarantine facilities at their empty hotels. Zomato and Swiggy are partnering to deliver orders booked by both online and offline retailers, who are also partnering between themselves, in an unprecedented wave of coopetition. Ecommerce and home delivery models are getting a totally unexpected boost due to quarantine conditions.
Life-after-lockdown won’t go back to “normal”. People will remain concerned about physical exposure and are unlikely to want to spend long periods of time in crowds, so entertainment venues and restaurants will suffer for several weeks or months even after restrictions are lifted, as will malls and large-format stores where families can spend long periods of time.
The second major concern will be income-insecurity for a large portion of the consuming population. The frequency and value of discretionary purchases – offline and online – will remain subdued for months including entertainment, eating-out and ordering-in, fashion, home and lifestyle products, electronics and durables.
The saving grace is that for a large portion of India, the Dusshera-Deepavali season and weddings provide a huge boost, and that could still float some boats in the second half of this year. Health and wellness related products and services would also benefit, at least in the short term. So 2020 may not be a complete washout.
So, what now?
Retailers and suppliers both need to start seriously questioning whether they are valuable to their customer or a replaceable commodity, and crystallise the value proposition: what is it that the customer values, and why? Business expansion, rationalised in 2009-10, had also started going haywire recently. It is again time to focus on product line viability and store productivity, and be clear-minded about the units to be retained.
Someone once said, never let a good crisis be wasted.
This is a historical turning point. It should be a time of reflection, reinvention, rejuvenation. It would be a shame if we fail to use it to create new life-patterns, social constructs, business models and economic paradigms.
(This article was published in the Financial Express under the headline “As Consumer businesses take a hard hit, time for retailers to reflect and reinvent”.
B2B event companies don’t often think about consumer spending as something directly relevant to their business. However, consumer trends can allow industry event and exhibition organizers to get an advance view of where the opportunities can lie in the future. In this Keynote address at UFI’s Asia Open Seminar in Bangalore, Devangshu Dutta shares his views about the key consumer trends in India, and the implications for the events and exhibitions industry.
(This presentation was delivered on 6 March 2014 in Bangalore, India.)
(If you’re in a hurry, go to the Slideshare presentation, and bookmark this post for a complete read later.)
These pages usually focus on the consumer and retail sector, its constituents, its problems and the opportunities therein.
The consumer and retail sector is all about choice, and it is worth noting that we’ve just concluded what was possibly the most massive consumer event in the world. I’m referring, of course, to the Indian elections, where more than 500 “consumers” were bombarded with above-the-line and below-the-line marketing by various organisations pushing their brand, product (candidate) and services (ideology and manifesto).
The sum total of analyses of India’s 2014 election results already exceeds what one sane person can read in a lifetime. The BJP and its allies have won a majority of seats unprecedented among non-Congress alliances, in the first-past-the-post system. While opinions may be fractured, the Parliamentary mandate is clear.
In this context and in this spirit, it is also relevant for us to take the big picture view. Retail is a sector that touches the lives of virtually every citizen of this country on a daily basis. So anything that affects their lives and their aspirations have a direct bearing on the retail business as well.
India’s citizens are creative and entrepreneurial. They are hungry for growth. While they are respectful of heritage, they are also devastated by the decline that has come about over decades, centuries, and are determined to change this situation. What they need is the government to shoulder its responsibilities.
If there is one narrative that can pull diverse, divided strands of opinion together, it is “inclusive growth”. Throughout his campaign Narendra Modi has repeated the mantra: “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” (literally “all together, development for all”). In recent weeks, on more than one occasion he has extended this to mean pulling together the efforts of leaders across the political spectrum as well. At the time of this writing, the Prime Minister elect Modi has already set out to manage expectations. He has positioned himself as “mazdoor (labourer) no. 1”, and is asking the electorate for 10-years, making it amply clear that there is no magic broom to remove the dirt of corruption overnight, nor a magic hand that will conjure out ever-increasing incomes out of bottomless magic pockets.
While there are many problems to be tackled at the macro and the micro-level, I think the “business of government” can be captured broadly in an 8-point agenda, and each of these has a significant bearing on the consumers of this country, and the businesses they transact with:
1. Healthcare: While India’s average life-expectancy has improved steadily since Independence it still hangs in the mid-60s while China’s and Brazil’s is over 73. India offers less than one bed for every thousand of its citizens, while both China and Brazil are well over 2. The United Kingdom, whose National Health Service is constantly lambasted as being “overstretched”, offers about 4 hospital beds per 1000 people, and the average for former British colonies is also around 4. Public healthcare infrastructure in India – from primary to speciality – remains critically under-funded, and the public hospitals that exist are chronically under-equipped and under-staffed. Where equipment exists, it is underutilised, as commission-seeking individuals refer patients to the burgeoning private clinics and hospitals. Over the last decade or so private healthcare providers have achieved prominence in the media and among investors, and concessional access to public infrastructure and assets such as land, but they have proved to be consistently out of reach of the general public. Livelihoods and family savings are routinely destroyed in the search for better-quality healthcare in the new, profit-maximising business models. Health should be every citizen’s fundamental right, as one of the foundation stones of a strong nation. It is a right that is denied daily to hundreds of millions. Providing health support is the core business of the government, and needs urgent attention and substantial investment dispersed nationally.
2. Power: India’s power consumption average is about one-third of the Chinese average and less than a tenth of the USA, and this is not only because Indians have smaller homes or live more frugally, but because hundreds of millions of Indians spend most of their days and nights without electricity. If you think you can get a sense of the deprivation from a household that gets power a few hours a day, you actually have to visit one where power availability has improved due to grid power or micro or off-grid availability through solar or biomass units – the enormous impact that the improved power availability has on the lifestyle, livelihood and quality of life can only be truly gauged then. Across the nation, private participation has been invited into the power sector at different times, but the execution has been mixed. Private companies would also like to serve those areas where population concentration and decent financials allow the private provider to create a profitable business. Large swathes of the Indian population lie outside of such areas, and the onus is upon the government to provide the required electricity for households to live a fuller life, for students to complete their lessons, for healthcare and administrative facilities to run effectively, for small entrepreneurs to be able to grow their businesses.
3. Clean water: Imagine one train crash every day of the year, each killing all passengers on board. Sounds catastrophic, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t that get some serious attention? Well, it is estimated that around 1600 deaths are caused every day by diarrhoea alone (higher than the train wreck fatalities), and that 21% of communicable diseases in India are related to unsafe water. The problem is not only in far flung villages, but acute even in the largest cities of the country. Both those numbers are shamefully high for a nation that wants to see itself as a global superpower. There are no technological gaps for effectively harnessing the existing water resources, and for maintaining cleaning, distribution and recovery systems – only management gaps.
4. Transportation infrastructure: While India has one of the largest rail networks in the world, at about 20 kilometres per 1,000 sq km of land area it compares unfavourably to highly industrialised European countries (Germany: 115 km per thousand sq. km., UK: 65, France: 53) or even the large less densely populated USA (26 km per thousand sq. km.). On road development India’s picture has improved in the last 15 years, but it still trails world-leading economies in terms of length as well as quality. Poor transportation systems cut people off from economic opportunities, and force them to migrate to already overloaded cities, perpetuating problems in both urban and rural areas. Historically, all strong nations, democratic or otherwise, have flourished due to extensive, superior transportation networks. Where people and goods can move quickly and freely, both trade and culture flourish, and build the strongest ties that bind people together.
5. Education: This is another area which has systematically been under-invested in by the government. From pre-schools to universities, the growth of educational institutions for the last 30-40 years has predominantly been in private hands, where affordability is not the prime driver. The number of seats in government-run institutions has not grown in proportion with the population, let alone in correlation with the demand. Access remains a problem, as does the quality. There is no reason why government-run educational institutions need to be bad – there are enough examples around the country within government schools and colleges, where organisational systems and individual intent produces excellence. Without immediate and adequate government focus on education, the massive young population of India will go waste, at worst it would be a ticking time-bomb of under-skilled frustrated underachievers.
6. Environment: This might seem like a strange inclusion in this “development-oriented” list. However, it is essential that the environment should be on a list of core items that the government needs to manage well. The government is usually in the news for either not doing enough (such as not monitoring the systematic encroachment in and destruction of the Aravalli Hills) or, at the other extreme, getting in the way by holding back environmental approvals to development projects. Another term for the environment is “the commons”, reflecting that the natural resources belong to the people, together. The commons need not just protection, but regeneration, resurgence. Defence and political experts around the world list climate change and clashes over natural resources as among the highest conflict risks in coming years, and the evidence is frequently visible. When “growth” is measured only by those activities that extract and deplete the common resources, support and encouragement is provided for those individuals and companies that do this the “best”. It is short-termism and selfishness of the worst sort. Evidence of large scale climate-related changes and the debilitating impact on civilisations exists around the world and across the span of history; the closest might be the Ganga-Saraswati civilisation that is said to have dispersed due to the depletion of one of its greatest rivers. We don’t even need to forecast huge impacts far into the future. Millions of Indians increasingly are born and live with chronic diseases that are related to deteriorating air quality, depleted water resources, polluted soils and disappearing vegetation. Indigenous natural species of plants and animals are declining, mostly invisible to the nation at large. A comprehensive, evolving framework is needed that goes beyond short-term planning and management by knee-jerk reactions.
7. Competition: This is an area which requires little investment, relative to the other items on this list, but a huge amount of intent and follow-through. No economic system is perfect and, indeed, it is the imperfections and discontinuities that provide business opportunities. When the imperfections are exploited by many, competitive forces balance each other out. The need to diversify is well-understood by people who care to think about risks. Concentration of efforts, resources, power behind a few initiatives or organisations can bring about disproportionately good results, but also creates the risk of wipeout. Diversity is a challenge because it creates fragmentation, but it is also an essential source of innovation, combating not just present risks but future threats as well. Self-moderation is too much to expect from even the most enlightened of large business leaders and even the most progressive of industries. Anti-competitive and customer protection frameworks have improved in recent years, but are still understaffed and underequipped. As the economy grows, so does the need to provide oversight against unethical behaviour by large organisations.
8. Accountability: None of the above can truly happen without transparency in governance, and productivity in public service i.e. respect for schedules, budgets and commitments. Measures such as Right to Information (RTI) have moved the country several steps up the transparency ladder, but accountability to “service deliverables” is still missing in a vast number of people employed in government departments. Entry into “government service” is seen as a ticket to a reasonably comfortable employment if you are inclined to not rock the boat. The idea is to not question the status quo as far as possible, and to ensure that the outcomes for the “overclass” are taken care of. This attitude needs to change. In fact a small start could be made by replacing the phrase “government service” with “public service” – the business of government is to serve the public at large, and this needs to be recognised and acknowledged by everyone involved in it. Efforts in all the other areas will fall flat if accountability and productivity are not embedded into the money and efforts invested. (Imagine if we could sign SLAs – service level agreements – with each and every individual hired for public service roles!) The roles that accountability brings with it include “upholding the law” and “enabling an environment where each citizen has a fair chance of success”.
Someone else might come up with a slightly different list – this is mine, the seven pillars and the overarching beam. I’ve not listed the areas in any specific order of priority. Some of them need more government intervention, some need less private intervention, a few (such as education) need both. These are all areas that are the foundation on which everything else is built. These are the areas which, to a very large extent, determine the levels of dignity with which a country’s citizens lead their lives.
In this day and age, the government is not needed to run steel mills, airlines or even handicraft retail stores. But without high quality and high availability ensured by the government in the above areas, even the most capable individual will find it easier to build a life and even the best private enterprise will find it more profitable to do business elsewhere in the world.
A much-followed new-generation business leader recently rhetorically asked in a social media post that, if we have an economy swinging towards services with a large chunk of it being technology, “Why do we need government?”
The reasons above, my friend, are why and where we need government, because business is not delivering on these areas in an equitable manner, and these are areas where technology will not necessarily provide all the answers. We have years of evidence of this, in some cases decades, and it is time we choose to move.
By and large, most people would rather choose to move something, than move somewhere (else). And the retail business will be one of the first to benefit.