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E-commerce players prepare to ride Digital India drive
24
Oct '15
With the “Digital India” initiative expected to boost the e-commerce industry, major players such as Amazon and Snapdeal are preparing to ride piggy back on the Government's efforts to connect 250,000 villages in India by 2019, according to media reports.

Their strategy includes initiatives such as forays in regional languages and assisted shopping on e-commerce platforms through rural kiosks.

Most online transactions already arise from tier 2 and tier 3 cities. Once the Digital India project takes off, the government will deliver services via mobile connectivity and in doing so, is expected to bring the internet and broadband to remote corners of the country, thus providing the underlying connectivity for e-commerce. This will further expand the reach of the e-commerce market into India's smallest towns and rural areas.

At the heart of Digital India drive is the Rs 20,000-crore National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN), which aims to utilise the existing fibres of state-run units such as BSNL, Railtel and Power Grid to connect gram panchayats and blocks, and the growth of the e-commerce market. The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) estimated the Indian e-commerce market at $13.5 billion in 2014.

Snapdeal said wider connectivity will strengthen the system both on the demand and supply side while acknowledging that more than 70 per cent of their sales come from Tier II and III towns and the hinterland.

It said the NOFN would lead to unprecedented market access for the etailer's traditional artisans and small businesses, as for the first time they would be able to connect to the buyers directly, bringing much deserved focus to the country's handloom and handicrafts industry.

Amazon.in which gets 50 per cent of its orders from India's smaller towns and cities, said rising Internet penetration and smartphones will allow customers in smaller towns and villages great access to quality products at low prices.

Snapdeal which was the first e-commerce company to foray into regional languages by making its website available in Hindi and Telugu to cross the language barrier to tap rural audiences, was working with various partners to provide assisted e-commerce service through rural kiosks, where the partner agent assists customers to make purchases of their choice from the Snapdeal platform.

But analysts say despite the ambitious plans of e-commerce majors, the Digital India drive is unlikely to transform the online business landscape soon. The main reasons for that is that connecting rural Indian through the NOFN may still take some time and so will the efforts to make the target population digitally literate to enable them actually buy online. (SH)

Fibre2Fashion News Desk – India

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