And will continue to grow two to three times faster than the GDP growth, he adds
Having founded two noted e-commerce companies, Aggarwal gives us a first-hand experience of digital's evolution in India, along with key highlights post-Covid.
Q1. In the last year, what are some of the key traits of / changes to your ecommerce presence?
Every new challenge creates new opportunities. While ecommerce was always digital, with two Covid waves in India, digitization has just gone to the next level. In Droom, we have built the entire new service for last mile delivery, where you will buy a car from Droom, and it will get delivered at your doorstep. Second is digital revolution. India probably had only 50 – 80 mn online shoppers, out of the 800 mn internet population. But now, it’s maybe north of 250mn during Covid. Most of the things were served on a mobile-first with a low speed, data quality on mobile phone, and lot of creation of vernacular languages was seen. For me, end-to-end contactless commerce, mobile first, vernacular languages, easy interfaces along with deeper penetration have been the key highlights.
Q2. Online communication behavior has changed drastically but which among these really remained irreversible?
I believe online communication behavior has changed drastically. And this in itself is irreversible. I think there's a lot of argument that- would people live in a certain way post-Covid or will they still use sanitizer mask or maintain social distancing? The answer is no. Some people may be more conscious. But in general, society will move back to the old norms. Another example is that online education may not be as pronounced as it is today, some people will still prefer meeting a doctor face to face instead of telemedicine. But if we see overall, this did not happen for one or two months, but for almost 18 months. This is a sufficient time to change habits permanently.
Q3. What impact does this irreversible consumer behavior have in that investment that you have earmarked for your ecommerce present and marketing in the year ahead?
Covid is the reason for the acceleration in our category. We have not run TV commercials for almost two years because we are spending more on digital. We are building a product called ‘Droom Velocity’, which will deliver your car to your doorsteps. Further, we have made a complete paperless delivery to your doorstep. We are moving more of our marketing spend to digital and performance-based online marketing rather than TV commercial, or outdoor radio or events.
Q4. Many industry leaders have been quoted on saying it is still day 1 for ecommerce in India, given the sheer room for growth for digital in India, and the consequent impact on the increase in online shoppers. Do you agree?
Well, yes and no, being a founder of India's first e-commerce marketplace at the time when only 0.2% of India's retail was online, versus now, when a total of 3% of India's retail is online, I cannot say it is day one. But when you look at the $1 trillion retail industry, and so many other categories except travel, mobile phone, electronics computer, jobs, and then the non-commerce activities such as social media search, microblogging, and video, the penetration is still low single-digit. So, from that perspective, we can still call it day one.
Q5. How do you see ecommerce grow or change in a post-pandemic scenario?
Covid has been a catalyst for accelerating the adoption of e-commerce globally. During the first phase, the impact on human life was less as compared to business but during the second phase it has reversed, considering business was open. India in the first six months of 2021, especially in the e-commerce and online space, has raised 10s of billions and has produced 15+ new unicorns, which has never happened in a similar timeframe ever. So clearly, I would say that e-commerce is likely to grow at least double the speed for the next three to five years, versus how I would have thought at the beginning of 2020 and will continue to grow two to three times faster than the GDP growth.
Q6. What do you see as some of the challenges facing Ecommerce in India? What is your advice to companies navigating these?
As a two-time founder of two large e-commerce companies, e-commerce has come a long way.
I would like to highlight that e-commerce is here to stay, the Internet is here to stay, and it is creating millions of new jobs, helping small and medium businesses to blossom, giving new avenues and hope to the people who had limited economic resources. In my view, the best thing government regulators and trade bodies can do with the new generation of entrepreneurs is to stay away and let them do what they are doing. And eventually, it will create more jobs, careers, and economic activities.
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