To Be or Not To Be

A little kingdom I possess,
Where thoughts and feelings dwell;
And very hard the task I find
Of governing it well.
-- Louisa May Alcott.
...........hmmm....that more or less describes my situation !!

~A Wise Man Said~

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
-- Aristotle

Thursday, July 03, 2014
When I used to have time to meander earlier, I used to blog. Now, I shop. I have been shopping forever, but now I get to shop online. People in the US, Europe and other mature economies might be wondering if I live in Timbuktu, seeing that shopping online has been in existence since some time now, but in India… well, it’s just now catching on and how!

As if by serendipity, everything around me is sort of making me think about this development. A friend of mine happened to ask me to take a look at a paper on e-tailing and then I was dragged into some discussion related to e-tailing in some other context and then the Economist article that landed home had a cover story called ‘How far will Amazon go’ (very interesting, btw). That’s when it seemed like if there ever was a sign, this was it. Get thee gone and write a blog!

Except that, I don’t know what I want to say. I have done e-shopping for stuff (as opposed to travel which is not what we are talking about) when I was in the US some 5 years ago. I got so hooked onto it then that I used to browse through Amazon for hours on end and buy stuff that I didn’t know how I would manage to carry home. That’s how I ended up buying a ‘salmon-coloured yoga mat’ that’s never seen the light of day in Mumbai, packaged as it is. Since being back, I never went shopping online till about three weeks ago, when I thought I’d see what the fuss was about. I went onto Jabong fully determined to get myself something, and I checked out the Skirts section, being the safest among apparel options in terms of fit and all that (at least to my mind). I kept going back and forth and finally selected a grey skirt that looked pretty different. I waited for the skirt to come home with the same childlike anticipation I used to have when I ordered stuff from Amazon years ago… the excitement one feels when an unexpected gift arrives, except that in this case the gift is paid for by oneself. ;) I was happy with the skirt and since then, there’s been no looking back.

I was having a discussion with this friend about whether online retail was here to stay in India, considering the Amazons of the world are still to make a healthy profit. The Flipkarts, Myntras, Jabongs all seem to be bending over backwards to get their share of the customer pie, but how will they survive this game where gaining is only possible by giving more—more discounts, more variety, more offers, and where no differentiation seems to be evident between competitors, at least for now? I realised after my first purchase of the skirt that I could have got the same skirt at a 40% discount had I known the system better. I don’t buy anything these days till I see a discount. So, will online shopping just vanish some day when online retailers realise they cannot sustain it anymore? Or will it be a case of last man standing… the smaller fish will die slowly and the one who lives it out will be able to finally command his own price—which customers will be willing to pay because there would be no one else to go to? Maybe Amazon is a sort of last man standing on the world stage? On the India scene, with the battle just starting and heating up, it remains to be seen which other players enter the stage and how much of a fight they will be ready to put up. Till the end comes, clearly, the customer is the winner. Am I complaining? J