Just out, Amazon's Jeff Bezos for Fortune pic.twitter.com/44clRlqL34
— Nigel Buchanan (@NigelBuchanan2) January 5, 2016
I was tidying up the living room when this bizarre looking cover of January’s issue of Fortune Magazine caught my eye.
Why was Jeff Bezos blue in the face? This cover caught my eye simply because it looked so bizarre.
Later on I found myself drawn to the two elephant trumpeting the the Great Indian Sale on Amazon
According to Fortune, Amazon is all set to capture the Great Indian Market
Alas nothing can be further from the truth.
Things just don’t happen in India the way they happen in the rest of the world .
1. Numbers don’t always translate into sales
The changing Indian Bazaar
The early 2000’s saw a change in the Indian market place. Traditional bazaars gave way to airconditioned malls. I remember at the official opening of Crossroads, the first of its kind in Mumbai, there was a traffic jam that was never seen before or since. People came to “look” at the Mall as though it was a wonder of the world. To reduce the unruly mobs that thronged on the “magic stairs” and walked in and out of the “magic doors”, the Mall actually prescribed a dress code and mandated possession of a Credit Card just to enter its hallowed premises.
Today this very same Mall has changed ownership and wears a forlorn look . Gone are the wide aisles and premium brands – in its place are narrow aisles and in-house brands that are more affordable.
And this is the case, sadly of several malls around the country are closing down due to lack of business.
The great Indian property bubble
A similar story plays out in the Indian property market. For a while old buildings and homes were being torn down in a desperate hurry to make money. Agricultural lands were redeveloped as integrated townships. Unused mills and defunct commercial spaces were re-vitalised and even open park spaces were being eyed as potential money spinners in the “booming” property market
But the reality is that many buildings buildings remain unoccupied and most Indians still don’t own their own homes.
2. The Great Indian Myths
If you live in Mumbai you are lucky to have an uninterrupted supply of electricity. The rest of India has to deal with frequent outages . Some cities like Pune for instance regularly have no electricity on Thursday.
Despite having so many software engineers and every Tom, Dick and Harry doing “computers “, the internet speed is pathetic. As for WiFi – just forget it. There are times when I’ve had to abandon a simple online booking for a movie ticket just because the computer froze or the operation timed out…..
Everyone speaks/understands English.
Now this is one myth that really has me laughing. Most times when a recorded message asks me to press 1 for service in English, a voice speaking distinctly in HINDI asks me what my problem is.
If this is not laughable, the fact that I am a woman and is still addressed as SIR, definitely is!
“A customer is the most important visitor, on our premises.
He is not dependent on us.
We are dependent on him.
He is not an interruption on work.
He is the purpose of it.
He is not an outsider to our business.
He is part of it.
We are not doing him a favor by serving him…
He is doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to do it.”
For many years, this quote by the Father of our Nation ( aka Mahatma Gandhi) was placed prominently in all Government emporia. Needless to say, the salesmen were far from polite or helpful. In fact they were almost always miffed that we were disturbing their never ending tea break.
If customer service in reality is bad, then customer service in virtuality is truly non-existent. I have spent several hours playing tag being passed on from one Customer Service Representative to the other when I wanted to register any complaint or make an inquiry. And this is possible after spending hours trying to get a Toll Free number that is NOT BUSY.
Product reliability, deliverability
If you do manage to make an online transaction on any e-commerce site like Flipkart, chances are that the goods you are delivered are not perfect. Last month I ordered a full price hand mixer from Flipkart and it came to me completely damaged and unusable. I don’t have the energy to engage with their Customer Service so I dunked it in the dustbin instead.
Similarly, the delivery times are not always convenient. For instance, there are several roads that are inaccessible to heavy transport during peak traffic hours so despite the timing given, the delivery is often delayed. I once waited three weeks for a delivery of Pampers from First Cry. This despite the fact that the order was pre-paid. I found out that COD is more likely to be delivered on time .
So Mr. Bezos, are you only blue in the face for the cover of Fortune or will you really capture the 3 trillion dollar e-commerce market?