Google: We made India a consumer society and our work here is done

'Great Online Shopping Festival' cancelled. Forever.

The Taj Mahal

In 2012, Google decided it needed to kickstart India's e-commerce sector, and created "The Great Online Shopping Festival". Today, it's declared "mission accomplished" and decided the festival's no longer needed.

The modestly-named Great Online Shopping Festival was unashamedly modelled on events like “Cyber Monday”, America's post-Thanksgiving online discounting frenzy. Google teamed with local online retailers, whipped up a frenzy, and watched as its efforts worked.

As the death notice for the Great Online Shopping Festival records, in 2012 “India had 130 million Internet users with only eight million Indians shopping online ... Fast forward to 2015, India has over 350 million Internet users and over 50 million online shoppers projected to reach 100 million by 2016 and the Industry is already over US$10 Billion.”

Google thinks the Great Online Shopping Festival created a rising tide that floated all retailers, not just the big outfits it teamed with in the early years of the short-lived festival. Having turned a decent slice of India into an online consumer society, it's now pledged to keep helping local small businesses in other ways.

+Comment: Google may be declaring mission accomplished, but after visiting India last month it's apparent the Internet and e-commerce are still far from pervasive. In Delhi I saw smartphones in many hands and television ads for fast delivery from Amazon.co.in. Which were galling seeing as Amazon hasn't made it to my Australian home.

In other cities smartphones could be seen, but feature phones dominated. Network performance was middling everywhere, perhaps an artefact of my roaming deal or perhaps derived from India's poorly-performing networks.

I came away thinking that when vendors talk of their Indian ambitions, they may well often be talking about plans to address the affluent population.

If India really will have 100 million online shoppers, as Google asserts, that may therefore be enough for now. Moving anything around India is tricky. Getting to a scale at which 100 million customers can be served satisfactorily would have been non-trivial. Reaching out into India's second, third and fifth-tier cities, never mind its innumerable villages, can probably wait even for a company as ambitious as Google. ®

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