The Great Indian eCommerce Sites

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Yesterday I was browsing for Mac Mini as that seemed like a good value for money option compared to iMac. Since I am an Amazon loyalist so I first went to Amazon where it was listed at Rs. 36,391/- with a MRP of Rs. 36.990/- as shown in the pic below.

Mac Mini Price in Amazon

Price on Amazon was very much what I anticipated but still I thought I’ll take a look at what others are quoting for this item so I opened Flipkart. On Flipkart, the same product was listed at Rs. 41,500/-. There was no MRP specified so it’s safe to assume that the MRP of the product, as per Flipkart, was at least the price at which it was being offered, i.e. Rs. 41,500/-.

Mac Mini Price in Flipkart

But wait, wasn’t the MRP on Amazon for the same product was less? Yes, it was. Rs. 36.990/- to be exact. Confused? This is nothing. Read on.

Next, I went to Snapdeal and searched for the same product and here is what I saw.

Mac Mini Price in Snapdeal

So Snapdeal was offering the product at Rs. 37,997/- (better than Flipkart) but hey, what’s that MRP? On Snapdeal, MRP was mentioned as Rs. 40,900/-.

Now this means that the MRP listed on both Amazon and Snapdeal for the product was less than the price at which Flipkart was offering the product. How’s the possible? It essentially means that Flipkart is selling the product at higher than MRP. Remember there was no MRP specified on Flipkart.

Another question is how come the MRP itself is different on different sites? There is a possibility that even though the model is same, some sites have older or newer stock resulting in the difference in MRP but I didn’t find any such difference from the product description and specifications though it may not have been specified anywhere.

Anyhow I didn’t stop there and searched for the product on Google and came across this listing on Vijay Sales which is a large (primarily offline) retailer of electronics and appliances. And guess what? The MRP specified, as shown below, was again different though it was very close to the MRP on Snapdeal. On Vijay Sales, the MRP was Rs. 40,990/- (Rs. 90/- more than Snapdeal).

Mac Mini Price in Vijay Sales

Now how it is possible that the MRP of same product is different on 4 different sites? It makes me think that there is something fundamentally wrong the way these sites are displaying the MRP, discounts and price. One primary reason is clearly to show higher (than actual) MRP and low offer price to come up with a higher percentage of discount. After all, a 20% discount looks better than 5% discount if you’re not comparing the final offer price on multiple sites.

For a moment, I wanted to keep going and checking out the price and MRP of the product on some other (smaller) sites but then I remembered I had better things to do 🙂

So here are my takeaways from this.

  • Amazon seems to be the best option as I have generally found. It was offering the product at lowest price and least MRP. (Yay! My trust in Amazon isn’t broken with this discovery)
  • Flipkart comes across as shady as the price is highest among all 4 sites and there is no MRP shown. If you compare, the price of Flipkart is higher than the MRP mentioned on all other sites. You don’t have to be Einstein to understand what that means. My advice – stay away!!
  • I have generally found that the price difference between Amazon and Snapdeal is the least and a few times, I have found products on Snapdeal cheaper compared to Amazon so I usually check the price on both Amazon and Snapdeal before I buy something. Probably you should too if you’re not doing it already.
  • Finally, there is something fundamentally wrong with the way Indian ecommerce sites are manipulating the prices, discounts and even MRPs to increase their sales though I am not sure if they’re succeeding. An average Indian online buyer is intelligent enough to see through such manipulations.

NOTE: The screenshots were taken on 27th June (2016) evening so the prices may have changed now.

Why group buying is not every merchant’s cup of tea?

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A lot has been said and written on this topic already. Group buying may not be successful in long term mainly because it is not a sustainable business model as vendors/merchants can’t keep providing heavy discount (typically >50%, sometimes even 90%) regularly. Most of the deal sites in India are shifting their focus from deals to e-commerce. However this is just one aspect of it. Group buying is actually a wonderful marketing idea which can do wonders to the business of a merchants.

Unfortunately, the problem is that most of the merchants think of it as a quick and easy way to increase sales temporarily rather than turning those ‘discount’ customers into repeat customers, which should be their main objective. It’s an open secret that generally customer of such deals do not get the same treatment as the regular customers. For example, quality of service is generally poor, quality is reduced (e.g. 4 piece instead of 8 piece in case of starters in a restaurant) and even lower quality products are used (in saloons, spas and beauty parlors). I have been a victim of these deals and the saloon and restaurant examples given above are experienced by myself (and a couple of my unfortunate friends whom I pulled into one of these deals). In fact, both restaurant manager and saloon owner admitted that they reduce quality and use low quality products respectively for customers having deal vouchers. That’s the reason they don’t mind coming up with deals regularly on various group buying sites like Snapdeal, Koovs and others as they still make money from these deals. However they fail to understand that people are not fool and how negative WOM spreads like fire now a days.

Instead, the merchants should provide same to better services to ‘discount’ customers which they provide to their regular or non-deal customers so they get a real taste of their service or products. This will help them turning those ‘discount’ customers into repeat customers. In the long run, this is not only result in more profits but will also help improving their image. I was discussing this with a friend who mentioned most of the merchants don’t have adequate education to appreciate group buying concept. But I don’t agree. Anyone who has been in business for few years should be able to figure out how to utilize group buying opportunity and some of the merchants are making good use of it and have acquired new customers but most of them are probably happy with short term profits. Ideally, it should be the responsibility of the deal sites like Snapdeal to educate the merchants on how to get benefited from such deals without having to compromise on service quality but they are probably too busy worrying about their own profits.

What’s your take on this?