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With third largest internet user base, India’s e-commerce still falls behind China’s e-market

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shopping-cart-304843_640A digital research firm, eMarketer analyse from its data that retail e-commerce sales in India are expected to reach $17.5 billion (Rs.105,120 crore) by 2018, from $5.3 billion (Rs 31,800 crore) in 2014, but only two of 10 internet users in India shop online.

India’s e-commerce market is intensely competitive, with US giant Amazon establishing its presence in India in 2013 and Alibaba, the Chinese giant, planning to start selling by August this year. Flipkart, India’s largest e-commerce firm, recently raised $550 million (Rs.3,300 crore) at a valuation of $15 billion (Rs.90,000 crore).

Despite having the third-largest internet user base in the world with 200 million users at the end of 2014, India does not feature in the top 10 e-commerce markets in the world, according to an eMarketer report. The reasons centre on low Internet reach, slow internet speeds outside the metropolitan cities and poor customer services.

India’s e-commerce sales in 2014 were $5.3 billion (Rs.31,800 crore) – 80 times smaller than China’s $426.26 billion (Rs.2,557,760 crore) and 58 times smaller than US’ $305.6 billion (Rs.1,833,900 crore).

“If you look at Japan, China and US, e-commerce became popular as early as 2002-2003. It has taken them about 12-13 years to reach where they have reached. E-commerce really took off in India only in 2012-13. It will take India also that much time to reach there,” said Rajnish, a technology expert.

China and the US accounted for more than 55 percent of global internet retail sales in 2014. China’s growth over the next five years will widen the gap between the two countries. China will likely exceed $1 trillion (Rs.6,000,000 crore) in retail e-commerce sales by 2018, accounting for more than 40% of the total worldwide.

Globally, retail sales reached $22.492 trillion (Rs.134,952,000 crore) in 2014 but retail e-commerce sales stood at $1.316 trillion (Rs.7,896,000 crore, 5.9 percent of overall retail sales).

E-commerce sales are expected to increase 89 percent to $2.489 trillion (Rs.14,934,000 crore, 8.8 percent of overall retail sales) in 2018.

Digital-buyer penetration — a measure of digital reach — is a major factor in determining the success of retail e-commerce sales. India’s digital-buyer penetration was quite low at 24.4 percent in 2014 as compared to the global average of 41.6 percent.

The UK leads the world with 88% penetration. Ironically, China with 55.2 percent and US with 74.4 perent penetration do not feature in the top five. Indian e-commerce has a long way to go.

“E-commerce in India still has a lot of friction,” Rajnish said. “Till that is solved, it will be hard for penetration to go beyond 30 percent. For example, India has very low credit-card penetration and the cash-on-delivery (COD) model is why Flipkart really took off.”

People above 35 are not very comfortable using their debit card online. PayTm and others solve this problem but there is a lot of friction.

“I use PayTm for Uber and it is still a process that has friction. In US, the return policy is very generous. I bought a coat from Amazon in the Bay area; it ended up being the wrong size. My experience of changing to the correct size was very seamless. When I bought a down jacket in Bangalore, and it ended up being the wrong size, getting the right size was really a painful experience,” said Rajnish.

That view is echoed by Paritosh Sharma, an advisor to tech startups and an entrepreneur with PayUMoney, a digital-payment platform.

“Digital buying has an attached expectation to it. I place the order and it should appear in front of me over the next two or three days. In many cases this does not happen. Also, in a lot of cases (especially in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities) in India, if you get a product that is not of the exact quality that you ordered, returning it is a major problem. Most people, hence, prefer what’s available in a physical retail store,” Sharma said.

There are two more reasons for low online sales, said Sharma. First, the internet infrastructure in India is poor. If one steps outside city limits, you automatically are shifted from 3G to an Edge (a lower-speed) connection, deterring buyers.

Second, lack of good service and support. While most Indian e-commerce companies are sprucing up their support via phone and digital media, it’s quite haphazard. Most companies still lack processes to ensure customer satisfaction and trust.

-(IANS)

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Diesel Exhaust Converted Into Ink by Indian Innovators To Battle Air Pollution

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

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representational image. VOA

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

In a cabin, young engineers pore over drawings and hunch over computers as they explore more applications of the technology that they hope will aid progress in cleaning up the Indian capital’s toxic air – among the world’s dirtiest.

While the millions of cars that ply Delhi’s streets are usually blamed for the city’s deadly air pollution, another big culprit is the massive diesel generators used by industries and buildings to light up homes and offices during outages when power from the grid switches off – a frequent occurrence in summer. Installed in backyards and basements, they stay away from the public eye.

“Although vehicular emissions are the show stoppers, they are the ones which get the media attention, the silent polluters are the diesel generators,” says Arpit Dhupar, one of the three engineers who co-founded the start up.

The idea that this polluting smoke needs attention struck Dhupar three years ago as he sipped a glass of sugarcane juice at a roadside vendor and saw a wall blackened with the fumes of a diesel generator he was using.

It jolted him into joining with two others who co-founded the start-up to find a solution. Dhupar had experienced first hand the deadly impact of this pollution as he developed respiratory problems growing up in Delhi.

An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.
An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.

A new business

As the city’s dirty air becomes a serious health hazard for many citizens, it has turned into both a calling and a business opportunity for entrepreneurs looking at ways to improve air quality.

According to estimates, vehicles contribute 22 percent of the deadly PM 2.5 emissions in Delhi, while the share of diesel generators is about 15 percent. These emissions settle deep into the lungs, causing a host of respiratory problems.

After over two years of research and development, Chakr has begun selling devices to tap the diesel exhaust. They have been installed in 50 places, include public sector and private companies.

The technology involves cooling the exhaust in a “heat exchanger” where the tiny soot particles come together. These are then funneled into another chamber that captures 70 to 90 percent of the particulate matter. The carbon is isolated and converted into ink.

Among their first clients was one of the city’s top law firms, Jyoti Sagar Associates, which is housed in a building in Delhi’s business hub Gurgaon.

Making a contribution to minimizing the carbon footprint is a subject that is close to Sagar’s heart – his 32-year-old daughter has long suffered from the harmful effects of Delhi’s toxic air.

Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.
Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.

“This appealed to us straightaway, the technology is very impactful but is beautifully simple,” says Sagar. Since it could be retrofitted, it did not disrupt the day-to-day activities at the buzzing office. “Let’s be responsible. Let’s at least not leave behind a larger footprint of carbon. And if we can afford to control it, why not, it’s good for all,” he says.

At Chakr Innovation, cups, diaries and paper bags printed with the ink made from the exhaust serve as constant reminders of the amount of carbon emissions that would have escaped into the atmosphere.

There has been a lot of focus on improving Delhi’s air by reducing vehicular pollution and making more stringent norms for manufacturers, but the same has not happened for diesel generators. Although there are efforts to penalize businesses that dirty the atmosphere, this often prompts them to find ways to get around the norms.

Also Read: Exposure to Traffic-Related Pollution Poses Threat of Asthma in Kids

Tushar Mathur who joined the start up after working for ten years in the corporate sector feels converting smoke into ink is a viable solution. “Here is a technology which is completely sustainable, a win-win between businesses and environment,” says Mathur. (VOA)