Free Press Journal

How online shopping is changing rural India



I stay in rural Maharashtra. We have reached a stage in life where we hardly shop but sometimes need specialty items like books, computer peripherals, herbal teas and the like. These items are not available in our rural town of Phaltan where we live and so we do online shopping. In the last year or so we have discovered the power of such shopping.

In the recent past, we would go once a month to Pune (110 km away) to buy a few things. Now because of online shopping, such trips have drastically reduced – and for good reason. It takes about three hours to reach Pune, driving over pot-holed roads, which produces back pain. Such online shopping is being discovered in all rural towns and areas around the country. However, for such e-commerce to take place, it is necessary to have a good internet connection, ability to sift through the various items offered and zeroing on selection of quality material.

I find that the rural population is learning this search-and-pick at amazing speed – which is reflected in the increase of sales in rural areas via online shopping. They also order items seen on TV ads and those passed by word of mouth. With mobile penetration in rural India, this shopping is also facilitated by various smart-phone apps so that desktop PCs are not required.

Nevertheless, this online shopping is fuelling consumerism in rural areas and is the engine which is helping it to urbanize. It is happening because it produces a win-win situation. For example, one can get quality goods at substantial savings as they are usually much cheaper than what one would pay in a shop in Pune or other big cities. Besides, most of the time the goods are shipped free and cash-on-delivery basis. Also, the time and energy used in actual shopping and going to the big city are saved.

This is the reason why e-commerce has spread so rapidly all over the world and rural India is only now getting the benefits of this revolution. The foray of the online companies in rural India is also fuelling the job market – it is providing employment to a large number of rural youth as delivery boys.