eCommerce Blog

eCommerce Blog – Opportunities in US and India (by Darpan Munjal)

Competitive advantage in the digital world

Posted by Darpan Munjal On March - 14 - 2008
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Recently I got an invitation from an old colleague to join Plaxo. I thought to myself – I don’t need another social network to maintain professional contacts, I already have LinkedIn! Within the next 3 days, I suddenly started receiving Plaxo invitations from my other LinkedIn contacts – it almost felt like some sort of evil spam! As much as I hate to sign up for a new site I don’t intend to use, my curiousity got the best of me, and I indulged in accepting the invitation to see what all the hype was about. Moments after clicking through the registration process, I realized how easy Plaxo made to import contacts from my other sources – Gmail, Outlook and most surprisingly from LinkedIn!!

These are the initial signs of what is changing in the digital world. Information created by users is following them from one site to another. This is particularly timely now that the users have started feeling the “network fatigue” that comes from maintaining multiple social-networking profiles, e-mail accounts, blogs, address book applications and the like. Things are changing, really changing in the social web. Initiatives such as Dataportability group are all about making the web more free flowing in terms of user data – most of the key players such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo have already signed up. If things pan out the way they are Read the rest of this entry »

New Venture Series – Comparison Shopping Platforms

Posted by Darpan Munjal On March - 3 - 2008
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The online shopping space in India is getting more and more crowded . Even though, the overall pie remains small, today’s customers have more options than ever when it comes to online shopping. This certainly is good news for aggregation platforms such as price comparison engines. The more options shoppers have, the greater value they would see in platforms that offer a one stop comparison of products and prices across retailers. Not surprisingly, several comparison shopping platforms have been launched in the Indian market. and are the two most prominent ones. So if we have these comparison shopping platforms available, why aren’t people using them? Or are they?

Today’s Environment
Before we try to answer these questions, let’s try to explore the value proposition offered by these comparison shopping platforms. At the most basic level, a comparison shopping engine must deliver on a promise of accuracy, and unbiased price comparisons across a wide breadth of online retailers. The overall value proposition offered by these platforms is to help customers save time in making more informed shopping decisions. The question is how well are these comparison shopping platforms able to deliver on these basic promises? To explore this further, let’s take an example. Suppose, you are looking to buy a Nokia N70 phone – instead of visiting individual shopping sites separately, you decide to start with a comparison shopping platform like Performing a search for N70 on quickly displays about 9 different online retailers selling this product. So far so good, however there is one little problem. Read the rest of this entry »

New Venture Series – Social Shopping

Posted by Darpan Munjal On February - 13 - 2008
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It is human tendency to resist change. The most natural instinct is to continue doing things the old way. And when changes are implemented, we try to fit them back into the mold because of our comfort level with how things used to work in the past. That is kind of how online shopping has evolved. Even in the western world, not many physical retailers believed in online channel during its infancy – they looked at it more as a distraction. However, when they started understanding the potential of online shopping, more and more retailers began to build an online presence. However, they did everything in their power to ensure that the online shopping works as close to the physical channel as possible – whether it was pricing decisions or merchandising decisions or logistics – everything was designed to work similar to how it works in the physical store. Most of the online retailers overlooked the power that internet offers around connecting individuals so that they can help each other in making better purchase decisions. Since then several new age online retailers have come up and have started capitalizing on the true potential of internet, and the role it can play in changing how people make their purchase decisions. These new players have started questioning the well accepted norms such as “category managers are the ones responsible for selecting the product assortment and making the pricing decisions” – Why should an internal category manager’s intelligence be better than the collective intelligence of hundreds of thousands of online users – who use these products day in and day out?

This question is the premise of my topic today – a topic that is near and dear to my heart and the one that happens to be first in my series of new venture ideas – Community based shopping. Before we go further, let me just clarify what I mean by community based shopping. At the most basic level, this describes an environment where online communities or users play a key role in helping other people make their purchase decision. As you read this post, I am sure one thought would certainly go through your mind – is India ready for this? At a time when internet hasn’t reached the home of a common man, when users aren’t even able to do their own online shopping, how can we expect them to help others shop online? This is a good thought and at a high level, it makes a lot of sense. However, we really need to dig a bit deeper to understand the real opportunities.


For a few minutes, let’s keep the issue of internet adoption in India aside (I promise, I will come back to it later). Let’s just evaluate, at the most basic level, whether the concept of social shopping makes sense. If we look at most online players today, the notion of human touch is missing from the online shopping experience. For all its power, Google can’t tell shoppers what’s cool or what their friends or like-minded consumers recommend. Same is the case with majority of the shopping sites. A search for men’s shoes on a typical shopping site Read the rest of this entry »

Business Ideas for the digital India

Posted by Darpan Munjal On February - 5 - 2008
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As the internet penetration reaches the average household in India, the digital eco system would need to evolve, opening up several gaps in the value chain. If you are an entrepreneur or dream of becoming one in the near future, there are significant opportunities related to internet/eCommerce that might give you a first or early mover advantage for the Indian market. Until now, my blog has focused on discussing trends, opportunities and best practices at a macro level. Now, however, I think it is time to make things a bit more interesting, and start focusing on specific concepts or business ideas that can be monetized in the Indian context. Over the next several weeks, I will be posting a series of blog articles which will showcase different business ideas in various categories related to internet/ online commerce in India.

Needless to say that these are just ideas and an idea alone cannot make a venture successful. End of the day, it is about execution and the team. If you have a strong team, with solid execution, the chances of your success are significantly higher even if you don’t have a killer/unique idea. Read the rest of this entry »

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