Saturday, December 24, 2011

The delivery challenge for essentials in e-commerce

Quick! You need some diapers.

What will you do?

A) Log on to your favourite e-commerce store
B) Walk/Drive over to the nearest market or
C) Call the neighbourhood guy and he home delivers in 40 minutes flat.

We pick option C quite often.

While the ecommerce guys focus on non-essentials like books, toys and other things that you don't need right now!

A huge opportunity is waiting in daily essentials. Purchase is a must and when you need it, you just need it right now!


Don't under-estimate the advantage of Walmart (or Domino's) style hyper-local store coverage.

What prevents folks like Big Bazaar or Reliance from creating sub-three hour delivery promises. Use their base of operations at existing stores and push contents of their cavernous warehouses into Indian homes?

Modern inventory systems allow you to have information about your inventory down to the last unit (minus the float in the customers hands). Plug that into your web front end, tie down packaging in your stores and hire a few delivery boys and you could be moving more product in a day than most guys do in a month.

What about the cost ?

Retail space is expensive. More so in Malls in Indian cities. A hybrid model like this will allow modern retail to effectively compete with the Kirana-wala. Probably not with 40 minute delivery, but definitely within reason.

Leverage cheaper prices from consolidated sourcing with local presence.

Initial launch may ride off the local outlet, but once scale is achieved, it may just be cost efficient to run warehouses in the near vicinity. Using the ABC model to stock fast moving items at the warehouse with slower moving items coming straight from the retail outlets themselves.

Small is not beautiful

While there are a lot of local grocery delivery outfits starting up, they simply will not have the scale to deliver in large enough segments. Scaling would mean setting up infrastructure as large as the offline retail guys.

Delivery promise?

3 hours or Rs 100 off. May not sound much, but when that comes off your grocery order, that's a lot of money.

So big is the need, that I would not be surprised if the likes of Walmart in the US implement same day delivery within a couple of years. If implemented well, Amazon will have its first real challenge.

The empire will strike back so to speak.

Edit: See this link. Happened sooner than I expected.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Contact Us or Not

Recently we were looking for a firm to handle a brand track. I listed down some prominent research firms and headed over to their websites for their local office contacts.

Guess what? Several email ids bounced. Yet other phone numbers were out of order. And the board lines I finally did get through to  did not know who to transfer the call to internally.

Mind you these are relatively large companies. No version control. No updates. Sigh! and we are supposed to be one of the most vibrant online spaces in the world.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The search for an Unified Online Identity

This is a post after a long while. Too busy. Too lazy. Both. Take your pick. The recent announcement of the new avatar of the messaging system at Facebook takes me back to the first post of this blog, talking about Facebook Email. Nearly three years since, Facebook did do its own take on email. Only they try to take aggregation in a larger way. I am still awaiting an invite to it, and will post more reactions when I get to see it.  But Facebook blog post has an interesting point to make. Will we be known by who we are or by a number (UID notwithstanding)? or even better, an xml file, the schema could be like the following.
<?xml version="1.0"?>
<xs:schema xmlns:xs="">
<xs:element name="Public identity">
      <xs:element name="Name" type="xs:string"/>
      <xs:element name="Website" type="xs:string"/>
      <xs:element name="Blog" type="xs:string"/>
<xs:element name="Colleague identity">
      <xs:element name="Number" type="xs:number"/>
      <xs:element name="Office Address" type="xs:string"/>
<xs:element name="Friend identity">
      <xs:element name="Home Number" type="xs:number"/>
      <xs:element name="Home Address" type="xs:string"/>
The Luddite in me says that Life will and should go on the way it has (UID or XML apart). These days go to any site that requires registration and you get a an array of options to authenticate. OpenID, Google, Facebook, Live...  Does Facebook (and associated corporations) have the right to create identity. Do we envision a time that our access to our bank account is tied to our Facebook account. I shudder to think what happens if your account gets hacked, what all could you lose. What if you were Julian Assange and displeased the US Government or you ran a site which aggregated links to your favourite sports stories and ended up displeasing the US customs department.  Not to mention, “he insulted my <insert-name-of-a-parochial-figure> type complaints that routinely hit police stations in India. Account suspended and bye bye everything. The fascist amongst you might think, the state knows best. But come on. Drive a bike in Delhi long enough and you know the brutal the agents of the state can be.   Consitutional Protections What protections could such an identity have. What if the government gets tired of you and decides to revoke your id, (like passports). You have nothing. Such an identity will probably need to be protected as one of the fundamental rights in the constitution. Because short of that it’s fair game. 

What of Anonymity
If an online identity becomes de rigueur what of anonymity. I can’t be an armchair picketeer on Facebook or Twitter (a la Egypt) without risking revealing myself. There is something to being there in the physical sense.

Interesting days ahead.

Time for a cold shower

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