JOTTINGS#^ The Other Side Of Online Retail



Gucci’s decision to sue Alibaba, the world’s largest online retailer, for alleg­edly selling counterfeit products on its website is a pointer to the real story behind the online retail boom, which sometimes seems unrealistic.

People shop online mostly to get super dis­counts and it is this very phenomenon that makes them vulnerable to cheat­ing. There are hundreds of complaints registered with online retailers all over the world for selling counter­feit products to customers.

Closer home, things are no different. The In­dian market is full of such cases. Companies such as Gizmobaba, Chumbak and Sahil International have registered com­plaints against big online retailers such as Snapdeal, eBay, Flipkart and Ama­zon for selling counterfeits of their products.

However, online retail­ers get away because of the loopholes in the laws dealing with online retail­ing. Online retailers like Alibaba, Flipkart and Snapdeal are recognised as marketplaces for selling online by manufacturers. This definition gives them immunity from criminal


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Etailers give as much discount throughout theyearwhichisim- possibleforbrickand mortar stores

charges most of the times.

However, cases like Alibaba bring out the fact that products sold online at dirt cheap prices always run the risk of being coun­terfeit. It is impossible to sell original products at 20-30 per cent discount throughout the year. While it is understandable that e-tailers are spared from the operational cost of running brick and mortar stores, but such savings are not enough to
lnbia& Pakistan Clothing T-Shins allow a company to hold discount sales throughout the year. There is hardly a week when one does not find a sale on online platforms. In comparison, offline retailers just hold end of season sales.

Today, consumer electronics retailers like Hot and Croma offer competitive discounts at their stores. On the other hand, online retailers in their mega sale offers always find smart ways to offer heavy discounts. The online retail works on two fundamentals. First, online retailers whip up a frenzy to get huge traffic on their websites so that the customer ends up
buying something or the other even if he doesn’t ge: exactly what he is looking I for. Second, these retailer: due to their large customer 1 base, get companies to customise cheaper ver­sions of expensive models (in mobile handsets) so they can be sold at a heavy discount to the price of the original version.

While the naive cus­tomer may fall for such tricks a few times, in the age of information it will not be long before the cus­tomer becomes aware and 1 e-retailers are forced to exchange their good days with the bad days of the brick and mortar players.

—Neeraj Thakur

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