'Great time to start' selling to India using e-commerce platforms, say digital trade experts

Wed 8 Nov 2023
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

Someone buying goods on e-Commerce platform

It is currently a “great time to start your India journey” if you are an e-commerce exporter because the country is on the cusp of a “digital decade”, with the country’s consumer internet value set to rise to US$1trn by 2030.

That’s according to Dr Lucky Yadav, the head of cross border and global sales at e-commerce platform Adyogi, who was speaking on a webinar hosted by the UK India Business Council (UKIBC) and Department for Business and Trade (DBT) as part of the government’s International Trade Week programme of events yesterday (7 November).

She said there was “big potential for global brands and global marketplaces to come into India” as the rapid rise in the number of middle- and high-income households in the country is creating a digital “boom” which could see online consumption rise by 350% in the next 10 years.

Yadav was joined on the panel by Soham Shah, cross-border trade manager at Reliance Retail’s JioMart ecommerce brand, UKIBC associate director Subhayu Ray, and Susan Roe, a trade & customs specialist at the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) and secretariat lead at the recently convened E-Commerce Trade Commission. The panel was chaired by Neil Wynn-Jones, a senior international trade adviser at DBT.

High growth digital market

Wynn-Jones opened the webinar by saying that, although India had “always been a country of shopkeepers”, it was now progressing to become a “more modern retail environment” with “some of the world’s leading e-commerce platforms”.

He said India is “probably the cheapest place in the world for internet access”, with 650m people already using internet-enabled mobile phones.

Shah said this could result in a tripling in value for the Indian retail e-commerce market, rising from US$50bn in 2022 to US$150bn by 2027. He said grocery, fashion and general merchandise are “expected to be the main growth driver”, rising from a 20-25% market share in 2022 to 30-35% in 2027.

He said that he sees trade in fast moving consuming goods and beauty products, general merchandise, electronics, and fashion and accessories as being potential growth areas for UK businesses.

Opportunity for the UK

Susan Roe raised the work of the E-Commerce Trade Commission – the UK’s first industry-government collaboration dedicated to boosting e-commerce exports – in helping to further drive digital trade with India.

“This initiative is looking at ways to support small businesses that are looking to grow online sales to India and other parts of the world,” she said.

The commission counts Amazon, Alibaba, DBT, eBay, Google and Shopify among its board members and is looking at how it can promote awareness of e-commerce opportunities among a reported 70,000 British small businesses that could export online but currently don’t.

It is “the first of its kind and is special because it’s industry-led, but also supported by government,” she said. The commission was convened in June 2023 by IOE&IT.

Roe said the commission is working with business and industry bodies to “overcome the barriers and challenges” faced by small businesses in international e-commerce trade.

She cited research by the Social Market Foundation, commissioned by Amazon and supported by IOE&IT, that found that encouraging the 70,000 potential exporters to trade overseas using e-commerce platforms could “translate to £9.3bn GVA to the UK economy”.

UKIBC support

Subhayu Ray from UKIBC also touted India as a high growth market for UK traders and gave an overview of the “comprehensive support package” the association offers to e-commerce businesses.

He noted the huge scale of the Indian market, saying that states within the country have populations the same size as western European countries like the UK and Germany.

He noted that there are 15 major retail groups in India, as well as over 8,000 online marketplaces and over 20m independent retailers.