It’s no secret that the online shopping industry has seen huge growth in India over the past two years as major e-tailers opened up shop and existing players diversified into hitherto non-traditional categories. Today it’s not uncommon to see niche and high-value categories such as Jewellery, Automobile and Real Estate featuring in the best deals online. And judging by the response during the holiday season this year, these are here to stay.

According to Google’s estimate, the online retailing market in India will grow eightfold from $2 billion in 2012 to $16 billion by 2016. Google has been a key player in the growth of online shopping, putting up small listings next to search results, when a product is available at an Indian e-tailer. The company also started the Great Online Shopping Festival (GOSF) last year, which was hugely successful. This year’s follow-up too was a roaring hit, despite a slow start.

Coming of age for the Indian shopper? (Image credit: Getty Images)

Coming of age for the Indian shopper? (Image credit: Getty Images)

Google says that not only did Indians flock to various websites to buy clothes, electronics, books and multimedia content, and even grocery, Indians are opening up to purchasing products that are not traditionally sold online. We have heard about automobile manufacturers going online to sell cars, but no one would have expected the sort of response GOSF got for this category.

The Economic Times reports that five real estate properties worth Rs 25 crore, 35 Nissan cars and over 250 Tata vehicles were sold during the December 11-14 festival. Arvind Singhal, chairman of consultancy firm Technopak believes the reason for this is that Indians are waking up to the fact that the traditional route presented obstacles that online shopping easily clears. “In purchases like cars, not all brands have wide dealership and service networks, and shopping online gives customers access. With real estate, customers have direct access to the company without going through brokers. Advantages like these will drive the purchase of large items like cars, homes and all other products online,” he told the publication.

Nissan, one of the companies offering a discount on their cars during GOSF, said it’s easier to sell online since most pre-purchase research these days is done on the Internet, whether through reviews or comparisons. The company is going to be making an even bigger push in online retail and not just to sell cars, but also for servicing. “Today, most car buyers go online before making a decision. So using the internet is a logical extension of the purchase cycle. At Nissan, we are putting in place suitable payment gateways with the help of specific car portals to ensure timely delivery and service at the time of purchase,” said Nitish Tipnis, director (marketing), Hover Automotive India, Nissan's sales company.

It’s not just automakers though. Even Tata’s real estate company has set up a website that gives customers virtual tours of the properties that can be bought online. As more and more customers open up to buying houses online, we are likely to see even more innovation in this space.”This is an indication of the e-commerce ecosystem maturing. If ten days back I was asked if real estate would be sold online, I wouldn't have said it surely would. The sale of such big-ticket products and services like job search or matrimonial services was a surprise,” said Nitin Bawankule, industry director (e-commerce), Google India.

There's no doubt that in a country as vast as India, online shopping removes much of the red tape and obstacles that line the path when shopping for a new car or a new house. Whether this mini-boom, created thanks to GOSF, results in a persistent trend, we will find out next year, as shoppers mature even further.

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