The world is constantly adapting to new ways of living a good life, just like our Kashmir. The advent of the Internet and the arrival of e-commerce technology in our lives has changed our shopping experience. We no longer have to fight car traffic on the roads and wait in queues for long hours. Thanks to e-commerce technology, we were able to shop anywhere with just one click. But in the past, there was no concept of e-commerce in Kashmir. The availability of smartphones to the general public was rare. The masses were unaware of the internet facility. There was no idea of online shopping, online transactions etc. With time and internet availability, e-commerce made its presence felt in the valley but due to slower internet connection issues like 2G and lack of awareness people were afraid to buy things on line.
It was in 2008 when Flipkart became a buzz. Although the company had to go through many difficulties in the early years of its business. It took time for Flipkart to overcome many obstacles on its own and achieve success. As people gain access to quality internet services and advanced smartphone technology, new companies like Amazon, Snapdeal, eBay and other local online stores etc. are jumping in to tap into the market. growing e-commerce in Kashmir. New e-commerce start-ups are constantly popping up to tap into the vast forming niche.
Over the years, there is a growing demand for e-commerce products and services in the valley. A majority of the local population, especially the young people, have become capable of shopping online as they have had access to the knowledge and use of advanced computer technologies, such as personal computers, smartphones and others. means. That is why there is no better time than today for our youth to embrace e-commerce entrepreneurship in Kashmir. They can come up with lots of business ideas for their new e-commerce start-ups. Almost every sector of our economy awaits the attention of e-commerce entrepreneurs. As e-commerce is spreading all over Kashmir, people are getting used to it now. Social media has added a flavor to the wide publicity of e-commerce businesses in Kashmir. Today even girls have launched so many start-ups in Kashmir like Tul Palav, Hangers, The Closet and many more. From zero to a successful business, e-commerce has led to a huge increase in business opportunities over the past few years.
The Current E-Commerce Scenario in Kashmir
Kashmir has been doing well for 3-4 years. Over the past 3-4 years, we have seen young Kashmiri trying to start e-commerce businesses; some foiled, some soar high. We have witnessed an increase in the number of e-commerce start-ups since Kashmir and the rest of the country got rid of expensive and slow internet networks. The biggest thing that really matters is the attempts that Kashmir has made to set foot in the e-commerce industry. Things looked bleak initially, but the present of e-commerce in Kashmir is like the first ray of sunshine. We have huge platforms which the rest of the world uses to conduct business eg Indiamart, Olx, Instagram, Facebook (Facebook Marketplace), Amazon etc. and Kashmir has a presence on each of these platforms . Today we have Kashmiri start-ups that serve the Kashmiri community very well. Kashmir is witnessing a large number of booming start-ups. Now, if we look at the bright side, after the repeal of Section 370, we saw a huge increase in the number of start-ups, primarily from the food delivery and logistics industry. These start-ups are basically desperate attempts to meet needs, eradicate unemployment and have the courtesy to be of service to society in Kashmir. Currently, many e-commerce businesses are operating in Kashmir.
The future of e-commerce in Kashmir
The year 2020 has been a year of transition for the whole world. COVID 19 has crippled all life and businesses. With very unfortunate and horrific events unfolding all over the world, the whole dynamic of our way of life has been turned upside down. The pandemic has forced countries to follow strict lockdown to stop the spread of the virus. It meant that people stopped going to their offices, markets or anywhere else. But people have needs that cannot be postponed to another time, and to meet those needs, everyone has been forced to look for alternatives to continue. Speaking specifically of Kashmir, the situation was no different. The e-commerce industry has taken a big step forward in tough times due to changing user habits. What at first seemed like a constraint for valley residents who didn’t rely on the internet for most things has become the new norm due to movement restrictions. People’s primary focus has remained the internet, which has led to the establishment of many online businesses. Not only that, but the concept of “work from home” or “online courses” for students has come into existence. Looking at the way forward, the potential for the e-commerce industry seems to be immense in the times to come. What started out as an ideal alternative back then has the potential to become the future of Kashmir.
People have started to realize what can be done online, and the opportunity has been used very well by establishments everywhere. Whether it is the online delivery system for food and basic necessities or people working for organizations outside the union territory. Distance is no longer a factor, which has created a large number of employment opportunities for the inhabitants of the valley. Women have also started taking online jobs because now it has become easier and the percentage is going to increase day by day. No more queuing for hours or filling out hundreds of page forms, as all of these have been replaced by electronic forms using the Internet.
Despite the initiatives taken by Kashmiri entrepreneurs, there is still a long way to go. There are still areas to explore and many more services to provide. Many great things are expected to happen in e-commerce in the future. E-commerce in Kashmir is all about B2C services but soon they will be obsolete. B2B e-commerce sales have huge potential in the near future. It is not more than manufacturers or wholesalers who try to sell to retailers. B2B e-commerce means businesses sell to businesses online. These eCommerce stores can support huge orders, volume-based discounts, invoicing, and easy reordering to achieve greater success.
The fight for fast delivery has never been so fierce. The expansion of shipping and fulfillment centers around the Valley is another slow-moving e-commerce trend with a lot of potential. As more and more people in Kashmir have started shopping online, distribution centers are needed to ship and deliver their purchases as quickly as possible. But the current e-commerce shopping sites in Kashmir lag behind in some essential features like voice search and visual search. Entrepreneurs should ensure that their e-commerce sites are up to date and include things like voice search, image search, etc. For customers who want a product that is identical to another or in a specific shade, a visual search option can help them. to find exactly what they are looking for in the shortest possible time.
Online food delivery and clothing have been the main e-commerce solutions in Kashmir. Other categories have also started to explode, but there is still a long way to go. There are no start-ups for medical services. This sector lags behind in terms of e-commerce in Kashmir. Patients find it difficult to book appointments with various specialists in Kashmir. They have to go to clinics and hospitals to make appointments with doctors. Also, there are people who don’t have enough information about the different specialists in particular fields. On top of that, online drug delivery has become an absolute must, but it has yet to flourish in Kashmir as it should have. An e-commerce solution for the same will help the victims.
There is no such platform for local milk suppliers or local bakers (kandur). Setting up the same for local businesses will also be a big hit in Kashmir. Kashmiri generally do not prefer packaged milk and bread for daily consumption. They want fresh produce and food delivery apps in Kashmir do not provide such produce. An app for the same can help local vendors as well as customers looking for such products. Kashmiri people invest a lot of time, energy and money in weddings. Be it food (wazwan), decoration, store management, catering services, cleanliness maintenance, grooming services, musical arrangement and much more. Developing an app that provides a list of all these service providers along with their particular fees will help people plan weddings within their budget. This will benefit citizens as well as service providers.
Although Kashmiris spare no effort to provide e-services in all fields, there is a huge lack of awareness about it. Many apps and websites are unknown to the majority leading to less usage. It’s a job for marketing people. Also, there are various trust issues between people, and both of these issues can be solved by influencer marketing methods, in which only famous Kashmir personalities will endorse their businesses and create awareness as well as build the trust between people for them. There are still a lot of gaps to be filled and a lot more to be done when it comes to e-commerce when it comes to Kashmir. But slowly and gradually the industry is becoming a huge success. It will entirely change the course of the future as we know it.
(The authors are students of the Department of Management Studies, North Campus University of Kashmir