The brand of Reliance Jio, the cellular community of Reliance Industries Ltd., is displayed at a retailer in Mumbai, India. | Dhiraj Singh | Bloomberg

Textual content Dimension:

What is the sharing economic system? What do platforms truly do? Do they merely intermediate amongst market contributors, or do they form the market by actively intervening in it? To reply these questions, this report analyses the sharing economic system in India by means of a examine of e-commerce platforms.

Sometimes, the sharing economic system was meant for voluntary sharing of sources (for eg. Couchsurfing) however has now remodeled into highly effective platforms shaping whole markets and even economies (Amazon, Uber, Airbnb and so on.)

E-commerce in India makes up only one.6% of retail gross sales as of as we speak. However this market goes by means of important modifications, significantly by means of the approaching merging of on-line and offline retail with Huge Tech investments in retail networks. We’re a future the place digital know-how by means of e-commerce platforms can decide the way forward for all commerce in India.

This report seems at two phenomena. One is the tendency of e-commerce platforms to infrastructuralise: that’s, to change into ubiquitous, accessible and dependable in a means that resembles infrastructure. The opposite is the tendency of e-commerce to platformise current infrastructure: that’s, to seize, fragment, and privatise infrastructure.

Additionally learn: Amazon and Mukesh Ambani’s Jio are preparing for an epic struggle


This report makes use of quantitative analysis within the type of two on-line surveys amongst e-commerce shoppers (402) and third celebration sellers (68), performed by the market analysis company IRB. Each surveys centered on Amazon and Flipkart, the biggest platforms in Indian e-commerce. An prolonged interview with an business affiliation of logistics service suppliers in India supplemented the first analysis.

Implications of infrastructuralisation of e-commerce in India

Of their examine of cyber-infrastructure, Edwards et. al. (2007) describe the important thing traits of infrastructure as ubiquity, accessibility and reliability, amongst different parameters. E-commerce in India doesn’t as but match these descriptors. In 2019, e-commerce made up only one.6% of retail gross sales in India. The corresponding world determine was 14%. On accessibility too, e-commerce falls brief. India has 504 million lively web customers, which is about 36.5% of the inhabitants. These customers are typically younger, city and male. Since Covid- 19 lockdowns, the reliability of e-commerce has additionally taken a success.

badge28sep2020 - Reliance Jio’s e-commerce entry is a part of India’s altering market seize by ‘new retail’

It’s way more useful then to have a look at the tendency of Indian e-commerce in direction of infrastructuralisation. The literature on infrastructure recognises monopoly provision as a attribute of infrastructure. Is Indian e-commerce a monopoly market as we speak? It’s clear that if the related market is retail normally, e-commerce is just not a major proportion of this market. Throughout the e-commerce market itself, there exists a duopoly. As of 2018, Walmart-owned Flipkart (with Myntra and Jabong) managed 38.3% of the e-commerce market, and Amazon controls about 31.2%.

The extra related query is that if e-commerce will proceed to be a monopolistic market because it grows outwards into all retail. In 2019, Amazon introduced a billion-dollar funding in India to assist small and medium-sized companies come on-line. This naturally implies that these companies will likely be supported to promote on Amazon’s personal platform. Amazon can be engaged on turning neighbourhood outlets into e-commerce supply centres. Fb’s funding in Reliance Jio is supposed to primarily convey small companies on-line through WhatsApp. Google’s $10 billion Google for India Digitization Fund to assist speed up India’s digital economic system concerned a major funding in Jio as effectively.

From these current developments in funding, it’s protected to imagine that the share of e-commerce in retail will proceed to develop by means of ‘new retail’, a time period coined by Alibaba founder Jack Ma to indicate the blurring boundaries between on-line and offline retail. It entails the digitalisation of bodily shops amongst different methods of integrating on-line and offline procuring. Investments from Amazon, Fb and Google described above are examples of latest retail.

With this development trajectory of e-commerce in thoughts, we now take a look at among the current financial relationships prevailing between e- commerce platforms and contributors on these platforms, that’s, sellers and prospects. We analyse these financial relationships by way of worth provides and dependence.

Key findings:

E-commerce provides worth to third-party sellers’ enterprise by offering entry to new home markets (84.6% of Amazon sellers, 77.6% of Flipkart sellers) and bettering worth discovery (67.7% of Amazon sellers, 58.6% of Flipkart sellers modified their worth after going surfing). It provides worth to shoppers with useful product opinions (70% of shoppers), decrease costs (79% of shoppers), and model discovery (70% of shoppers).

Chart 1: Why do you promote on Flipkart?

chart 1 - Reliance Jio’s e-commerce entry is a part of India’s altering market seize by ‘new retail’

Chart 2: Why do you promote on Amazon?

chart 2 - Reliance Jio’s e-commerce entry is a part of India’s altering market seize by ‘new retail’

Chart 3: Motives for procuring on-line

chart 3 - Reliance Jio’s e-commerce entry is a part of India’s altering market seize by ‘new retail’

E-commerce creates dependence, with a majority of sellers (92.3% of Amazon sellers, 84.5% of Flipkart sellers) making basic modifications to their enterprise practices to accommodate the principles of the platform or optimise operations on the platform. On common, sellers relied on Amazon for 50.4% of their complete income and on Flipkart for 39% of their complete income. Most sellers didn’t really feel “locked in” to a specific platform, however the indication was that they had been locked in to e-commerce normally. Most sellers additionally felt that the fee they paid platforms was low or sufficient (93.9% for Flipkart, and 87.5% for Amazon), displaying that e-commerce in India remains to be in early levels of market-building.

Coverage suggestions:

Policymakers can select among the many three suggestions beneath. The selection have to be such that it preserves the value-adds of e-commerce:

1. Permit concentrated e-commerce markets to proceed, however then undertake a number of of the beneath:

Disallowing the fusion of on-line and offline retail, or limiting the expansion of this fusion underneath monopoly situations;

Regulating platforms to minimise possibilities of breakdown, as a result of third-party sellers even have an curiosity within the platform not arbitrarily shutting down;

Limiting the change of insurance policies on platforms which will adversely have an effect on platform contributors with out duly informing or consulting with the latter.

2. Keep a minimal degree of competitors to permit switching between platforms for third-party sellers;

3. Promote public possession or democratic management of e-commerce platforms to correspond with its infrastructural nature.

Additionally learn: Why Amazon, Apple, FB and Google are within the dock. It’s not nearly economic system

Infrastructure that e-commerce is platformising

Key findings:

Platformisation of {the marketplace} is happening by means of management over market situations – e-commerce corporations each regulate and act as contributors within the market, thereby exerting inordinate quantities of management over {the marketplace}.

Within the survey, most sellers didn’t have a problem with their look in search rankings. This means that regardless of the platformisation of {the marketplace}, it’s maybe untimely to ask for algorithmic equity in e-commerce; however algorithmic transparency remains to be wanted.


Screenshot 2020 10 07 at 12.37.47 AM - Reliance Jio’s e-commerce entry is a part of India’s altering market seize by ‘new retail’

The survey additionally discovered that over 70% of shoppers now seek for items they’re shopping for immediately on the platforms as an alternative of utilizing search engines like google and yahoo. This makes it clear that if there have been to be a problem with algorithmic equity in search outcomes sooner or later, it might have an effect on practically all of on-line product search, not simply product search on a specific platform.

While you determine to purchase a product on-line, the place do you often first seek for it?

Screenshot 2020 10 07 at 12.39.29 AM - Reliance Jio’s e-commerce entry is a part of India’s altering market seize by ‘new retail’

Platformisation of {the marketplace} additionally takes place by means of personal labels. Each Amazon and Flipkart use gross sales and different knowledge generated on their platform to introduce their very own merchandise (personal labels) on the market on the platform. That is egregiously anti-competitive as third-party sellers would not have entry to the info generated by themselves and which is used to develop and market personal labels. A majority of sellers (63.1% for Amazon and 58.6% for Flipkart) mentioned that they noticed platform-branded merchandise as rivals to their very own merchandise.

Platformisation of logistics: Logistics in India is an infrastructural service that’s being platformised by e-commerce by means of platform envelopment.

Eisenmann et. al. (2011) launched the idea of platform envelopment – a phenomenon the place a participant in a single platform market captures customers in one other platform market by bundling its companies or functionalities. It’s ready to do that by gaining community results in a brand new sort of market with its current person base. E-commerce suppliers in India use such bundling usually. In truth, telecom supplier Reliance Jio’s bid to enter e-commerce is itself an instance of an try at platform envelopment.

Logistics is maybe the sector that’s most weak to platform envelopment from e-commerce. About 20-25% of the e-commerce logistics market is managed by e-commerce corporations’ personal entities. Amazon Transportation Providers, specifically, has a robust presence within the sector. In 2018, KPMG estimated that 70% of the deliveries of huge e-commerce platforms had been made by their in-house supply arms.

Platformisation of logistics is clear in over half of surveyed sellers (63.1% for Amazon and 53.4% for Flipkart) claiming one of many causes for promoting on-line is delivery offered by the platform. Sellers and shoppers each most popular bundled companies (gross sales and delivery offered collectively by the platform), displaying that such platformisation of logistics is prone to proceed. About 20-25% of the e-commerce logistics market is managed by e-commerce corporations’ personal entities.

Coverage suggestions:

Third-party sellers will need to have entry to the identical gross sales knowledge that’s utilized by the platform to compete in opposition to them. Mechanisms for mandated sharing of non-personal knowledge sharing must be constructed for e-commerce.

Presently, platforms with FDI are successfully disallowed from promoting their very own merchandise in addition to third-party merchandise. This separation of intermediation and sale needs to be imposed on home e-commerce entities in multi-brand retail above a sure agency measurement as effectively. It shouldn’t stay restricted to e-commerce entities receiving overseas funding.

Third-party sellers ought to be capable to know why their merchandise have a sure rank in search outcomes on the platform. Algorithmic regulation ought to embrace a minimal degree of transparency about how algorithms rank outcomes on e-commerce websites, with evolving requirements for equity.

To control broader financial results, lending guidelines within the logistics sector ought to account for the rising market share of e-commerce corporations in logistics.

Additionally learn: Why India’s ban on Chinese language apps opens a gold mine for Mukesh Ambani’s Jio & Silicon Valley


Each tendencies underline the truth that e-commerce platforms have an effect on markets and financial relationships exterior their instant scope. Laws for e-commerce must protect its value-adds to sellers and shoppers whereas limiting its drawbacks.

Jai Vipra is a Senior Resident Fellow on the Centre for Utilized Regulation and Expertise Analysis at Vidhi. 

Akshiti Vats is an intern at Vidhi working within the space of regulation and know-how. Views are private.

That is an edited excerpt from the authors’ report, Altering Contours of the Sharing Economic system, first printed by the Vidhi Centre for Authorized Coverage, Learn the complete report right here.

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