As sales volume of online shopping is increasing so are delayed delivery, sub-standard products and hidden charges
With increased use of internet through mobile applications, several online shopping portals like Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon are holding sales frequently. Despite some technical 'disasters', all these companies managed to reach ever-greater sales volumes on their special offer days. Unfortunately, a few issues have started cropping up, which have the potential to derail or slow down the online shopping juggernaut.
Two of the most immediate issues that online shopping portals need to pay heed to, are timely delivery and product quality. Besides, several customers face issues with order cancellations, refunds and hidden charges.
Delivery: Most of the items bought online are expected to reach the customer within a specified period. However, there are no standard delivery times. For example, Flipkart and one of its sellers WS Retail have a delivery period of three-four days for regular customers (those who have not subscribed to their express delivery service). However, a “privileged customer” may get the same product next day without paying any extra charge. This is fine. And when the seller fails to deliver the product within the specified time, Flipkart compensates the privileged customers for the delay. However, what if somebody has ordered a product to be given as a gift, let’s say on a birthday or other such events? How would Flipkart deal with the repercussions on people's plans if delivery is delayed in such cases?
In short, whichever company wants to grow big in the online shopping space, needs to pay attention to logistics and timely deliveries.
Note: This delivery delays are not limited to online shopping portals. This is same with shopping malls and big retailers like Reliance Digital, e-Zone, Vijay Sales and Chroma. Most of the time, these shopkeepers do not handover the product to you on spot, except for a few products like mobiles and smaller items. All other big products, like LED TVs and Home Theatre systems are delivered over 48 hours, and the poor buyer comes to know of this only after paying the bill!
Sub-standard products: I remember purchasing several products from eBay a few years back. However, one of the issues with it at the time was that most of the 'impressive' looking products were actually sub-standard, re-furbished products and cheap knock-offs or 'Chinese' items as we like to call them in India.
The situation is not too different these days, an image of a pair of shoes, goggles, watches or earrings may look very attractive online, but when you get the delivery, the actual product may not be that 'rosy'. Or the quality of the product may not even be worth the money you paid. A goggle with a fancy, ‘foreign-sounding’ brand name sold at online portals for few hundred rupees can actually be bought for Rs100-Rs250 on the streets of Mumbai. So be aware and do not fall for fancy, foreign ‘brands’. Even for well-known brands, you better check out its price from authorised sellers and if the price difference is not much, buy it from the local store. This helps in case you need to take help from the service centre or if there is any issue with the product.
For example, on Amazon.in, one seller sells ‘Rico Sordi’ brand watches. It also sells two watches for just Rs250, excluding delivery charges. However, what is this ‘Rico Sordi’ brand? Have you heard the name before? I doubt. Because, this is not just a brand name but also the name of the seller from Delhi.
Credibility of Seller: With online portals adopting stricter policies for empanelling sellers, the issue of being duped has now reduced considerably. Yet, there are some sellers who do not offer to deliver products bought online, to each and every location. The seller rating system does not offer much help in these matters.
Hidden Charges: This is one of the most common reasons that customers feel cheated. And they are justified in feeling so. There are several products sold online where the cost of delivery is hidden.
Again, this is not limited to online portals. Indiatimes Shopping regularly uses a smaller font size to mention delivery charges. The advertisement published by Indiatimes Shopping in its group newspapers, shows fancy products at dirt-cheap prices. However, the asterix besides the price goes on to say that, the shipping charges will be additional. Most of the time, shipping cost is at Rs299 or Rs399 or Rs499 depending upon the product.
Delivery charges may be more: This is one of the most egregious fleecing techniques used by some retailers. This happens most often when you buy products worth less than Rs500. For example, Vissco’s Tennis Elbow support is available on Flipkart at 10% discount. However, when you add the delivery charges, it becomes more than the maximum retail price (MRP).
Another example from Flipkart is the Eveready DL Torches that are sold for Rs95, as against the MRP of Rs100. However, the buyer will have to pay Rs40 for delivery. This means, the torch will cost the buyer Rs140 or a whopping 47% more. Won’t the buyer simply walk to his next-door shop and buy it for just Rs95 or even lesser amount?
For Axe deodorant, Snapdeal charges Rs30 for delivery. The product cost is Rs180. Therefore, instead of paying Rs210 for the product that would be delivered later, beter visit your next-door shopkeeper, who may even give you some discount.
Customer Service: Although all three online portals mentioned above take customer service seriously, it still leaves a lot to be desired. For example, the tone and query handling of the customer service representatives is more like a machine. They have yet to become humans while answering queries from customers. All of us have faced a barrage of un-solicited commercial communications (spam calls) from the machine like tone of the caller from call centres.
Unclear Terms & Conditions: Unfortunately, when it comes to terms and conditions, they are often at the end of the page in a smaller font size. In this, the online portals follow their offline cousins.
This is an important point to keep in mind, especially if you are buying a wearable product like shoes, trousers, or salwar-kameez. If there were any issue with size or fitting, you would end up facing and explaining the issue to the customer support, who may deliver a blow using the same terms and conditions that you were not aware of. So, better check all the terms and conditions before buying such products.
Refunds: Actually, the customer hopes to get automated refund if he cancels the order. However, it turns out that the procedures are much more complicated and the customers have to follow it up several times. One way to get rid of this issue is by giving cash on delivery. However, not every seller offers this facility. In case the customer has paid beforehand and then wants refund or cancels the order, then all online portals need to follow the example of IRCTC. When you cancel a railway ticket, IRCTC automatically refunds the money to the same account from where it was received, after deducting some charges. Why can’t online shopping follow this same model?
User-friendly mobile apps: I tried my hand at the mobile apps from all three, Snapdeal, Flipkart and Amazon. However, none is up to the mark and lacks in several fields. For example, try searching ‘trekking shoes’. You will get all results for trek and shoes but the products are mostly not trekking shoes.
In November, Chinese online retail giant Alibaba pulled in sales worth a whopping $9.3 billion on its annual Single's Day event, making it the world's biggest online retail shopping day. Alibaba shipped 278 million orders and 43% of them were placed from mobile devices. This shows why online shopping portals need to have a user-friendly mobile app.
A lot of business travel could take place with improvements in the Railway services and this would lead to reduced use of air traffic and consequent savings in fuel costs
An investor’s meet has been scheduled by the Railway Ministry Friday to discuss a variety of investment issues that would have far reaching ramifications on the development plans on the anvil in the Railway sector. This is expected to cover both FDI and PPP. According to information available, Texmaco Rail and Engineering, Titagarh Wagons and Kalindee Rail Nirman Engineers will be joined by financial' majors like HSBC, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan along with advisory firms like Deloitte and PwC.
It is expected that this meet will focus on investments through both FDI and PPP.
It may be recalled that, couple of months ago, the Foreign Investment Promotion Board had considered 35 proposals of which 21 were cleared. At that time, it was chaired by Arvind Mayaram. Whether it is through FDI or PPP, investment needs in the Railways are a must for its development.
Before we go into the large infrastructural needs that the Railways would require, or the modernisation plans such as the introduction or setting up high speed tracks and bullet trains, there is a lot of home work that needs to be done to make FDI feel that it is worthwhile for them to pour in their resources.
It looks like a beginning is being made by the Railway Board which has plans to have private agencies to do, on a 3-year maintenance contracts, covering the initially selected 50 Railway stations. These will include New Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai Central, Varanasi and Howrah (Kolkata). In case of Mumbai, it will also cover Bandra Terminus and along with Chennai Central, it will include Egmore station as well. Why Sealdah, (Kolkata's 2nd station) one of the world's busiest railway stations has been omitted, is not clear!
Broadly speaking, to keep the Stations clean, the maintenance contract is expected to cover rag picking, disinfection of the area, pest and rodent control, garbage collection, segregation of waste (it should be dry and wet waste separately) and disposal of the same.
Railway Board has already issued, according the press reports, the guidelines to constituent railway zones to invite tenders to engage professional help to keep the stations clean. It appears that the maintenance contract will also cover key station areas, such as tracks, platforms, building concourses, approach roads and parking areas.
It may be noted that cleaning jobs are already outsourced and Railway employee unions are not bothered and the General Secretary of All India Railwaymen's Federation, Shiv Gopal Mishra is reported to have said: "that the contractors should not exploit people employed in such jobs".
In the meantime, it is gratifying to note that the Railway Authorities in Mysuru station have actually begun to actively apply the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan launched by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 2nd October. Littering in stations, spitting and other similar dirty habits will mean on the spot fines!
Along with the infrastructural developments, imagine a situation, in a span of 5 to 7 years, if we have high speed tracks and bullet trains, covering from New Delhi to Chennai, Ahmedabad to Mumbai, Bangalore to Mumbai, Mumbai to Delhi and Delhi to Kolkata with some of them stopping at key cities like Hyderabad, and operating them at night, a lot of business travel could take place, with reduced use of air traffic and savings in high fuel costs!
This may not be a pipe dream and could be achieved in 10 years at best, if work is taken on hand simultaneously!
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)
SEBI said its probe found these entities involved in artificially inflating price of Moryo Industries' scrip to Rs225 from Rs93.4 during January 2013 and August 2014
Market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has barred 91 entities including Moryo Industries, its promoters Mohan Jain and Deepika Mohan Jain, four directors of the company and 84 other preferential allottees from markets.
SEBI said its probe found these entities involved in artificially inflating price of Moryo Industries' scrip to Rs225 from Rs93.4 during January 2013 and August 2014 in two patches. The ex-parte interim order comes into effect immediately pending detailed investigation.
Observing substantial trading among themselves by related entities in the Moryo scrip, SEBI analysed the trading frequency, volume generated, buying behaviour and contribution to the price rise. Inter-relationships were ascertained using KYC details, bank statements, off-market transactions among themselves and information available on the Ministry of Corporate Affairs website.