20 Jan 2016 12:56 IST

Rural folk are game for online shopping ...

But they face last-mile delivery issues, says e-commerce distribution firm

Homemaker Sharada (42) from Tier-3 town Tumakuru, located 70 km away from Bengaluru, no longer faces the monthly ordeal of having to travel to the Garden City to buy branded clothes, beauty products and electronic gadgets. Last year, she began shopping online with the help of her son, a high school student. Today, she places 8-10 orders a month, not only for herself but for her relatives too.

Sharada is one of India’s 300 million Rubans who are largely ignored by e-commerce honchos focussed on winning customers in metros and Tier-2 cities. Head Held High Services (H3S), an organisation that works with consumers in Tier-3 (and lower) towns, defines Rubans as ‘rural folks with urban aspirations’.

Rubans want to shop online much like their urban counterparts, but face issues in last-mile delivery and require assistance in the actual online ordering process, says Madan Padaki, Co-founder and CEO of H3S, which runs last-mile rural sales and e-commerce distribution-cum-delivery centres in 11 towns of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Online purchases in these towns are not restricted to electronics, apparel, footwear and fitness products, but cover a gamut of items such as dog biscuits, food bowls, olive oil, pasta sauce and organic rice. “Anything that sells in urban markets sells in rural markets too. We have crossed a quarter million transactions with an average transaction value of ₹800 in these towns, including Raichur, Bidar, Hassan, Madikeri, Mandya, Shimoga, Tumakuru, Kurnool, Ongole, Hosur and Krishnagiri,” said Padaki.

E-commerce firms deliver to H3S’s warehouse-cum-distribution centres located in each of the 11 towns, which are run by Rubans trained by H3S.

Assisted e-commerce

A survey conducted by H3S in Tumakuru involving 400 people in the 18-40 age group, including shopkeepers, housewives, entrepreneurs, students and salaried class, revealed that people are willing to shop online but are beset by fear, uncertainty and doubt.

“I want to buy shoes, mobiles and clothes online, but I am not sure if it is safe to transact online,” said Sachin, 35, who works in a local factory in Manchalakuppe, near Tumakuru, and has not heard of cash-on-delivery.

“Rubans are willing to shop online provided they are assisted by a trusted third-party vendor who can place orders, ensure speedy deliveries, take care of returns and other such issues. This can be accomplished by training locals in assisted e-commerce.

“However, the 300 million Rubans who live in 6,400 towns across India make up a market that is yet to come on the radar of e-commerce and tech-enabled firms” said M Chakrawarty, Vice-President, Distribution and Sales, H3S.

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