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

Usually, the sharing financial 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 many others.)

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

This report appears at two phenomena. One is the tendency of e-commerce platforms to infrastructuralise: that’s, to develop into ubiquitous, accessible and dependable in a means that resembles infrastructure. The opposite is the tendency of e-commerce to platformise present 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 get together sellers (68), carried out by the market analysis company IRB. Each surveys targeted on Amazon and Flipkart, the biggest platforms in Indian e-commerce. An prolonged interview with an trade 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 international determine was 14%. On accessibility too, e-commerce falls quick. India has 504 million lively web customers, which is about 36.5% of the inhabitants. These customers are usually younger, city and male. Since Covid- 19 lockdowns, the reliability of e-commerce has additionally taken a success.

It’s far more useful then to take a look at the tendency of Indian e-commerce in the direction of infrastructuralisation. The literature on infrastructure recognises monopoly provision as a attribute of infrastructure. Is Indian e-commerce a monopoly market at the moment? It’s clear that if the related market is retail normally, e-commerce shouldn’t be a big 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 signifies 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 carry small companies on-line through WhatsApp. Google’s $10 billion Google for India Digitization Fund to assist speed up India’s digital financial system concerned a big funding in Jio as properly.

From these latest developments in funding, it’s protected to imagine that the share of e-commerce in retail will proceed to develop by ‘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 progress trajectory of e-commerce in thoughts, we now take a look at among the present financial relationships prevailing between e- commerce platforms and individuals on these platforms, that’s, sellers and clients. We analyse these financial relationships when it comes to 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 value discovery (67.7% of Amazon sellers, 58.6% of Flipkart sellers modified their value after logging on). It provides worth to shoppers with useful product evaluations (70% of shoppers), decrease costs (79% of shoppers), and model discovery (70% of shoppers).

Chart 1: Why do you promote on Flipkart?

Chart 2: Why do you promote on Amazon?

Chart 3: Motives for procuring on-line

E-commerce creates dependence, with a majority of sellers (92.3% of Amazon sellers, 84.5% of Flipkart sellers) making basic adjustments to their enterprise practices to accommodate the foundations of the platform or optimise operations on the platform. On common, sellers relied on Amazon for 50.4% of their whole income and on Flipkart for 39% of their whole income. Most sellers didn’t really feel “locked in” to a selected platform, however the indication was that they have 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. Enable 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 beneath monopoly circumstances;

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

Proscribing the change of insurance policies on platforms which will adversely have an effect on platform individuals 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 financial system

Infrastructure that e-commerce is platformising

Key findings:

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

Within the survey, most sellers didn’t have a difficulty 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.


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

Once you resolve to purchase a product on-line, the place do you normally first seek for it?

Platformisation of {the marketplace} additionally takes place by non-public labels. Each Amazon and Flipkart use gross sales and different information generated on their platform to introduce their very own merchandise (non-public labels) on the market on the platform. That is egregiously anti-competitive as third-party sellers shouldn’t have entry to the information generated by themselves and which is used to develop and market non-public labels. A majority of sellers (63.1% for Amazon and 58.6% for Flipkart) stated that they noticed platform-branded merchandise as opponents to their very own merchandise.

Platformisation of logistics: Logistics in India is an infrastructural service that’s being platformised by e-commerce by 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 providers or functionalities. It’s in a position to do that by gaining community results in a brand new kind of market with its present person base. E-commerce suppliers in India use such bundling typically. In truth, telecom supplier Reliance Jio’s bid to enter e-commerce is itself an instance of an try at platform envelopment.

Logistics is probably the sector that’s most susceptible 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 Companies, specifically, has a powerful presence within the sector. In 2018, KPMG estimated that 70% of the deliveries of huge e-commerce platforms have 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 transport offered by the platform. Sellers and shoppers each most popular bundled providers (gross sales and transport offered collectively by the platform), displaying that such platformisation of logistics is more likely to proceed. About 20-25% of the e-commerce logistics market is managed by e-commerce corporations’ personal entities.

Coverage suggestions:

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

At the moment, platforms with FDI are successfully disallowed from promoting their very own merchandise in addition to third-party merchandise. This separation of intermediation and sale must be imposed on home e-commerce entities in multi-brand retail above a sure agency dimension as properly. 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 outdoors 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 expertise. Views are private.

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

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