Diwali explodes in light and color all over Indian Web sites


By Kavita Kaur

With Diwali round the corner, Indian cyberland is sprucing up its act. From content to commerce, the Diwali theme has become all-pervasive. It is almost as if the country’s largest spend-fest has become a proving ground for the B2C and B2B initiatives in India.

Say goodbye to the drudgery of shopping in crowded malls this festive season. Simply click on the eclectic mix of sites offering Diwali special offers and do all your shopping online. E-greetings, online stores, discounts, exchange schemes, contests-the online shopper never had it so good.

Be it kesar kaju katli mithai or almond chocolates, a digital diary or an idol of Lord Ganesha, designer clothes or crystal… you are sure to find something you need, online.

Like Indian homes, Web sites too are speckled with diyas, crackers, mithai and the other paraphernalia that light up the night, and, everyone is hoping, the bank balances of shopping sites.

So What’s on Offer?

Sify has used the Diwali shop till you drop phenomenon to re-launch its shopping channel. It has now been re-christened sifymall.com and, according to PR manager Meera Huckoo Khatri, “represents a giant step forward in the development of online retailing in India”. The site is built on the retail commerce software platform BroadVision, the same one that retailers like Wal-Mart use for their online retailing.

Said Khatri, “A selection of products has been put together as a micro site for Diwali, where customers can find all they need for their Diwali shopping-either for themselves or to gift-including crackers!”

At Rediff.com, meanwhile, the special Shubh Deepavali section showcases Indian mithai, dry fruit, chocolates, jewelry, apparel, watches and more, all packaged in exciting festival offers. However, Rediff scores brownie points with its live online customer help and toll-free help desk number that is available round the clock-a real boon for midnight surfers.

Apart from the horizontals, specialized shopping verticals are also hanging out the diyas and the crackers. Jaldi.com, an e-tailing major, is holding a festive bazaar on the site. Special offers are made to Jaldi.com customers who want to buy Diwali gifts.

Jaldi.com founder Kumud Goel said: “Festivals like Diwali have traditionally marked the highest points in spending among Indian households, but the festival is also associated with the image of endless hours in crowded markets and long waits. That’s where e-tailers like Jaldi.com come in.”

Goel added: “In providing consumers with the ease and convenience of doing all their shopping directly from their desktops, we hope to cash in on the needs of the busy individual.” Jaldi.com’s Diwali Bazaar includes exotic gold foil paintings from Diviniti, imported tableware from Swiss Gold, and gizmos from Microsoft, among other things.

Indbazaar.com, a B2C portal, has launched a Diwali marketplace that offers products from 16 partners, including ShoppersStop.com. According to Indbazaar.com’s Amit Zaveri, “We are offering 10 percent discounts on the products purchased from the online bazaar.” Zaveri claimed that the site had received about 30 orders in the first week of going online.

Likewise, IndiaMart has rolled out Indiangiftsportal.com, that enables Netizens to send Diwali gifts to friends and relatives living in distant parts of the country. IndiaMart is targeting non-resident Indians living in the US. Manan Sharma, project manager of the specialized vertical portal, said he was expecting a minimum of 250 gift orders during the Diwali season, each of an average value of $ 15.

Said Sharma: “The order will be processed through a secured payment gateway and the chosen gift will be delivered on or before Diwali day.” What makes this site unique is the range of specialty gift items such as intricate Indian handicraft, stuffed toys, leather gifts and kitchenware.

Meanwhile, Khuljasimsim.com is all set to launch a ‘Diwali Dhamaka Bargains Corner’. This will offer products specific to Diwali-like sweetmeat, statues of Lakshmi and other gods and goddesses and dry fruit. According to CEO Vikas Verma, “We are expecting the orders to increase by 60-70 percent.”

The Archies group is also making Diwali waves online. According to Vineet K, chief officer, marketing and alliances, archiesonline.com, “About 82 new items have been added specially for Diwali. We have also tied up with 3-4 logistics partners.” The site gets about 80,000 page views per day and Vineet expects this figure to soar to about 6 million per month during and after the festival season.

The company has advertised on NRI-centric sites such as IndiaAbroad.com and in magazines like India Today’s foreign edition. Vineet explained: “There is a huge Indian expat lower middle-class population working as taxi drivers, masons, etc. Due to visas and other problems, they have no option but to leave their families behind. Festive occasions such as Diwali provide them an opportunity to send gifts to their loved ones back home.”

The NRI community is also the key target for Send2India.com, one of the oldest Indian online shopping sites. The site’s business development manager, Ruby, said: “Our clientele is the NRI community the world over, mainly concentrated in the USA.”

This US-based firm offers 24-hour toll-free telephone support and online order status tracking. Ruby expects the page views to increase by a factor of 3 or 4 during the festival season. She added, “We expect around 10,000 orders. Dry fruit and sweets seem to be the most popular items.”

Also available are info-based Diwali-specific sites like DiwaliMela.com that offer a wide range of Diwali-related information. Learn about the history of the Festival of Lights, download Diwali wallpaper and screensavers, or simply check out mouth-watering Indian recipes.

So will the Diwali shopping experience be an easier one this year? Or will the Indian buyer, a frenzied shopper at this time every year, find the bustle and the jostle in the bright lights of brick-and-mortar supermalls too much of a temptation to resist? Watch this space!