India’s e-commerce industry is predicted to surpass the US to become the second largest e-commerce market in the world, said Bharati Balakrishnan, Shopify Country Head and Director, India & Southeast Asia. In an exclusive interaction with FinancialExpress.com, Bharati Balakrishnan said, “Indian online businesses are growing on Shopify, generating a 78 per cent increase in economic activity and supporting nearly 200,000 jobs last year alone.” Indian merchants, on Shopify, are selling to an average of 10 overseas markets and 70 million international shoppers. In India, merchants using Shopify include brands like Lakme, Colorbar, Blue Tokai, Hidesign, Sugar Cosmetics, boAt Lifestyle, Lenskart, among many others. “Over the past two years, we have launched more than 600 new products and services, and boosted our investment in R&D by more than 55 per cent,” she added. Here are edited excerpts from the interview:
How is the e-commerce industry currently growing? How is Shopify playing a role in this growth roadmap?
In 2022, the Indian e-commerce sector scaled new heights in regard to critical business metrics like market penetration, consumer awareness, and mobile and data use. In addition, business models evolved with the advent of B2B2C, video commerce, social commerce, fast commerce, and D2C, among other advancements. The current trend in the e-commerce industry suggests an upward growth trajectory, and it is predicted that by 2034, the Indian e-commerce market is set to overtake the US to become the second-largest e-commerce market in the world. Indian businesses are growing on Shopify, generating a 78 per cent increase in economic activity and supporting nearly 200,000 jobs last year alone.
What were the most sold categories? What were the most popular modes of payment?
Shopify’s Festive Season Survey 2022 report revealed that almost 4-in-5 (78 per cent) Indian consumers shopped online more than they did before the pandemic, with almost all (96 per cent) preferring to purchase from local Indian brands. We saw a shift in payments, with our research finding that two-third (67 per cent) of consumers preferred making payments through UPI, which is a boost from last year where only half (49 per cent) of consumers opted for UPI.
Tell us about your top clients. Which other brands will Shopify integrate within the coming months?
Our focus is to help both new merchants starting their business on Shopify, and also partner with large-scale, high-volume retail businesses like GoColours and Duroflex. Today, millions of merchants use Shopify around the world to manage their volume and complexity. These include DTC brands home-grown on Shopify like boAt Lifestyle, Sugar Cosmetics, mCaffeine, Mokobara, Vahdam Teas, among others, but also traditional household names like Duroflex, Colorbar, Borosil and others, that previously focused on more traditional channels.
How is purposeful AI, technology helping brands improve customer experience and accessibility? Elucidate on the technological integration and new innovations at Shopify?
Retailers use AI in many different ways, including chatbots, content creation, and customer insights. One of the most-used examples of AI in retail is seen in the rapid adoption of chatbots powering ‘conversational commerce’. The chatbot industry is anticipated to reach a market value of over $102 billion by 2026 as consumers seek more personalised experiences and service from the brands they love. In India, Shopify’s WhatsApp integration powered by Interakt gives merchants the ability to connect with customers via a simple and effective plug-in that boosts acquisition, conversion, support, and loyalty through conversational commerce.
What are your expansion plans / strategies, going forward? What kind of investment are you planning to make for these expansion plans or even bringing in new innovations at Shopify?
Research and development (R&D) is central to our business to help millions of merchants around the world adapt to the dynamic nature of commerce and ever-changing consumer shopping preferences. Over the past two years, we’ve launched more than 600 new products and services to empower our merchants to thrive on change, and boosted our investment in R&D by more than 55 per cent.
Tell us about your presence.
Shopify powers millions of businesses in more than 175 countries and is trusted by brands such as Mattel, Allbirds, Spanx, Gymshark, FTD, Netflix, FIGS, and many more. More than 600 million consumers have purchased from Shopify merchants around the world, totalling over $590 billion in sales. We also have an extensive partner ecosystem of more than 40,000 and 8,000 apps, which all work to help merchants create seamless commerce experiences for their customers.