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Sambhar Mafia - Cooked To Kill!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Indian booksellers are not serious about online sales

Sometime ago, we looked at how the various Indian book-shopping sites stack up. It was quite evident that there were very few serious players. A recent report that I came across further confirms that the booksellers themselves are not gung-ho about their online models. The study says that books constitute 31% of all online shopping. I have my own doubts about this figure.

Chennai-based bookstore, Landmark which set up its virtual bookstore a few years ago is also not too upbeat about the prospects of the venture for the next few years.

Hemu Ramaiah, CEO, said, "It was something we started for a lark, just because we wanted to and not because we expected to make money off it."

The e-tailing business contributed about Rs 31 lakh to the groups total turnover of Rs 100 crore last year. This, despite it offering an impressive 1 million titles (1.1 million to be precise). Earlier, people had their apprehensions about making payments online but that is not the case today.

However, people are still not ordering books online although it is an extremely convenient proposition.

While this could partly be linked to the low level of internet penetration in India, other factor that limits online book shopping is that the people likely to order online are the ones who like going to one of the modern bookstores, for the ambience and experience that comes with buying a book. This, most people believe, is unlikely to change soon.

I can only say that Landmark has not fully realized the potential of the online model. With a strong brand like Landmark, they could have definitely achieved more if they had been a bit more aggressive. With such a low annual sales figure (for Internet sales), I won’t be surprised if Landmark decides to ditch the model and concentrate more on their expansions plans.


  • I think the article's got it right - the portion you've marked in bold sums it up. Book-browsing at Landmark is such a good experience - the perfect pill to cure Saturday afternoon laziness - that one simply forgets that Landmark has a website.

    By Blogger Vijay Krishna Narayanan, at 5:45 PM  

  • it might be an international brand alright.but while the store's reaping rich revenues thro it's stores countrywide,why switch to online sales?

    By Blogger Sheks, at 8:29 PM  

  • Yeah, like you & VK have mentioned one doesnt like to compromise on the book shopping experiene unless one has no time for the shopping stroll, thus ending up in online purchase.

    It is surprising to know that big guns like Lifestyle/shoppers' stop do not even have online catalogs, leave alone online sales!

    By Blogger Casement, at 9:17 PM  

  • more interesting to walk into a book shop and read some osii books :)

    By Blogger smiley, at 9:33 PM  

  • the people likely to order online are the ones who like going to one of the modern bookstores, for the ambience and experience that comes with buying a book

    I agree with that statement. However I think, eventually, those same people who like browsing in stores will end up buying a lot more online if the virtual bookstore becomes as comprehensive as say Amazon.

    A good online store will prod people to buy more books. A lot of readers are now using the Internet to become aware of new books and they might be impulsive enough to click on buy in a virtual bookstore soon after reading a review than waiting to go to a bookstore to pick it up. By the time they do that, the impulse to buy the book would have vanished.

    I am quite convinced that a good online bookstore, with attractive pricing, in India will change our book buying habits in a few years. We might still go to a bookstore to browse and feel the books. But we might end up buying more online.

    By Blogger Lg, at 11:46 AM  

  • @VK,
    if online shopping sites provide good discounts (upwards of 20%), many consumers will start buying books online. nobody can replace the experience of visiting a book store and browsing thru a book.

    Landmark is not an international brand. i am not asking them to switch to online sites, just suggesting that online sales can complement the brick and mortar model.

    online shops have far less costs. the biggest cost in traditional retail in the rentals. hence, online sites should pass on the savings to the consumers. lifestyle and shoppers stop sells apparel and it is very difficult to sell apparel online.

    Even online stores (like Amazon) provide book excerpts.

    Rightly said. sites like amazon already suggest things like, "people who have bought this book also bought the following books". I'm sure some smart entrepreneur is gonna cash in on the opportunity and start a good book shopping site.

    By Blogger Kaps, at 9:06 PM  

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