By Bhaskar H Narula:
Since the very beginning of human development, machines have been assisting humans. Machines and the services provided by them make our lives easy and comfortable. Another such service is provided by our computer and the boon called the internet. For a very long time, we had always been using computers for industrial and educational purposes. Now, it promises a far easier life considering the growing trend of online shopping. This enables you to shell out thousands of bucks by virtue of a click and get your desired items delivered at your doorstep.
We are aware of charity which begins at home. Considering the times, shopping also seems to have begun at home. Online shopping allows users to purchase goods by browsing through specific websites and all you need is a computer, an internet connection and obviously and a heavy pocket to drill a hole in it with all that shopping. There are various websites dedicated to the same which list down the goods they have in their database along with their prices. One can simply select the items one needs and can pay for them. Your order will be delivered to your address with or without an extra shipping charge. Isn’t it easy? The hassle of going to the market and bargaining has been reduced to browsing different websites and cracking a deal with the one that quotes the lowest price.
It saves your time and provides you with variety of choices. The price range is such that it has something for everyone. Right from an expensive bracelet to slippers, they have it all. There is no need to check out various shops before buying a shirt, all you need is to log in to your favourite online shopping website. You don’t need to search for a shopping companion and men can have some peace from the constant nagging of their wives. Keeping in mind the long and boring shopping schedules and limited time which our work leaves us with, online shopping has come as a saviour for the people.
US websites which have a massive user base and are standing tall since 1995 are eBay and Amazon. Amazon was the first to start online shopping by selling books online. eBay came in 1996 and diversified the domain. eBay ranked no. 1 in online shopping in 2012 as well. Right from electronic gadgets and furniture to flight tickets, eBay has it all. It personally aims to create a ‘perfect market’. A perfect market is one where in users have a variety of choices and everything is at their disposal without any hidden costs. Following the phenomenal growth of eBay and Amazon, numerous shopping sites have popped up. The online shopping industry is now jam-packed with hundreds of sites providing wonderful discounts to customers and promising quality products.
Flipkart is another such website which was founded in 2007. Its high financial profits can be assumed by its recent takeover of another online shopping giant Letsbuy.com. The payment mode which worked well before launch of Flipkart was payment through credit or debit card. There was no COD (Cash on delivery facility). Flipkart brought in the concept and professionalized it in the market. Cash on delivery, as the name suggests allows customers to pay for their ordered product at the time of delivery, at their doorstep. Flipkart, the pioneer of the same, is an Indian shopping website that was started in Bangalore and funded by various MNCs. What more can you ask for? A recent study on online shopping reveals that Flipkart has around 4500 employees in India and aims to achieve a profit of US$1 Billion by 2015.
Online shopping saves time, gives us a variety of choices and offers us lucrative discounts and cash-back options. However, online shopping has its own problems which are technical as well as social. Shopping, which previously involved a family moving from store to store and checking out the clothes and buying the one that suits them best has now come down to individuals using their personal laptops to select and order their own clothes. The whole practice of sharing and spending time with each other is lost. When friends go for shopping, they bond by conversing on everyday issues- online shopping has taken this away. Online shopping has added to the growing addiction towards Facebook and other social networking sites wherein people depend on the world that they see on their laptops and are hesitant to move into the real world and enjoy it.
The technical difficulty involved in online shopping is another source trouble. In the earlier days, when online shopping websites were launched people were reluctant to pay in advance. They were hesitant in punching in the numbers of their credit cards with the corresponding pins as the communication channel lacked adequate security measures. It was the time when the connection was not SSL (Secured Socket Layer) Secured. SSL ensures that the data punched in (i.e., the password and credit card number) is encrypted and sent to the server for verification. The encrypted form of service removes any threat. Even if the data is copied, no one can actually decode it back unless he knows the key of the encrypted data which is actually preserved by the layer itself. Such a form of encryption is now used by all online shopping and banking websites. One can easily find recharge websites stating that their service is SSL Secured. Another such security measure is the concept of 3D Security as used by the Punjab National Bank. 3D Security involves tunnelling where a separate channel is used for transferring user data to the server.
Today, India has, as per an estimate, 12 crore internet users. The increase in internet users means more services and more security is indeed. All we need to understand is that services are meant to ease our lives and should be restricted to maintain our well-being. Online shopping is one of such service which should be used judiciously.
Note: The article is also published on the author’s personal blog