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Indian e-commerce growth stalls

News, 28 June 2016

MUMBAI: After years of strong growth, there are signs that e-commerce in India is stagnating with annual growth approaching an inflection point, according to new analysis.

The Times of India studied the gross merchandise value (GMV) run rate of the country's top e-commerce firms from May 2015 to May 2016.

GMV, a popular measurement among e-commerce firms, differs from revenue in that it projects performance based over a given period of time through a customer exchange site. It is a measure of the growth of the business.

According to the study, Indian e-commerce players generated a total GMV run rate of $9bn in May 2015, with Flipkart making up $3.8bn of the total, followed by Snapdeal ($2.2bn).

The overall figure rose to $10.5bn in December 2015, boosted by spending over the holiday season, but has since slipped to $10.2bn in May 2016.

Flipkart remains India's largest e-commerce firm, having seen its GMV reach $4bn in May 2016, but that represents only a small rise from the same period last year.

The Times of India said it was worth noting that "Flipkart notched up a 400% growth the year before, when its GMV zoomed from $1bn to $4bn, post which the numbers have gone flat".

Meanwhile, according to the report, Snapdeal has seen its GMV almost halve over the past year, falling from $2.2bn in May 2015 to $1.2bn in May of this year.

However, Amazon, their US rival which has been operating in India for only three years and has invested billions, saw its GMV surge from $1bn in May 2015 to $2.7bn.

"The moment of reckoning is coming or may have come already for Indian e-commerce companies," said Aswath Damodaran, Professor of Finance at the Stern School of Business at New York University.

"The ease with which these companies have been able to raise money from VCs may have made them all sloppy, and the test then will be which ones can now work on the 'building-a-business' channel.

"As for whether the fault lies with Indian consumers for not jumping fast enough onto the online wagon, it is a chicken-and-the-egg problem that we have to deal with."

Data sourced from Times of India; additional content by Warc staff