It’s well known that China’s e-commerce market is far larger than India’s, but it’s breathtaking how wide the gulf really is.
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has just sold more goods in 86 minutes than Amazon and Flipkart together sold in all of 2018. One hour and 26 minutes into Alibaba’s flagship Single’s Day sale, Alibaba had sold goods worth $17 billion (Rs. 1,20,000 crore). In comparison, Amazon had sold goods worth $7.5 billion in FY18, and Flipkart, along with group companies Jabong and Myntra, had also sold goods of roughly this value. Amazon and Flipkart’s annual GMV, thus, put together at $15 billion, is less than the $17 billion that Alibaba sold in one hour and 26 minutes on Single’s Day.
— Alibaba Group (@AlibabaGroup) November 10, 2019
Singles Day is Alibaba’s flagship sale, and the highlight of China’s shopping calendar. Originally celebrated on 11th November by singles who wanted their own holiday to compete with Valentine’s Day (11/11 looks like a group of single people), it was popularized by Alibaba as a shopping festival in 2009. The event has since come to symbolize China’s e-commerce revolution, and Alibaba pulls out all stops during promotions. International celebrities fly over to China to promote the event — in the past, celebrities including Maria Sharapova, David Beckham, Scarlett Johannsen, Mariah Carey and Kobe Bryant have all flown in to China to ring off the sale.
And if Alibaba’s gap over its Indian peers seems large now, it only seems to be widening with time. In 2016, Alibaba had taken an hour to make $5 billion of sales, and take it past the then-GMV of Flipkart at $4.5 billion. In 2017, Alibaba took half an hour to sell $7 billion of goods, which was more than the 2017 GMV of Flipkart at $6 billion. And this year, Alibaba eclipsed Flipkart’s overall sales from 2018 in 20 minutes flat — Alibaba had sales of $9 billion in those 20 minutes, while Flipkart had sales of $7.5 billion in the last year.
These are stunning numbers, and show how much ground Indian companies have to cover before they can compete with their Chinese counterparts. But these numbers also show how much Indian headroom Indian companies have to grow — India’s GDP per capita is $1983, while China’s is more than four times higher at $8,643. When India’s economy grows to become as large as the Chinese economy is now, it’s conceivable that it will give opportunities to Indian e-commerce companies to match the numbers that Alibaba is racking up at the moment. It’s too early to say if any of today’s e-commerce companies will end up being India’s Alibaba, but for now, Alibaba is showing the world the potential that the e-commerce space has to offer.