In a recent interview with Mint, an Indian-based business and financial daily newspaper, Vidmay Naini, the General Manager for Global Emerging Markets at eBay, discussed the company’s focus on ecommerce exports in India.
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He also highlighted advances in technology such as generative artificial intelligence (AI) that play a significant role in democratizing ecommerce for sellers globally.
Most people may not know, but eBay, being a global online marketplace connecting buyers and sellers in over 190 countries, generates over 50% of its revenue from countries outside the United States. This includes “domestic” sales within the foreign markets, but also from overseas to buyers in the United States.
While some of his take is valid for all emerging markets, Naini focused on the Indian market, which some buyers may view more favorable over dealing with Chinese-based sellers.
eBay is No Stranger to India
Despite exiting the Indian domestic market in 2017, selling its operations to Flipkart, eBay remained engaged in India through cross border sales.
Naini said that eBay’s strategy shifted post-2017 to concentrate on business-to-consumer (B2C) exports, enabling Indian sellers to reach customers worldwide. This has been a core focus for eBay since 2018, leading to a robust and scalable business model.
While eBay does not disclose specific revenue numbers by country, Naini indicated that India’s contribution is “among the top five of 180 countries under eBay’s emerging markets division.”
Regarding India’s online trade policies, Naini acknowledged there have difficulties over the years for ecommerce business engaged in cross-border trade.
But the introduction of the new Foreign Trade Policy and a growing government emphasis on ecommerce exports as a key driver of economic growth indicate a positive shift.
While challenges remain, Naini noted progress has been made to simplify processes and policies to achieve the country’s ambitious $2 trillion ecommerce export target by 2030.
Furthermore, Naini provided some insight into eBay’s operations in India, discussing the value of an analytics center in Bangalore that supports technical development for the global market.
The company’s use of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies enhances various aspects of its business supporting sellers, such as demand-supply equations, intuitive platforms, stability, security, and findability.
Generative AI, in particular, aids content creation, cataloging, product descriptions, narratives, and search optimization, benefiting sellers in terms of cost savings, conversion rate improvements, and listing efficiency.
While these advances benefit all sellers globally, they can be more critical to sellers in foreign markets, enabling them to overcome language barriers and descriptive nuances.
Turning back to India specifically, the country’s recently launched Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) initiative is supposed to simplify online commerce. Naini restated that eBay’s focus is on ecommerce exports, which has a lesser role for cross-border trade.
Unless “there are discussions on Indian exports being pushed through ONDC… the regular export framework should be cleaned up first – before we get into a much more complicated, layered approach.”
Addressing challenges related to trust and security on eBay’s platform, Naini outlined the company’s efforts to enhance buyer and seller protection. These include AI and ML models to assess trustworthiness, authenticity guarantee programs for high-value items, and the company’s global programs that vets sellers.
Some of these could be of interest to Indian sellers. Especially jewelry, which he said is “the largest product category for eBay in India” where “any jewelry that we sell at above $500 globally,” is “certified by the Gemological Institute of America.”
India, The New China?
This interview with Vidmay Naini provides an interesting insight into eBay’s operations in India, as well as in other emerging economies.
eBay has launched several cross-border trade initiatives in India supporting cross border trade. Most recently, the Global Xpansion Program (GXP), empowers Indian sellers to reach established international ecommerce markets such as the U.S., UK, Germany, and others easily. A similar program exists in China.
On one hand, eBay always promotes that it doesn’t compete with sellers. Yet, it develops and fosters programs for sellers in low cost producing countries to directly sell to consumers globally.
Undoubtedly, eBay’s active support of cross-border trade directly to consumers (D2C) from emerging markets has the potential to impact local (domestic) sellers by exerting downward pressure on prices in specific product categories.
However, there is a silver lining.
D2C sales from these countries focus on new products. With eBay’s push of recommerce, eBay sellers in the U.S. (and other established ecommerce markets) maintain an advantage by concentrating on refurbished or collectable items.
eBay claims it has over 1.6 billion listings globally on its marketplace, and U.S. sellers (as well as sellers in other established markets) don’t need to go up against low-cost producers from places like India, China, etc.
For instance, selling phone accessories is a low-margin, competitive business that is easily serviced by sellers in low-cost producer countries. But selling refurbished newer-model phones can be a much better opportunity for domestic sellers.
The eBay marketplace is large enough for all sellers, but it’s critical to find the right categories and niches to succeed today. That is the magic trick for sales growth, avoiding category complacency and understanding global competition.
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