It’s festival season in India, when hundreds of millions of people around the country celebrate a variety of religious holidays in the lead-up to Diwali, the popular celebration of good fortune and prosperity. Eager to cash in on the season of prosperity are two American-owned companies focused on online shopping.
Flipkart, a local startup acquired by Walmart in April, and Amazon, the Jeff Bezos behemoth, are India’s rival e-commerce giants. Together, they control about 85 percent of a market valued at around $25 billion.
Flipkart first launched its annual multi-day festival shopping event in 2014, and Amazon joined the celebration in 2015. They're both pushing a fast-growing middle class to buy products they largely couldn't afford in the past, like mobile phones, consumer electronics, and large appliances.
In the last decade, India has emerged as the world's fastest growing major economy. In that same time period, the average Indian income has more than doubled, and internet usage has gone up from four percent to nearly 38 percent of the country — more than 500 million people.
Holiday sales, which grew 64 percent from last year, reflect that trend. Flipkart's CEO sees festival season as a critical time to get the fast growing ranks of potential customers to start shopping online.
“This year a very big, new philosophy being introduced is: let Indians shop, even with a minimal budget,” Kalyan Krishnamurthy told VICE News. “So people who could not afford smart televisions before, people who cannot afford appliances before… how do you bring them into the shopping funnel? It's something which we have done in a big way this festival season.”
While the Indian market is relatively new, one study says it's poised to overtake the American market by 2034, when it will be valued at more than $2 trillion. But for the time being, Flipkart’s CEO is looking forward just as far as next year’s festival sale.
This segment originally aired October 15, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.