The 1200 Mile Journey of a Sari in India
Buying anything via the Internet is so easy, whether you live in a sophisticated Western country or in a remote Third world country. You simply click and pay and somewhere, somehow, the item makes its travel through handling, countries, on ships or airplanes and it appears at your door. It seems like magic. But, is it cost effective for a $3 item bought by someone 1200 miles away? Maybe it does in a First world country where everything is more efficient and faster, but what about in a place like India?
The journey of Gayathri Rajamanisngh's three dollar (200 rupee) floral print sari from the website, Shopclues, is a fascinating back story of what happens. ShopClues is an online marketplace, headquartered in Gurgaon, India. The company was founded in California's Silicon Valley in 2011. She found the item online at her home in Madurai, in the state of Tamil Nadu. She clicked on Buy and paid. The item was actually located in Surat, in the state of Gujarat, some 1200 miles away!
So, she waited but behind the scenes the logistical craziness began to deliver the $3.00 item. The cost for the website to deliver the sari some 1200 miles was only 45 rupees or 50 cents and involved over 30 people, two long haul truck rides, one air cargo flight, and one motorbike to her home. For online shopping companies in India, shipping costs swallow up 30% of net sales, while in the US, just 11%. When Gayathri finally received her sari, Shopclues had only made less than 50 cents and overall, the website does not make enough to cover employee wages or even rent for its offices. For that, the e-commerce site relies on investors. The website makes only 10 rupees for every 100 ($1.50) rupees in sales
But the traveling sari was picked by a worker, packaged, and then began its incredible 1200 mile journey encountering: bad roads, floods, corruption at the state border, and bizarre taxes. It went by truck, then by air, then by truck again until finally, by motorcycle to her house, whose address was cryptic: a combination of house number, neighborhood and landmark.
India's e-commerce brings in $4 billion a year. While it sounds like a lot, compare to China's at $458 billion, the market is just being born with the one billion people in India, of which, 85% still have no Internet access.
Still, delivering a sari in three days after 1200 miles is impressive!