By Kulbir Singh Kalsi
At the beginning of India’s E-commerce boom, men were targeted as primary consumers. Today, the profile of the average online shopper is still a male, aged 25-34. However, as societal shifts continue to alter mores in the economic and cultural sense, we expect to see women becoming half of the E-commerce consumer base. Women are increasingly focusing on education and building careers over more traditional roles, and with that, comes more buying power.
No matter the profile of the average consumer, within the majority of households, women control if not the majority, a large percentage of household spending. For example, in India women control or influence at least 44% of household consumption. In Indian urban areas, this percentage is even higher. A study by Nielsen found that 92% of urban working women claimed they play a major role in household consumption, and 84% of non-working women claimed the same. So, even if an Indian woman does not work outside the home, there’s a good chance she’s still making the decisions on what the household needs.
In India, the majority of E-commerce shopping is done through a smartphone. Indian’s use smartphones to access the Internet 80% of the time. Women who are not bringing in a lot of personal income (if any), are more likely to borrow a male friend’s or family member’s phone than have one for themselves. Especially in rural areas, traditional views on the role of men and women are still dominant. But, this is quickly changing, as women are breaking free from patriarchal confines and becoming more independent.
India is not only making major economic strides, it’s also making enormous improvements in education, especially female education. Between 2005-2014, the enrollment rate of girls in secondary education increased from 45.3% to 73.7%. Women’s enrollment in higher education is now rivalling men’s enrollment, 20% for women compared to 22% for men. With more women focusing on education and careers, their priorities have shifted regarding what they want in life.
Women are aiming higher, and that means that they are putting off marriage and children in lieu of a career. There are currently over 71 million single women in India. The average marriage age for women has also shifted from 18 to 22. They are putting off relationships to focus on careers, and the average income increase shows that. Between 2001 and 2010, the average urban woman’s income went up 111%. Women are increasingly becoming part of the middle class, and because they are earning more buying power, that means they’ll have the more disposable income to funnel into the already rapidly growing Indian economy. A report by Everstone Capital expects that female consumer will make India’s economy 25% wealthier by 2025.
With women’s increase in disposable income, they are going to be greatly contributing to India’s growing E-commerce market. Right now, 30% of online shoppers are women. But, this is expected to increase in the coming years as more females join the ranks of the burgeoning middle class. By 2021, the total number of Indian Internet users is expected to reach 829 million people. Even if women still remained 30% of this number (though it’s expected to be significantly higher ), that’s still a potential consumer base of nearly 250 million people. That represents the real potential for the market.
“Women cannot be ignored in the E-commerce market,” says Agam Berry, co-founder of Quantified Commerce. “They represent so much potential in the E-commerce market. Years ago, the idea of creating female-focused brands within Indian E-commerce was not viable, but companies underestimated the amount of buying power women have in an Indian household. Even if they weren’t the ones physically adding items to their online shopping carts, you can be assured they were making their husbands/ boyfriends/ fathers/ brothers do it for them. Now, they are increasingly doing it for themselves.”
Especially in the beauty sector, women are going to be shopping like never before. “Beauty has always been dominated by female-centric products. But, even in the past few years, sales of men’s skin creams have doubled. It’s not because they want to impress women, but it’s because they want to look good at work,” Berry says. “As more women enter the workforce and continue to fuel the economy, they’ll want to make sure they look and feel their best.”
Women are set to make a major impact in the growing E-commerce economy in the years to come. We will be seeing many more E-commerce companies exclusively targeting women and selling products women are more likely to buy.