India’s Biggest Worry is Jobs and e-Commerce can be the savior here
E-commerce is helping India achieve more inclusive growth by creating large-scale employment opportunities, allowing first-generation entrepreneurs, skilling youth, empowering women, and formalization and integrating MSMEs from tier-2 cities and beyond in national and global supply chains.
According to the report by Quest Alliance, assumptions made before the economic downturn in India — and subsequently, the global Covid-19 pandemic — estimated that the Indian e-commerce sector has the potential to create 1 million jobs by 2023 alone, and would be worth US$ 200 billion by the year 2026.
It also provides new job opportunities to a young generation of digital entrepreneurs, forced to start their own businesses resulting in job losses during the pandemic. The demand for online shopping, wider usage of digital payments, and increased use of social media such as Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp for marketing have given many entrepreneurs the option to trade from home, start a new business portal without having to invest capital in renting stores, office spaces or other petty expenses.
There have been some concerns that the online business might drive away small sellers or offline retailers from their business. However, there is greater convergence of offline and online. While the pandemic restrictions has shut down several shop outlets, retailers still need to store their products in a way that allows them to fulfill the maximum number of online orders in the shortest time possible. More and more offline business are supplementing their business models by going online, and thereby increasing their market access.
WOMEN IN WORKFORCE
Comparatively, women have faced much more hindrance to start their own business and since the pandemic restrictions, it is not quite feasible to invest in storehouses.
More than two in three women in India are not part of the workforce. As the usage of the internet and social media has increased among women, social e-commerce platforms such as Meesho are enabling aspiring women entrepreneurs mostly homemakers to start a business with zero investment from the safety of their homes.
This is hugely empowering for women—helping them gain business judgment and financial independence, improve their lifestyle, reduce gender inequality and gain respect in society. E-commerce, thus, is a best-given option for various women-oriented welfare schemes started by the government to promote skill and entrepreneurship among them.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND EMPLOYMENT
India faces a huge complication related to its workforce, creating enough jobs for the one million people who join the workforce monthly. India needs a massive expansion in small enterprises in the private sector over the next decade to adopt this growing labor force. E-commerce is encouraging first-generation entrepreneurs to start and expand businesses, given the greater ease of doing business and lesser investments in online compared to consumer-business sales.
Unlike the requirements necessary to run a venture from a physical building, e-commerce does not require storage space or infrastructure investment on the part of the retailer. The sellers are no longer restricted to their geographical location and can sell their products across the country including distant/new markets without the need for any physical presence of a building. Thus, in a way, it gives them access to a larger customer base which has a direct impact on their sales and incomes. It also creates millions of blue-collared jobs which can solve the issue of a growing labor force.
Many economists think, if Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises or MSMEs join an online marketplace of an e-commerce operator, they can focus on products and not worry about distribution and product reach. Many e-commerce platforms also provide various requirements like complete logistics and payments support to the sellers.
E-commerce operators serve greater transparency, traceability, and real-time accounting, thereby ensuring better tax compliance with minimal compliance/ administrative cost.
The MSME sector, with 63 million units, constitutes about 90 percent of all enterprises in India, employing over 120 million people, and contributes significantly to the GDP. This excludes the millions of small units operating from home, such as small boutiques, mom and pop stores, etc., which are estimated to be over 15 million.
SKILLING AND GROWING MOBILIZATION
According to data, more than 60 percent of the young people joining the workforce have not completed college. Many e-commerce platforms also offer training in soft skills to sellers, resellers, and workers. Examples of such skills include complementary training in spoken English, customer-service aptitude, digital skills, effective smartphone navigation, business and entrepreneurship skills, financial management, knowledge of the city, road safety measures, learning the processes of online safety, such as preventing cyberbullying or phishing attacks, etc.
The above-mentioned services help entrepreneurs expand their businesses. These skills help in building the overall profile of the employers, which would be useful for them throughout their professional, personal and social life. This skilling enables horizontal mobility across jobs, thereby raising the income avenues for young and fresh workers. They also provide vertical mobility, which will help them move up their career ladder to become a successful entrepreneur.
Increased formalization of small businesses will help in better assessment of the country’s GDP and increase government revenue by way of higher tax collection. As enterprises and individuals across the country adopt digital payments, it will slowly eradicate the informal sector, weaken the parallel economy, increase economic development in India but will also be a threat to the local artisans.