India Comparison Shopping Sites- Where is Innovation ?

Over the past few days I did some research to know how good Indian Startups really are. I chose the Comparison Shopping vertical since we expect a boom in e-Commerce [hopefully]. I found around 8 websites competing in this vertical and its disappointing to see none offering an innovative consumer shopping experience

  • Bechna.Com, ShopMania.in – I don’t quiet understand the necessary of hosting classifieds
  • CompareIndia.Com – Banking on wide network of sites for cross marketing. Finally after few years, their Web Designers have done an acceptable job
  • OxyShopping.Com – replica of pricebragger or dealtime for India
  • Naaptol, TolMol – Combination of Review and comparison shopping
  • productsearch.rediff.com – Still struggling to make a difference with a Killer Web Service / e-Commerce product
  • Chintee – A forthcoming launch from Reliance, another commoditization of service

None of them even attempted to do things differently. You shouldn’t be surprised if VCs / PE funds refuse to fund these startups. They may have a business case, but being a tech startup, they have Zero innovation.

Compare this to how Comparison Shopping is evolving in the US. Two Grad Students from UC Berkeley – Arlo and Shankar  have come up with an innovative idea of Visual Based Comparison 🙂  Check it out Modista.com. I communicated with them. They have already filed for Two Patents and this what they had to say about their technology,

Our algorithms rely entirely on the images themselves. We don’t actually need any other metadata to compute similarity. However, if metadata is available, we can use it as well to improve the results.

They further added,

We focus more on the user experience.  Many sites are happy to push you off to a retailer as fast as possible, but we try to keep all the relevant information at a user’s fingertips on Modista itself: sizes, product details, multiple views, etc. This aids in the exploration and discovery process.

Why do I call this a cool product ? Modista managed to bring a new shopping experience to consumers all together. Additionally, they can port this as a FaceBook Application and expand their reach.

The problem of Zero Innovation is not just restricted to Comparison Shopping but to many other Web based Startups. IMHO, the problem is with our ecosystem [peers, mentors, media, work culture, etc]. Why Indian Engineers innovate in the valley or elsewhere and not here ?

4 thoughts on “India Comparison Shopping Sites- Where is Innovation ?”

  1. Sorry to be responding so late. The Net is too competitive compared to brick and mortar. So expect all sorts of problems in attempts at increasing the already dizzying competition. By the time these comparison shopping engines get their act together, we would start seeing consolidation. Expect the biggies to swallow the smaller players then tweak the engines to favour sister sites. The following article describes such consolidation that has taken place in US.

    http://probargainhunter.com/2007/04/29/price-comparison-sites-small-fish-big-fish/

  2. Comparison websites are in their intial stages in india and you might see more of them before they choke and someone thinks about innovation in this area. There is a new cashback website apnacashback.com which is a real value add to online shopping in India.

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    I just read your blog and have to say innovative work and amazing analysis. I hope maybe down the line i get to link my new site with you. As for this post,i quite agree with you. Indian online marketplace do lack the zest which many of the big marketplaces such as amazon have. But i have to say Flipkart.com seems to have the caliber to turn this around. I have tried it and it seems to be doing pretty good service as of now.

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