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Technology has enabled the setting in of a new age of consumerism. Public policy experts Divya Singh Rathore and Pratyush Prabhakar term this new age of consumerism the age of hyper-lapse consumerism. According to them, along with the ever-increasing consumption of goods and services, consumers today are also prioritising the ease with which they are able to place orders for various goods and services and the speed at which they are delivered. Hyper-lapse consumerism is centred around the idea of being the fastest to reach the consumer, and it has largely been fuelled by the ubiquitous internet and the growth of e-commerce.
According to India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), the Indian e-commerce market is set to reach USD 74.8 billion in 2022, registering a 21.5% increase. E-commerce has not only transformed the way businesses operate in India but also impacted consumerism. Could you imagine ordering your favourite ice cream late at night ten years back? Or could you imagine sitting somewhere in Kerala and ordering Ghewar? E-commerce has turned these fantasies into reality.
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Today, in India alone, there are multiple e-commerce platforms being driven by the notion of hyper-lapse consumerism. Recently, we have seen advertisements by a renowned grocery e-commerce platform claiming to deliver orders within 10 minutes. With the continuous evolution of technology, consumer behaviour is also undergoing changes. In the initial days, online shopping was just another medium for shopping with fewer options. Consumers resorted to buying those products online that they did get in the local market. However, in the last few years, this field has revolutionised to attract more and more customers and cover segments like daily essentials. In the financial year 2021, the Indian online grocery market size was USD 3.95 billion. It is estimated to grow to USD 26.93 billion by 2027 at a CAGR of 33%.
In fact, a distinct category of consumers who shop exclusively online exists now. Such has been the extent of evolution of consumerism driven by e-commerce companies. The race to reach consumers as fast as possible is in full swing. Let alone grocery and other perishables delivery platforms like Blinkit, Licious and Zepto, e-commerce giants like Amazon and Flipkart are also being driven by hyper-lapse consumerism. They have incorporated features like Prime and Plus in efforts to prioritise consumers’ delivery expectations. In some cities, they even offer consumers options for same day deliveries.
Undoubtedly, the e-commerce market in India has recorded an impressive growth in the last few years driven by a multitude of factors including increasing investments in e-commerce firms, increase in digital literacy, policy support in the form of favourable climate for investment—100% FDI under automatic route is allowed in the marketplace model of e-commerce—along with increase in internet and smartphone penetration. Indian consumers are increasingly adopting 5G smartphones even before the rollout of the next-gen mobile broadband technology in the country.
Easy credit putting consumer credibility to question
However, another crucial factor driving the new age consumerism is the availability of easy credit on e-commerce platforms. Earlier, consumers resorted to credit options for buying assets like property or costly durable goods like cars. However, of late, consumers are using ‘credit’ to buy almost anything like mobile phones, mixers and grinders and other trivial housekeeping items. This has been made possible due to several credit options available on e-commerce platforms. In fact, Flipkart in partnership with IDFC FIRST bank provides customers the option to ‘buy now and pay later’. Interestingly, this is also available for not-so-high-valued products like apparels, yoga mats, and other commonplace household items.
At a glance, it may appear very democratising—after all, in a country like India where 45% households account for lower middle income households, people may have the desire to buy a branded shirt that costs say INR 2000 but cannot pay right away. However, many new-to-credit consumers have no proper credit history. Thus, providing easy loans could trigger a culture of credit indiscipline. People stop being mindful of what they should or should not buy on credit. Often such irrational behaviour leads consumers to borrow much more than their repayable capacity. This can ultimately put them in perpetual debt traps.
Does that mean hyper-lapse consumerism is all bad? Not at all. Both consumers as well as businesses need to be mindful of this evolutionary phase of consumerism and the dire consequences it may have. While e-commerce platforms need to be conscious of the social, behavioural and ethical implications of instant deliveries, consumers too need to be responsible while availing credit. It is advisable that they deploy the 50/30/20 rule in dividing income among needs, wants and aspirations respectively. Using financial leverage will not only help acquire valuable assets but also prevent one from resorting to reckless credit.