The coronavirus pandemic has brought a paradigm shift in every part of our lives. The virus outbreak led to a nation-wide lockdown, which has caused tremendous damage to India’s economic system.
Demand has been diminishing since the mid of March, and manufacturing activities have come to a standstill in these months. However, Indian businesses have begun to adapt to the current form of life. The Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH) has conducted India’s first-ever virtual business-to-business (B2B) trade fair. The EPCH curated the online platform as an alternative to the annual trade fair. Overseas buyers and domestic traders participated in this fair promoting export of Indian goods.
The trade fair that occurred between the 1st & 4th of June witnessed the participation of over 200 Indian exporters. According to the official data, the fair generated businesses worth over Rs 153 Crore. The importers from the U.S. and Europe made most of the orders.
Director General at EPCH, Rakesh Kumar, said that earlier the businesses had to pay almost Rs 2 lakh for booking a stall for showcasing their products. However, it took only Rs 10,000 for a virtual store. Most of the stalls showcased fashion jewelry and accessories. In the earlier versions of the same trade fair, Indian exporters used to book sales around Rs 300-350 Crore. Kumar further added that the marginal fee for booking virtual stall had enabled many small exporters, who have been deeply impacted by the corona outbreak, to participate in the fair. He also admitted that EPCH’s revenue flow was affected by the low booking cost.
The photographs and videos of the complete product range of every stall were made available to the buyers on a single click. For further queries on the product, there were links for Skype and Zoom calls. Upon placement of an order, the seller has to send the products by courier to the desired addresses. Indian exporters received orders from 1700 buyers including 500 agents belonging to 81 nations.
Watch: What a virtual fair looks like?
According to Rakesh Kumar, the EPCH is planning to hold another such trade fair at a bigger scale in July that may see participation 3,000 exporters and 50,000 buyers. The product range may extend to textiles, home, lifestyle, fashion, and furniture, etc.
Despite low demand in March, India’s handicraft exports concluded the 2019-20 FY at $3.53 Billion against $3.65 billion in the previous year.
China’s Alibaba Virtual Trade Shows
During the pandemic, e-commerce companies are the only ones who have made a heightened profit. Chinese e-commerce major, Alibaba.com, has reportedly grown by 85% during the pandemic months.
Alibaba has unveiled a plan for 20 B2B trade shows starting from July. It aims at capturing the growing online demand in the U.S. due to the virus outbreak.
John Caplan, president of North America and Europe for Alibaba.com, said, “In the last two months, there has been a 20-year acceleration of small businesses needing to get digital and to do business globally.”
Over this decade, businesses across the sectors would be using digital commerce to fulfill the demand gap that emerged out of the pandemic.John Caplan, President – North America and Europe, Alibaba.com
Alibaba started operation in the U.S. last July, and the American market has already become its fastest-growing market.
The New Normal
When a leading American department store chain, J.C. Penney, filed bankruptcy last month, it became clear that the retail store business model has entered its worst phase. Along with J.C. Penney, other big names like G-111, Pier 1 Imports, Tuesday Morning, Neiman Marcus, Stage Stores, Art Van Furniture, and Modell’s have recently announced closing down of some or all stores.
Watch: JCPenney and several other stores file for bankruptcy
The pandemic led social distancing norms have been gradually bringing the new world order. The digital market place is going to be the next big thing across the globe. Businesses should make the necessary changes to become flexible enough to absorb future shocks and take advantage of the ever-growing digital market.