Is eBay losing its charm?

Editor | Sep 10, 2020

It was March 2005, when eBay entered the Indian market after acquiring Baazee.com. The company had an early bird advantage. And the phase was very exciting. It opened a new platform for Indian sellers and buyers as online retail business wasn’t very famous then.

In a press meet soon after the acquisition, Meg Whitman, the then President and CEO of eBay had said, “Although it is early days for ecommerce in India, we believe there is great opportunity over the long term.”

Whereas Baazee chairman Avnish Bajaj said, “This acquisition means the Indian online community gets access to the global marketplace.”

Cut to 2015. Yes it has been 10 years! And eBay is trying to keep its head above the water. The ‘long term’ opportunity the company talked about cashing in is gradually slipping away. What happened in the last decade?

Not the top contender in ecommerce race

There was a time when eBay would always feature in top 5 ecommerce companies (retail) in India. Not anymore. Snapdeal jumped from being a ‘deals and coupons’ site to a marketplace. Flipkart became from a bookseller to a $15.5 billion worth company. And Amazon upped its game as well to avoid getting lost in oblivion and today is one of the leaders.

But not eBay. The company has been pushed down in the dominant players list.

Unhappy customers

A quick look at eBay India’s Twitter, Facebook and buyer forum page throws light on how unsatisfied the customers are. Right from being accused of selling fake products, listing fake sellers, shipping wrong/defective products, bad customer service, delay in delivery & refund and misleading offers, eBay’s customers are an unhappy lot.

Unhappy sellers

While some say ebay supports only sellers, vendors who actually sell on the marketplace don’t share the same view. Yes, not just buyers, but eBay sellers are extremely disappointed too. As per the company, 30,000 merchants sell on their platform and it gives them access to customers across 4,306 cities in India. This is a huge number. But over the past few years, seller grievances have only piled up with no solution in sight.

Early last year, IOS did a feature on eBay’s slow seller service system and many ebay merchants wrote back agreeing to all the points and shared some more. One seller recognised as ‘esellerindia’ said,

“It used to be one of the best platforms to sell on, but with the new DSR rules no new seller can start selling on ebay. All old ebay sellers have got their relations made with the ebay managers setup, so no matter whats their DSR score their accounts will never get limitations, but genuine new sellers which low DSR’s will get banned immediately.”

Some of the common eBay sellers’ grievance

We have compiled a list of top issues sellers on ebay have been facing after reading comments across various platforms such as IOS’s ebay seller community on Facebook, article & blog comments, social media and eBay’s seller community pages. Here’s the list:

  • Completely customer centric policies
  • Not protecting/respecting sellers
  • Non-transparent business operations
  • Stringent negative feedback policy
  • Issues with powership program
  • Bad seller support
  • Remittance issues
  • Lack of support while dealing with fraud buyers
  • Incompetent account managers
  • Removing product listings without warning

Is eBay nearing an end or will it rise again?

eBay had entered China in the year 2004. For a couple of years it remained on top until home-grown players Alibaba and Taobao joined the battlefield. In fact the competition was so fierce that Alibaba’s Jack Ma earned the tag of ‘Crazy Ma’ due to his business tactics. Finally in 2006 eBay accepted defeat in China and Ma exclaimed elatedly, “The competition is over. It’s time to claim the battlefield.” The reason for eBay’s failure was: not understanding the local market and customers.Is eBay nearing an end or will it rise again?

The basic plot is eerily similar to India. How? eBay had the first mover advantage in India too. But lately home-grown companies Flipkart and Snapdeal besides global player Amazon are leading. The competition is fierce. And eBay is too slow with their strategies to keep up with current competition. Nor sellers or buyers are happy with the company. When other ecommerce companies are on a hiring spree (indicator of growth) eBay is laying off employees. Does that mean, like China, eBay will have to pack their bags and go from India too?

Can still make it work, only if ..

Fortunately there is still hope for eBay. A chance. Provided they clean up their act.

Despite all the issues, eBay India still has numbers (in terms of number of sellers and customer reach) thanks to the head-start the company had in the beginning. The company website states, ‘a mobile handset sells every 2 minutes, a handbag sells every 17 minutes, a laptop sells every 18 minutes, a tablet sells every 19 minutes.’ Latif Nathani, Managing Director of eBay India also claims that “every 10 seconds, somebody in the world buys a product from eBay India.” This if true is very impressive and promising.

Registered sellers are latching on with a hope that one day eBay will pay heed to their woes and things will look up once again. A seller, Sanchit Goyal said on the ebay seller forum, “My 3-4 issues are pending since 3 months are approx Rs 10,000 are stuck with them. But at the end of day its also a fact that I am selling on ebay because its profitable even after losses. (sic)” Not for long though if eBay keeps ignoring its sellers.

What’s not working is the negative or not-so-positive hum around eBay. A negative image can turn any business’s game quickly even if they have number on their side. Just look at the way from nowhere Flipkart, Amazon, and Snapdeal have climbed up the ladder. Also let’s not forget ‘Crazy Ma’ is spreading his wings in India too.

eBay will have to shed its conservative business approach and rebuild relationships with buyers and sellers to earn their trust back. They will also have to spend considerable money on advertising and marketing campaigns to build a ‘positive’ brand image. India offers great scope in ecommerce and if eBay wishes to sustain then it will have learn a lesson or two from Amazon (that had failed in China too), which tailored its strategies to suit Indian market as opposed to sticking to global tactics that may have worked in the US.


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