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I asked an artist if he had to paint e-commerce as a concept how would he make it. He shut his eyes and made these vivid brush strokes in air—red unicorns with half-sawed horns galloping in a river of money. Now that sounds about right. Merci, Monsieur Monet for that impression, which is not all lilies and daisies.

Eccentricity is at the heart of the startup world—the things companies do in the name of innovation, the way they behave in the face of adversity and the sheer amount of money they can get through in a year boggles the mind.  What is even more startling is how these peculiarities are now de rigueur in the world of e-commerce

Still, undeniably, it is through some of these idiosyncrasies that some of the largest businesses of the future are going to be built. The close to $30 billion e-commerce business today is expected to become a $119 billion one by 2020. Even the World Trade Organisation has recognised the transformative nature of this business and countries want specific guidelines about doing e-commerce. However, India has still not taken a position on it. While 2016 saw a lot of action with respect to regulation, in 2017 more changes and clarifications are expected. For instance: clarity on the way GST will be calculated is important for e-commerce firms, which lawyers say, if not done right can erode any margins they hope to earn. Also with demonetisation, the government can look to incentivise adoption of e-wallets, which can be a huge plus for e-commerce companies. Exciting stuff indeed. For now, these stories will help set the stage for what will unfold next year.

  • However old one gets, fables are still fun. This is the story of a unicorn which acts like a chameleon. This story documents Snapdeal’s numerous tack changes and its fight to stay relevant, and yes, there is a moral hidden in it too.
  • Another unicorn, another problem. How on earth can a company like Shopclues for whom over 60% of its sales are paid for by cash on delivery survive demonetisation?
  • No, we are not done with unicorns yet. This is the mother of them all competing with the significant other during the big daddy of sales. And no fight is complete without knowing who the winner is.
  • Real estate brokerage firm IndiaHomes is no small startup. It raised $78 million, but somehow it went down without a trace. Its troubles began when it opened itself up for suitors, but that’s when its smoke and mirrors act was out in the open.
  • What happens when you bring together food and technology? Like flies to a fruit, there is a swarm of startups all of them trying to solve the same problems in their own different ways, and none profitable. This two-part guide, with GIFs and highly perceptive illustrations, makes for a rollickingly informative read. Part one and part two.


Arundhati Ramanathan

Arundhati is interested in how people use money in the digital age and how new economies will take shape based on that interaction. She writes the newsletter Ka-Ching! every Thursday. She lives in Bengaluru and has spent 14 years reporting and writing on various subjects.

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