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A man walks past a sale poster in a shopping mall in Mumbai
Reuters/Vivek Prakash
Happy shopping this festival season.
BIG GREAT MAHA SALES

A guide to getting the most from India’s online shopping deals during its festive season

By Itika Sharma Punit

It’s that time of the year again.

Online retailers in India have kicked off the first leg of their annual festive season sales today (Sept. 20). Prominent e-commerce portals such as Flipkart.com, Amazon.in, Snapdeal.com, Shopclues.com, PaytmMall.com, and Myntra.com, among others, are offering discounts on apparel, electronics, and smartphones that could go up to 80%. The deals get even sweeter with added cashback, buy-back or exchange options, and easy payment methods.

But with all the different discounts, it’s not easy to navigate through the noise. So here’s Quartz India’s guide to making the most of the sale season.

What, where, and when?

From clothes to heavy electronics and mobile phones to gomutra (cow’s urine, which is considered holy by some Hindus), everything will be discounted during these sales. But to avoid unmanageable web traffic on a single day, e-commerce websites are using various strategies:

Flipkart: In the fourth edition of its flagship sale event, Big Billion Days, the Bengaluru-based e-retailer is offering discounts on various products on different dates. On day one (today), there are deals on fashion, home furnishings, and large appliances. From tomorrow, offers will be available on mobilephones, the category with the highest demand, and other fast-moving electronic products like tablets.

Amazon: To tempt more consumers to opt for its membership programme, Amazon Prime, the company has launched its annual discount event, the “Great Indian Festival,” exclusively for Prime customers from noon today. The event will be open to all customers from Sept. 21 till Sept. 24.

Shopclues: The company’s festive season sale, called the “Maha Bharat Diwali Sale,” will outlast those of its larger peers and run from Sept. 20 till Sept. 28.

Paytm Mall: The e-commerce arm of India’s largest digital payments company, Paytm, will host its “Mera Cashback Sale” for only three days, starting on Sept. 20. The company will host flash sales, when cashback amounts will be even higher, from 2pm to 6pm and 8pm to midnight every day.

Most bang for your buck

In case deep discounts are not enough to lure customers, e-commerce portals have tied up with banks, financial institutions, and digital wallet companies to offer deals that could give consumers more bang for their buck. They are also offering “No Cost EMI” across thousands of products.

Flipkart has tied up with the country’s largest lender, The State Bank of India (SBI), to offer a 10% additional discount for consumers who shop with SBI’s debit or credit cards. On Sept. 20, this additional discount will be available on bills of Rs1,500 or above, and between Sept. 21 and Sept. 24, for shopping above Rs4,999.

Flipkart is also promoting its Unified Payments Interface (UPI) wallet, PhonePe, by giving first-time users an additional 10% cashback (capped at Rs100) on their purchases.

Meanwhile, Amazon India is luring customers to its own digital wallet by offering special cashbacks of up to 25% on purchases made through Amazon Pay. Like Flipkart, the Indian arm of US-based Amazon has tied up with HDFC Bank to offer a 10% additional discount on certain items if they are purchased using the bank’s debit or credit cards.

At Snapdeal, shoppers using debit or credit cards from Axis Bank will get a 10% cashback on most items.

Shopclues has chosen to stick with digital payment companies for such offers. The company has tied up with home-grown e-wallet startup Mobikwik and Airtel Payments Bank to offer a cashback of up to 50% on purchases made through the two.

Paytm Mall is offering a 5% cashback for ICICI Bank customers, and promoting its digital gold business by giving buyers the option to take their cashback in the form of a “gold back.”

In addition, the company is promoting its postcard feature, Lifafa (meaning envelope in Hindi), by giving a surprise gift to every buyer who shops during its sale. “Everyone who shops (for) anything on Paytm Mall during the sale event will get a Lifafa with a surprise gift over the next one month,” a company spokesperson said. The gift could be in the form of digital currency, a hotel or movie booking, or free cab rides.

Eye-popping stuff

If you’ve been holding out on buying international brands or high-end smartphones, this sale season could be your chance to score some solid deals.

Flipkart’s Big Billion Days sale includes discounts on products of Apple Inc, which are sold at a premium in India. While the e-retailer is yet to announce its discounts on handsets, Apple watches are available with discounts of 20% or above. The company is also offering up to 80% off on international clothing brands such as United Colours of Benetton, Tommy Hilfiger, and Allen Solly.

And if the cashbacks appear less alluring than straight discounts, read this: Paytm Mall has set a budget of Rs501 crore to dole out in the form of cashbacks over the four days of its sale, a company spokesperson told Quartz.