A typical online shopper in India is a man aged 25-34 buying electronics through his mobile phone

In 2016, mobile-savvy men dominated online shopping.
In 2016, mobile-savvy men dominated online shopping.
Image: Reuters/Abhishek Chinnappa
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Mobile-savvy shoppers are the backbone of India’s online shopping industry.

According to two of India’s burgeoning domestic e-commerce companies, Flipkart and Snapdeal, more than 80% of online shoppers made purchases through their smartphones, accessing the portals via mobile sites or apps.

The most popular purchases in 2016 included mobile phones, tablets, computers and other electronics, according to Flipkart and Snapdeal. “Indians were seen buying aspirational products and high-value items such as premium phones, consumer electronics, and appliances,” the #FlipTrends2016 report said. Bengaluru-based Flipkart attributed over 60% of its sales to men.

Men in India are more avid shoppers than women in part because of demographic and cultural differences. Boys outnumbered girls in each of the country’s 29 states during the 2011 census and 114 million more Indian men than women have mobile phones, according to international mobile industry monitor GSMA. Most Indian women are more likely to “borrow” phones from friends and family than own a device.

Metro cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Delhi, with populations greater than 100,000, accounted for most online shopping in absolute numbers. Less densely populated regions generated a larger proportion of online sales. Nearly 60% of Snapdeal’s purchases came from cities classified as tier 2 and 3, or those with a population of less than 100,000 and 50,000, respectively. Flipkart also noted that “sales of branded products across categories saw a sharp increase, as more of tier 2 and tier 3 Indian towns took to shopping online.”

Although shoppers between 25 and 34 years of age were most active on e-commerce portals, a surprising number of older people also shopped online in 2016.