Flipkart and Snapdeal aren’t enough. Indian shoppers are spending millions on Chinese and American websites

Here’s your order.
Here’s your order.
Image: Reuters/Carlos Barria
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Indian shoppers are looking beyond home-grown e-commerce websites like Flipkart and Snapdeal.

In 2016, Indian shoppers spent Rs58,370 crore (or $8773.81 million) on international websites, a new consumer research report by digital payments company PayPal and Ipsos shows. The report was based on a survey of 800 Indians.

Here’s what they spent all that money on:

The numbers show a 6.7% jump in purchases made on international websites compared to a year ago when Indians spent Rs54,700 crore. But that’s still less compared to the estimated Rs2 lakh crore they spent on local websites, according to data for 2016.

The report revealed that Indian shoppers were more likely to visit websites that offered free shipping and transactions in the local currency. But they also responded to better products and deals, and were often hunting for brands that are still unavailable in India.

“These are shoppers who are trying to fulfill a product gap. While surely free shipping is a big incentive, the lure of brands unavailable in India is a big driver,” said Ankur Bisen, senior vice-president of retail and consumer consulting firm Technopak. As a result, Bisen believes these shoppers aren’t hurting businesses at home, since they’re looking for what isn’t available here anyway.

On average, shoppers spent Rs42,416 annually on orders from other countries. American websites remained the most popular destination for online shopping, followed by those of the UK and China.


But despite growing sales, Indian shoppers are wary when it comes to the expensive customs duties, long delivery periods, the high cost of returns, and transactions in foreign currencies. More than 50% of Indian online shoppers said they had abandoned online purchases on an international website half way through the process.

Websites such as UK-based ASOS do offer free international shipping, but only for orders above GBP20. Amazon also offers global shipping as part of its AmazonGlobal program but shoppers are expected to pay an import fee on checkout that includes customs duties and local taxes as mandated by the Indian government.