One of India's largest e-commerce portals, Flipkart, has announced its tie-up with electronics retailer Spice Hotspot to showcase its exclusive range of smartphones to prospective buyers who are not yet comfortable with the idea of buying without trying. As part of this new initiative which is being called 'assisted e-commerce' by Flipkart, customers can experience Flipkart-exclusive devices at designated 'experience zones' within select Spice Hotspot outlets. The staff at those designated stores will not only be on-hand to demo the gadgets to prospective customers, but will also assist them with their queries and help them in placing their orders through the Flipkart mobile app, which is available on Android, iOS and Windows Mobile. Once an order is placed, customers can take delivery of their product either directly at their home, or at a Spice Store of their choosing, if they so desire.
Announcing the new joint-venture with Spice Hotspot, Flipkart's retail director, Mr. Sandeep Karwa, said that this initiative is aimed at small town India for the most part, where digital literacy, especially amongst the older generation, leaves a lot to be desired. According to him, "This is targeted mainly at places where online shopping is still catching up. Customers in Tier-3 and Tier-4 towns have heard about online shopping but are still circumspect. This initiative will empower and ease customers from smaller cities to shop online". Currently, Flipkart experience centers are already operational in 19 different cities, within 30 different Spice Hotspot outlets.
Over the past couple of years, online retailers in India have been tying-up with smartphone companies for exclusive rights to sell certain devices. The trend started with the first-generation Moto G, which was available exclusively on Flipkart, and can be called the pioneer of the trend in the country. While Motorola devices continue to be Flipkart-exclusive, other smartphone makers like Motorola's parent Lenovo, along with OnePlus, Asus, YU from Micromax, Black from Xolo, along with a whole host of brands, have been offering their smartphones exclusively on one e-commerce portal or another. For example, the Nexus 6P will be available exclusively on Flipkart along with the Google Play Store, in the country. Currently, while the OnePlus 2 is exclusive to Amazon India, Asus' ZenFone range of devices are exclusive to Flipkart. However, the pull of traditional retail in a country with notoriously low internet penetration is now seemingly too much for Flipkart to ignore, as it embarks on its offline journey in partnership with an established retailer.