Chinese appetite for Indian brands hits new high in annual shopping festival
BEIJING: Indian masalas are spicing up the Chinese palate like never before with large numbers of them buying Indian food products during the annual shopping event, the Singles Day, on Saturday.
The shopping carnival saw online markets doing business exceeding $30 billion as millions of consumers bought a wide range of goods, most of which are manufactured in China. Some foreign-made goods including those produced in India, Europe and the US were hawked and purchased.
Indian grocery items, ready-made food and Ayurvedic cosmetic brands like Amul, MDH Masala, Gits, Tata Tea, Haldiram, Dabur, Patanjali and Himalaya, were snapped up on Alibaba's Taobao.com, jd.com and several other Internet marketplaces.
The online market attracts a large chunk of the Chinese population with attractive discounts on the occasion, that is also known as 11/11 Singles day+ because it involves the repeated use of 1 or single four times. However, buyers include both married and singles. The 24-hour buying frenzy has emerged as the world's biggest shopping day eclipsing Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States.
Alibaba reported that its one-day sales reached $25.35 billion on Saturday, a rise of 39 percent from last year. The company said it had sold goods including apparel, mobile phones, imported lobster and infant formula from 140,000 brands during the day.
JD, which started the discount sales on November 1, said it had sold nearly $20 billion in goods over an 11-day period. It sold 55 million facial masks and 500,000 Thailand black tiger shrimps, JD said. There are several other online shopping firms which have not released all their figures yet.
"There is a lot of attraction for Indian foods and many other products all over China. They are sold by hundreds of Chinese traders through online stores and physical shops. Almost every city in China has a shop selling Indian goods, and some like Shanghai, Guangzhou, Yiwu and Beijing have two or three each," a Guangzhou-based Indian businessman told TNN.
The most sought-after Indian goods are spices followed by cosmetics. Textiles and home decoration pieces are also on sale. Buyers include the vast community of expatriates including Indians, Pakistanis, Japanese, Arabs, Africans and even Europeans who are fond of curried food. More than a million expatriates live in different Chinese cities.
There are more than 100 physical stores selling Indian products in different Chinese cities. These shops, most of whom are run by local traders, also sell online.
Indian products usually sell at a premium ranging from 100 percent to 300 percent over the printed prices but this does not deter buyers who want quality products from India.
"The quality of Indian spices like cardamom and cumin seeds is far superior in India as compared to those sold in local Chinese markets. People start realizing it once they use them. Turmeric has become very popular in China," the businessman said.
Chinese have emerged as the world's biggest international travellers, which has resulted in an enlarged worldview and a desire to taste the foods of different countries. Thousands of restaurants in Chinese cities now feature "chicken curry" on the menu. They use ready-made spice mixtures comprising turmeric and other Indian masalas. Many Chinese housewives also cook curry at home.
A wide range of packaged Indian sweets is also on sale at the online markets. They are mostly purchased by foreigners including Arabs, Europeans, and Americans with a sweet tooth because the average Chinese does not have an affinity for intensely sweet eatables.
The Singles Day has also given a boost to China's clout as an international hub for mobile payments and intelligent logistics, the local media quoted Matthew Crabbe, Asia Pacific research director at consultancy Mintel as saying. The Alipay mobile wallet saw deals at a peak rate of 256,000 transactions per second in China and many foreign countries, according to Alibaba. Robots and algorithms accelerated parcel distribution, it said.