Can e-commerce help solve India’s jobs crisis in a post-COVID era?

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JustJobs Network, in partnership with the Center for Policy Research, hosted a webinar to discuss e-commerce and jobs in the post-COVID era. The discussion was part of a series of events organized as part of the Women, Work and Labor Economy project supported by the International Development Research Center (IDRC, Canada).

Ms. Sabina Dewan, President and Executive Director of the JustJobs Network and Visiting Senior Researcher at the Center for Policy Research, noted that “closures and social distancing standards following the COVID-19 pandemic are tilting consumer preferences towards electronic commerce. . The ensuing expansion of e-commerce presents new opportunities for some businesses, but imposes costs on others. Taking advantage of the e-commerce opportunity involves the acquisition of technology, digital skills, information to access online markets, adequate infrastructure and requires an enabling regulatory environment. These requirements can be onerous for small businesses.

Dewan continued, “Women-owned businesses tend to stay small with a majority – 83 percent – operating without hired workers (Sixth Economic Census 2013-14) and 98 percent being micro businesses. There is evidence that e-commerce enables women entrepreneurs to leverage e-commerce to boost their home-based businesses, but for more women to take advantage of this opportunity, they will also need support. As the government has been keen to expand digitization, develop MSMEs and encourage start-ups in India, there is a need to explore more gender-specific provisions in programs supporting women-owned small and medium enterprises. that will promote women’s participation, help them access digital platforms and enable them to take advantage of the opportunities offered by e-commerce.

Elaborating on the opportunity for women, Dr. Aruna Sharma IAS, former government secretary. of India, noted: “The metamorphosis between online and offline retail formats offers an opportunity to increase the participation of women in the labor market. Self-help groups led by women are now using e-commerce platforms to take their products beyond their neighborhood markets. E-commerce platforms have an important role to play in providing these women-owned businesses with technical know-how, digital skills, and marketing and logistical support so that they have the opportunity to further experience their products, ” get real-time feedback and expand market access.

Speaking about the wider impact of e-commerce on small businesses and jobs, Ms. Nirupama Soundararajan, Director of Research and CEO of Pahle India Foundation, stressed, “We cannot ignore the fact that e-commerce will lead to job losses. , but the extent and the net impact remain to be seen. We need to understand that Western e-commerce models do not necessarily replicate in the Indian context. We cannot therefore rely on these models to tell us what the impact will be on the Indian economy. “The Indian consumer will be shopping in different retail formats, be it neighborhood Kirana stores or online platforms, and this trend offers the opportunity to launch collaborative models in which both online and offline can work together to create jobs. “

This requires a regulatory framework not only conducive to the growth of small businesses, but also to the expansion of e-commerce in particular. Dr Avik Sarkar, Visiting Associate Professor of Data, Technology and Public Policy at the Indian School of Business, acknowledged, “The regulatory landscape needs to be simplified because its complexity makes it difficult to do business. [in India] discourage investment.

Dr Sarkar also pointed out that as technology and e-commerce advance and their impact unfolds, “we need high quality academic research on this topic to inform policy alternatives.”

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Posted on: Thursday September 16, 2021 7:05 PM IST

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