Refurbished Consumer Electronics e-Commerce? No, Recommerce!


The refurbished electronics products market is seeing a subtle shift from unorganized markets to a formal sector, complete with e-portals and road shows. Is government supporting the stimulus?

View of the first-ever Recommerce exhibition held in Bangalore in February 2019

To the lexicon of words growing out of predominantly Indian business practices, add the latest: Recommerce: short for Reverse Commerce; a business where old, both used and unused as well as repairable items, especially electronic devices of the e-commerce industry are refurbished and channelized to other companies or to customers.

Every major city in India has its corner for such commerce, unadvertised, but known to lakhs of lay middle class, upwardly mobile, consumers who aspire to own a bigger TV, a better audio system, a larger fridge, but who lack the resources to buy a brand new product. Often, for half the retail price, they can walk away with the same model, albeit used, refurbished, and often with a renewed short term warranty of usually six months.

First “Recommerce” expo

The entire ecosystem of reusing electronic goods and appliances seems to be receiving a subtle shove from government, ostensibly as part of its drive to control e-waste. Earlier this year, Bangalore was host to the first ever global Recommerce Exhibition and Conference on Refurbished Electronic Products and E-Waste Management, where thousands of lay consumers as well as small time re-sellers converged on the Manpho Convention Centre, even as government and trade leaders discussed the challenge, opportunity and way ahead for this burgeoning sector.

Government support

Different government and quasi-government departments like Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Digital India, Skill Development Corporation of India and the Karnataka Small Scale Industries Association, supported the event that was organized by Urdhva Management Pvt Ltd.

The event will be followed by similar expos in Chennai ( June), Delhi ( August), Hyderabad ( October), Mumbai (November) before it returns to Bangalore in January 2020.

Online refurbishing options

While events like Recommerce, take the large expo approach to bring buyer, refurbisher and re-seller to a common platform, there are other entrepreneurs who see an opportunity in the reusable electronics market. These include online players like Reboot, GreenDust, Refabd, Surpluss etc.

Their modus operandi is very similar: Interested sellers log on to their website and upload information on the product offered for sale. Then comes a physical inspection of the product by a technician, negotiation of the price and final purchase. Sellers are often leaving the city, wanting to upgrade their product.

Another source for these resellers comes from e-commerce platforms who dispose of ‘unboxed’ items which have suffered small damages during shipping and have been returned by the clients who have ordered. Since these items cannot be resold by the manufacturer, these are bought by refurbisher companies, damage if any is rectified and sold to customers at a marked down price.

Whatever the channel, refurbished goods predominantly electronics are seeing consolidation and some measure of organization. Globally the market, according to Recommerce is estimated to be worth $ 12- 15 billion by next year. Indian households annually exchange used goods worth over Rs 100 crore every year, according to an ASSOCHAM study quoted by Indian Retailer. With such a value proposition, innovation will inevitably follow.

This story is written by Anand Parthasarathy. His rich experience, reporting ACE (Appliances and Consumer Electronics) stories encompasses working 15 years with The Hindu as its IT Consulting Editor. He is a qualified instrumentation systems engineer who has worked for 20 years as a scientist on numerous defence R&D projects, and as a project manager for surface-to-air missiles at DRDO.