Why Online Retailers Need to Prepare for the Holiday Season
Why Online Retailers Need to Prepare for the Holiday Season

The world is no longer going digital. It is already there. Ask yourselves. What is the first thing you would do when you want to know more about a business? You Google it. Today, if a business isn’t present online, it is as good as non-existent.
Covid-19 might have disrupted business operations for a while, but a deep penetration of access to high-speed internet and expanding supply chain networks in Tier II and III cities are acting as catalysts for the country’s e-commerce boom. 

According to a report by eMarketer, a market research firm, India, the country is likely to have an estimated 27 percent year-on-year sales growth in 2021. That's $66.76 billion! 

India is expected to top the chart of the world’s fastest-growing retail e-commerce markets this year. With the online retail or ‘e-tail’ competition becoming increasingly steep and Diwali just around the corner, it is time to understand why online retailers need to start prepping for the holiday season. A fancy website and lucrative offers are not the only concerns while preparing for the online holiday shopping season. It is equally important to prep on the tax front. Here are five reasons why.
Not Everyone Practices the Same Tax Operations as Your Business - As e-retailers are opening up their online stores to international customers, one of the most important tax concerns this holiday season will be cross-border tax compliance management. The thing about overseas business is that it is not easy. You will be ending up jumping through hoops maneuvering through the various complexities of each country’s taxation system. It will be essential to know the differing tax rates applicable for different products across various jurisdictions etc, and that's only scratching the surface. Some of the fundamental tax operations that are likely to come your way are –
-    Issuing correct tax invoices with the right product codes and relevant tax rates.
-    Generating the waybills and all other shipping and handling-related documentation to ensure smooth movement of goods from one place to another.
-    Adapting to e-invoicing and other digitized systems that are mandated by various countries.
-    Fulfilling all compliance requirements while carrying out cross border transactions
Discounting Comes with its Fair Share of Compliance Complications - Only a few weeks ago, e-commerce giants like Amazon and Flipkart were ordered by the Supreme Court of India to allow the inquiry on deep discounting practices by the Indian regulatory body, Competition Commission of India (CCI). While this legal battle unfolds, small and medium-sized e-commerce businesses will need to prepare to face all kinds of pricing wars. Sure, low prices and high discounts are likely to lead to increased sales, but they will also lead to more complicated tax compliance requirements, documentation, and audits. If your business doesn't have a strategy or the bandwidth to handle the compliance requirements, it is crucial that you start prepping for holiday sales well in advance.
Multiple Points of Sales Mean Multiple Opportunities for Errors - As an e-commerce business, it is not enough to only operate through your own website - you need an omnichannel presence. This means you need to be present wherever your competition is. Multiple points of sales can increase the chances of errors if your team is continuing to work manually and combing through mountains of paperwork. Adapting and implementing machine learning-based AI software can help you automate the invoice reconciliation process - you won't just save time, you will also save on resources. 

Tax Operations are Now Happening in Real-Time - India runs on a novice Goods and Services taxation system. While our country might still be in the process of properly implementing and settling into real-time tax functions, other countries are well ahead of the game. That means your business needs to be able to handle tax operations in real-time. This includes generating e-invoices, authenticating e-invoices, and ensuring the same tax information is replicated on waybills that will accompany goods to other cities, towns, states, or even countries.
Tax Operations are Not Just About Filing Returns - Yes, the tax returns form a very large part of the tax function but unless your business isn't optimizing its work, there are chances that it won't be able to learn from its current performance and prepare for the next sale. Digitizing tax functions and making use of analytical and AI software will help your business understand where, when, and how it can make better profits, manage compliance better, and more increase tax efficiency - not just on home ground but also overseas.
The e-commerce business is a tough nut to crack but it definitely is not an impossible feat. Being tax-ready in time for the holiday season will allow your business to focus on what actually matters - sales, profits, expansion, and overall growth. 

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Most of Our Products are Built in India: Puneet Chandok of Microsoft India
Most of Our Products are Built in India: Puneet Chandok of Microsoft India

In a spirited discussion on AI and the retail industry, Puneet Chandok, President of Microsoft India and South Asia delved deeply into India's role in transforming the world through Artificial Intelligence and technology enablement. He discussed Microsoft's commitment to India, not only in training Indian talent but also in leveraging it.

On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had praised the Tech Entrepreneurs Association of Mumbai (TEAM) for hosting Mumbai Tech Week and their ongoing involvement in building tech startups in the country. During a panel discussion with Haptik CEO Aakrit Vaish at Mumbai Tech Week, Puneet Chandok, President of Microsoft India and South Asia, emphasized the transformative impact AI could have on various aspects of daily life.

Chandok stated, “When we look at India through the lens of demand, supply, and impact, there is no other market like India today. There are 7,000 listed companies in India and one hundred thousand startups. Many startups are in Maharashtra, and one hundred new startups are emerging in India every day. India is the largest SMB market globally, making it one of the most exciting markets today.”

He further added, “When we look at the supply lens and examine Microsoft's data, one out of four projects on AI in GitHub today is run out of India. Every sixth AI researcher in the world is from India. In the next ten years, 25 percent of the global workforce will come from India, meaning every fourth worker in the world will be from India.”

Discussing the growing influence and power of Artificial Intelligence, Chandok mentioned, “Last night, my 12-year-old daughter was creating text-to-video, and she told me that AI will change her life. She is an artist; she draws and paints. This also indicates how the younger generation perceives AI.”

Expanding on this, Chandok continued, “People will stop searching and instead have conversations. I have stopped searching myself; in fact, I was conversing with my Copilot to understand what is happening at the event and what I should speak about. We have shifted from searching to genuine conversations. This is not just chat drama anymore. These are sophisticated engines providing reasoning within.”

Regarding his personal perspective, Chandok remarked, “People say AI is overhyped, but I think it's not hyped enough. The next generation, which will use this in the next few years, will have much higher expectations of what technology can do for them. So, how you build it for that generation, how you build it for that future, will be really interesting to see."

Chandok also emphasized that those who do not embrace AI, risk falling behind in the rapidly evolving technological landscape. He encouraged Indian developers to seize the "lifetime opportunity" to become unstoppable by learning to use and deploy AI effectively.

He concluded, “If you are not learning AI, you are falling behind. I myself spend 30 minutes a day to learn more about AI. Technology is changing every day, and it has been 15 months since ChatGPT was launched. The speed of technology diffusion is unlike anything I have seen in my life, and it is advancing very rapidly. My call to action for everyone is to find a way to learn, otherwise, we will all fall behind.”


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