India, Selling Online FAQ

What are the most popular search engines in your country? How does a U.S. manufacturer submit sites to those search engines?

Google, Yahoo, and MSN are the most popular search engines in India. Each of these search engines has a domain hosted in India. U.S. manufacturers can contact these search engines directly for submission.

Is it necessary to have the site in the local language for the website to be indexed?

It is not necessary, but is recommended. For instance, Google has set up sites in local Indian languages, such as Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Telugu and Marathi.

Is it necessary for the site to have the domain of the country? If so, is it possible for a U.S.-based site to obtain the local domain?

It is not necessary, but is recommended. Local domain registration can be done online, on a first come first served basis through accredited registrars. For details visit: www.inregistry.in. It is not necessary to have a local presence to obtain a “.in” domain.

Are there any popular online marketplaces or auctions, like amazon.com or ebay.com in the U.S.?

eBay’s Indian site www.ebay.in is a popular online marketplace. Other popular consumer portals include sify.com, rediff.com, and indiatimes.com. India also has numerous B-to-B marketplaces such as http://www.indiabizclub.com/, www.indiamarkets.com, www.indiamart.com along with many others.

Can the exporter advertise its Internet site/product/service in pop up ads on the local ISP's networks? Are there any regulations on spam or privacy? Other e-commerce laws?

Yes, exporters can advertise their Internet sites/products/services in pop up ads on the local ISP's. As of November 2009, there is no regulation on spam or privacy. The only law is the Information Technology Act of 2000, which was amended in 2008. The act and its amendments are available on the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology website.

Are there restrictions on advertising (Are comparative ads allowed? Are there restrictions on ads targeting children? Is it permissible to use lotteries, competitions, contests, games or bets as part of a promotional offer?)

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) is the industry's self-regulatory body. ASCI has a Code for Self-Regulation in Advertising and Self-Regulation Guidelines on Advertising of Food and Beverages directed at Children under 13 years of age. The Food Safety and Standards Act will come into force in 2010 and will restrict misleading and deceptive advertising claims regarding food and beverages. Certain Indian states have disallowed online lotteries. Comparative advertising is allowed with certain limitations pertaining to unfair trade practices. Betting and lotteries are generally not allowed or allowed only in partnership with a state government. Liquor ads are not allowed in India [through there is a lot of surrogate advertising].

To what extent can a buyer in this market pay for an order over the Internet by use of a credit card or other Internet-based financing vehicle, such as Pay Pal?

Credit cards are acceptable, subject to merchants’ affiliations, domestic as well as international. Although PayPal does not have an India-specific site, PayPal can be used in India and does link to local banks in India. There are restrictions on receiving foreign currency by the recipient in India. FEMA clearance is required for the recipient. For more details on payments please see RBI guidelines for mobile banking and pre-paid instruments.

Are Internet transactions recognized as legal sales contracts? Is there a digital signatures law that recognizes digital signatures?

Yes, Internet transactions are legal sales contracts. The Information Technology Act of 2000 has sections on digital signatures. For details please see the section on Controller of Certifying Authorities under the IT Act of 2000.

Would there be any undue Customs or related delays incurred on Internet-transacted sales?

It is possible to incur delays on Internet-transacted sales, especially for international sales. Movement of goods and services are determined by the normal offline laws of the land.

Is there a national webseal or trustmark program in this market that increases consumer confidence? E.g., BBBOnline in the U.S.

As of November 2009, there is no national webseal. However, VeriSign trusted web certificate is the de facto standard. All commercial transactions on Indian credit cards for buying and selling online have a second factor authentication making frauds on Indian cards more difficult.

If disputes arise between seller and buyer, is there a timely and low cost dispute resolution mechanism available?

The Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 provides for resolution of a commercial dispute. This Act covers international commercial arbitration, where arbitration takes place in India and enforcement of international commercial arbitration outside of India as covered by the Geneva Convention. B2C transactions are dealt with speedily through consumer courts. For large B2B transactions, an arbitrator is agreed to beforehand as a part of the contract. It can be an industry association or a pre-determined lawyer. For arbitration, both parties must agree to an arbitration process outside the courts.

Can U.S. manufacturers participate in local government procurements via Internet based tenders? If so, how are these tenders publically advertised?

Foreign firms have rarely won Indian government contracts since preference has been given to Indian state-owned enterprises. The Purchase Preference Policy (PPP) gave government enterprises and departments preference if their offer was within ten percent of the lowest bid. The PPP lapsed on March 31, 2008 and has not been renewed. India is not a member of the WTO Government Procurement Agreement, but, in November 2009, India’s Commerce Ministry proposed a process to join the agreement. At the same time, there is a large range of products and services that are not “manufactured” or offered in India. In such cases, foreign firms with manufacturing facilities in India or foreign firms having operations in India are treated at par with Indian firms. Example: procurement of computer hardware; procurement of telecom equipment by state owned telecom operators. Information about government tenders is available online at http://tenders.gov.in/.

Is there any additional advice you would give to U.S. exporters targeting this market through the Internet?

It is prudent for such exporters to connect with an Indian merchant and route the transaction so that they are within the national jurisdiction of India.

For additional information contact a U.S. Commercial Service Officer in India by visiting www.buyusa.gov/india.

U.S. companies also can visit the following websites for additional information: