SELL, BUY, SELL
By: GAURAV PURI Dated: January 28, 2015
Will the idea of ‘reselling’ become a cultural meme? Will a certain ennui with stuff we have lead to obsessive instant gratification?
Online classifieds are no longer limited to jobs, matrimonial ads, rentals, pets, or advertising ‘old/unused stuff’. They have become popular platforms for re-selling or buying.
So you have Quikr, a popular online free classifieds site, announcing in its tagline: ‘No Fikar! Bech Quickr!’ (Don’t worry! Sell quickly).
Another online player, Olx, through its latest app that “converts a cell phone into a ‘sell’ phone”. In one of its ads, Olx introduces a middle-class housewife armed with a smartphone dancing to ‘womaniya’, a hit song from the critically acclaimed Bollywood film, Gangs Of Waseypur (2012), and clicking away pictures of old household stuff, uploading them on the Olx app, and people quickly coming over and buying them out. And what does she get? Some real quick cash!
Everything comes with a shelf life or sell-by-date. The second-hand market has always been around, but online classifieds was the preserve of the tech-savvy, namely ‘Smartphone’ users. This is the section of society that has accumulated old makes of cars, television sets, fridges, ‘antique’ furniture, and so on.
If the middle-class ‘womaniya’ is making way for the new, the affluent Dr. Saxena is clearing the “clutter”. “Dr. Anjana Saxena, an Olx user,” says that “these days people just keep buying stuff. So eventually, things start piling up... and there are so many things, you really don’t need them, and they are occupying space. It’s easier if you sell them off.”
In this testimonial ad, Dr. Saxena — a woman probably in her 50s, probably owning her own house — isn’t particularly concerned about money, and is quite happy clearing out what Olx has helped her do.
For the young, it is a quick way to make money: 22-year-old “Ananya, a happy Olx user,” (in another testimonial ad) recently sold “extra” things in the “flat” to cover the first-semester college fee, as she didn’t want her father to pay. Interestingly, she sold two paintings of hers for “Rs.10,000” — she needed nearly Rs.45,000 though. Olx titles this particular testimonial ad as “See how Olx made Ananya smart and independent”. Though selling stuff bought with one’s parents’ money might hardly make a case for ‘independent’ living, what is clear is that almost anything can be either sold or had for a price.
So we have a new, technology mediated culture of ‘selling’ either ‘used’ or ‘old’ stuff. Where the likes of Ananya constitute the young and impatient diaspora of the metros, they are also customers of things such as “a computer table, some furniture”, some ‘extra’ items in Dr. Saxena’s household.
This is perhaps the first time people are beginning to sell home stuff or accessories or mobile phones so easily via technology. This also marks the beginning of a ‘new’ global lifestyle, mediated by the likes of e-bay.
So when would stuff again get old or outdated enough to be sold? Olx wants you to know that as soon as the ‘latest’ version is launched. This is the new message — the second stage of ‘social uplift’ — that the brand has wrapped around the new Mumbai Metro Line: Purane Se Aage Badho. Olx pe becho. Aur Upgrade Karo (Go ahead of old. Sell it on Olx. And upgrade.)
So ‘things’, as we knew them or possessed them, no longer have an emotional value attached to them — they have now been replaced by a tag value. Not a bad thing in itself if we were to go by reselling as a value proposition.
But does it lead to a new form of consumerism spurred by obsolescence, leading to obsessive forms of instant gratification?