Into the valley of fraud!
We seem to be living in a time of collapsing commercial empires. From the spectacular fall of casino kings to the implosion of the e-commerce world, these are tales of glitz, glamour and wealth turning into dust within a short time. Talk about reaching the apex too fast only to come crashing down.
The recent detention of a couple who were running a much hyped e-commerce platform is a damning indictment of a society, driven by greed plus an overpowering urge to hit it big in the shortest time. The young couple under spotlight is possibly in their early forties but about a year ago, they were hailed as one of the many marvels of the rising class of entrepreneurs.
Well, as things now stand with the rather unpalatable details out in the open, the glamour part is gone totally, only the nauseous smell of avarice remains. But maybe in pointing fingers, society is forgetting that it always takes two to tango.
Into the valley of greed: E-commerce platforms thrive because they offer amazing deals which usually defy logic. It's a very old ploy but never seems to run out of its allure. The strategy to offer something at half the going rate can be traced back decades and despite our common sense, we often become victims of temptation.
The e-commerce platforms only capitalised on this with methodical precision. The approach is very strategic, laced with eye catching adverts topped with much researched marketing chicanery. In the case of the latest case against an e-commerce entity, the marketing was top notch. It capitalised on 'youthful bling' with perfection, slowly but inexorably sliding into the minds of consumers.
The marketing aspect is significant because with so many products out there, only the ones which stand out manage to attract attention. The TV adverts of this particular platform had everything: the exuberance of youth, the magnetic pull of a life dominated by instant gratification topped heavily with the 'go getter' attitude.
And boy, how it worked! The word gimmick has a pejorative sound to it, though, we must admit, all of us have fallen for it one time or the other.
Glorifying the 'young' innovative mind too soon: Entrepreneurship is a welcome; if a young person wants to give up the traditional life of an employee and take up something challenging, then s/he deserves kudos. However, if the main aim is to make a buck or, to put in bluntly in Bangla: dhor maar kha (grab, dupe and earn) then the ideals associated with entrepreneurship become scarred.
The elephant in the room is the nature of the young to strike it big, irrespective of the method adopted. Society needs to take part of the blame for the propagation of such an unscrupulous doctrine since we seem to have forgotten to ask about the origin of wealth. If someone becomes wealthy within years, it's the riches that become the topic of discussion. Whether the path adopted to attain wealth had been legitimate or not is hardly the issue.
Naturally, when such a social approach becomes the norm, the young are the first to be indoctrinated. Several of the beleaguered e-commerce platforms, currently under scrutiny, created an aura of trust combined with the dedication to provide the best service though at heart, the driving mantra was less virtuous. It's always easy to blame a few people though that hardly changes a vicious predatory social creed, thriving on greed.
Will this lesson work?
After the arrest of the CEO of an e-commerce platform, thousands of clients came forward demanding their money. Practically speaking, how they will get a refund is still not clear. But let this episode work as a warning. This incident should motivate the relevant authorities to bring all such operations under strict monitoring. If the advance payment for a product is held in escrow until the item is delivered then such operations will become transparent.
Unfortunately, all humans yield to temptation, which drives a plethora of fraudulent operations. We must ask why we fall for an item which is being irrationally offered at impossibly low rates? Unless we pay for such items, these shady platforms will never manage to make millions. Sadly, this simple logic eludes most of us.
The lessons from the recent e-commerce scam are 1. The glitzier the advert, more the reason to be wary. 2. Instead of jumping to join the others, a little background check is needed. 3. When an item is offered at abnormally low rates, take a pause and think, how will this sustain in the long run? The other point to keep in mind is that scams will evolve, swindlers will become more suave while advertising campaigns will change tactics. That's how fraud survives.
To conclude, here's a word of advice: don't be enticed into the valley of temptation; in the end, it may turn into the valley of doom.
Pradosh Mitra is a former development worker and a keen social observer