The journey of an entrepreneur isn’t always easy. There are some who have to carry forward the legacy of their forefathers or those who start from a scratch and make it big. Call it destiny or luck, but even for that to happen, there is a price to be paid. You literally have to sweat it out to get there.
Meet Sachin and Binny Bansal, the duo behind India’s first e-commerce giant, Flipkart. No, they are not brothers as their surnames suggest. But what they shared was a dream which manifested into a revolution in the world of online shopping. In less than a decade, they created an indigenous online marketplace with a valuation of US$11 billion (as of November 2016), competing with giants like eBay and Amazon. Theirs is a story filled with inspiration, trials and tribulations; a story of two batch-mates, who later became friends and then colleagues. Together, they took the road less traveled and have left behind footprints for future generations to follow.
Flipkart started out as a Website that sold books. Over the years, it expanded to include over 70 product categories from electronics to stationery, home appliances to grooming needs. Starting with 5 employees, it now has 13,000 + employees, handles 5 million shipments/month approximately, has had 4 acquisitions and has introduced 5 payment options. What is it that that has made Flipkart win the heart of millions?
CEO Sachin Bansal explains that their aim was to achieve success in various categories while maintaining a USP of providing superior customer experience through variety, discounts and hassle-free shopping. When they started out they realized that the e-commerce market was immature and customers were not happy. That motivated them to bring change in the way customers shop. In the earlier days they used to literally deliver books and distribute their company pamphlets outside bookstores. Gradually things did take a turn in their favor.
Sachin admits that they did face teething problems like most start-ups do. Building confidence among customers, maintaining a huge inventory were humongous challenges at the start. But they did manage and gradually traffic to the site started picking up. The total number of registered users (as of end-2016) is 100 million—not a small figure!
Even today when they are an established name, things are not always easy. To maintain quality while scaling business is no mean task.
Flipkart is the first company to introduce “cash-on-delivery” that most e-commerce companies now follow. They now have tie ups with every major book vendor and have their own payment gateway, the PayZippy. They have overcome several challenges to reach where they are. Because youngsters spend a lot of time on the Internet, they are confident of what the future holds for them. For their efforts, they won the best entrepreneur award in 2012-2013. To know more about the inside story of their journey over the years, look up here.
The Rough Patch:
However, things are not as smooth sailing as it appears. 2016 saw Flipkart deal with a series of valuation markdowns by mutual funds, change in the top brass, high profile executive exits, downsizing, in the middle of a fierce battle with Amazon and Snapdeal for market leadership.
2017 has brought in further surprises from the company—first with Kalyan Krishnamurthy replacing Binny Bansal as the CEO and then with three top level executives (Saikiran Krishnamurthy, Head Ekart, Surojit Chatterjee, Senior VP Heading Product and Samardeep Subandh, Chief Marketing Officer) calling it quits a day after the new CEO took over.
Giants like Amazon India and Snapdeal are constantly trying their best to unseat Flipkart by coming up with similar or better products, services and use of technology for automation. Flipkart meanwhile is in no mood to give up. It has set up its eyes on the next big vertical after electronics and apparel—furniture. Though there are initial hiccups, but a lot is in the pipeline. Moving into the furniture foray will bring it in direct competition with Urban Ladder and Pepper Fry. The story that will unfold then will be worth the wait.
The e-commerce space is ruthless and unless the players churn out fresh ideas on a daily basis, rivals quickly take over. If market shares slip, funding dries up gradually. So it is highly important to stay alert to survive and be in the race.
Keeping up with this idea, the latest from the Flipkart stable is the ‘Phonepe’ app for Android and iOS. This is aimed at helping you shop/pay even without worrying about standing in long queues outside banks and ATMs bracing demonetization. It is user friendly, safe, secure and based on Unified Payment Interface (UPI) platform that allows you to transfer money without a wallet balance, directly from the bank. For most details on this cool App, look up here.
As Flipkart inches towards its efforts to become India’s first $100 billion dollar company, despite executive exits and staff reductions, it has made great strides in performance. It stands tall as a role model for new start-ups who wish to scale high from humble beginnings. Sachin and Binny keep stressing on the need to keep customers happy and attention to repeat purchase. With its transparent culture and an environment of trust theirs is truly a company that’ll continue to be in the game for good.