The Telegraph
Sunday , June 29 , 2014
 

Online buy buy

In just seven years, Flipkart has become India’s answer to Amazon. co-founder Sachin Bansal tells t2 how
Sachin Bansal (left) and Binny Bansal

Looking for a product or a gift? Just Flipkart it. India’s biggest e-commerce company just got bigger with the acquisition of Myntra, India’s leading online fashion-and-lifestyle destination. But always keeping the founders 末 Sachin Bansal (CEO, 32) and Binny Bansal (COO, 31) 末 on their virtual toes is the onslaught of other e-retailers. Be it new shopping verticals, encouraging shopping on smartphones or looking at new ways to deliver goods, Flipkart has truly evolved from “shopping ka naya address” to “shop anytime, anywhere”. Sachin tells us how.

Flipkart already sells clothes. Myntra primarily sells clothes. How will the acquisition help?

The future of online retail lies in fashion. Research shows that the fashion industry is among the fastest-growing sectors in India. And tying up with Myntra, a leader in this space, made sense. Myntra is a strong fashion brand in e-commerce and has a team that boasts of excellent domain knowledge. They also have the best relationships in the fashion industry, having partnered with more than 650 leading fashion and lifestyle brands in the country.

Flipkart, on the other hand, is the biggest brand in e-commerce in India. We have built an efficient supply chain with a strong technology backbone. This partnership will certainly strengthen both our positions as we explore mutual synergies that will take us to the very top of this industry.

At present, Flipkart and Myntra already control 50 per cent of the online fashion space. We expect this to go to 70 per cent by year-end.

How did you and Binny meet and how was Flipkart born?

Binny and I are from the same city 末 and we both went to IIT before moving to Bangalore. It was in early 2007 that we started thinking about setting up something of our own. Being in Bangalore, doing something in the Internet space seemed natural. All we thought of was working on a product or offering specifically for the Indian customer. Online ticketing sites were seeing some traction 末 and we considered working on an aggregator for online shopping sites.

It was then we realised that there were hardly any players in this space who were offering customers a good experience. We were pretty confident that there was a market waiting to be tapped. All that was needed was a company that could create a good and trustworthy online shopping experience.

That’s how we set up Flipkart. We started with books, for they were the easiest entry-point category. But we always knew we would eventually scale up to become a player present across categories.

Having one’s best friend as co-founder works because...

In a founder-led company, it’s important to have a co-founder. A partner who acts as a sounding board for your ideas, and who can share your responsibilities, makes entrepreneurship a bit easier.

When it comes to Binny and me, what works for us is that we complement each other perfectly. I’m the one who likes to think about the next big idea. Binny is analytical 末 and he works on getting us there. While Binny is more rational in his approach, I tend to be a bit more intuitive.

But it’s our shared vision for Flipkart that helps us drive the business so successfully.

What is the role of the two founders now compared to when Flipkart took off?

Over time our roles have changed. In the early days, there were no job definitions. There was no CEO or COO. It was just about getting work done. We did everything, from picking up books, packing orders, taking customer support calls and writing code for the site.

As business grew, we evolved along different lines and developed individual expertise. Today Binny looks deeper into the business end of things while I am more involved in the corporate functions and strategy. But we continue to discuss everything with each other. That’s how we work best.

Do you see yourself becoming more of an m-commerce (mobile commerce) company?

M-commerce will be the focus area for most online shopping companies this year. Increased smartphone penetration means a greater section of our target audience is accessing our sites through their Internet-enabled mobile phones and we aim to create apps and tailor-made sites to capture this base.

Flipkart expects over 50 per cent of its orders to come from mobile devices in a year’s time, up from the current 30 per cent of total orders. In as little as two years from now, we think mobile is going to be the main channel for shopping. Many of our mobile-channel customers are from smaller towns and we expect a bulk of business to come from non-metros in the coming years.

How would you make shopping even easier in the future?

We are looking at extensive category expansion, investments in technology that will help us scale up business, in creating a world-class supply chain and payment ecosystem along with a superlative talent pool.

For us, our move to delight customers begins with a clean, fast and engaging user-interface and ends with smooth last-mile deliveries. We think, going forward, the differentiator will also lie in the last-mile experience we offer. In fact, some of our recent supply-chain innovations showcase our focus on improving the order-to-delivery experience:

• In-a-day Guarantee (available across 38 cities)
• Same Day Guarantee
• Sunday Deliveries
• Try and Buy

The recently-launched Flipkart First (a first-of-its-kind subscription service in India that targets frequent shoppers)

Scheduled Delivery for large appliances (customers get to choose time and slot for delivery of orders).

You and Binny are two former Amazon guys. Looking ahead, would you keep Amazon or China’s Alibaba.com as your role model?

The online market in China, the customer behaviour, distribution and supply chain, etc. are all similar to India. We have visited China a number of times and it’s very inspiring to see how Chinese entrepreneurs are building businesses, in a way that is very different from the way it is done in the US. The innovations in China are awe-inspiring and are much bigger in scale.

Alibaba is an undisputed leader in this space. What is inspiring about them is the way they have not only built a business, but an entire ecosystem. That is how we see Flipkart scaling up. We have already invested in building up entire systems to combat the existing problems in India 末 our dedicated logistics arm, our payments gateway PayZippy being a couple of examples. We see Flipkart becoming an ecosystem creator, just like Alibaba.

Do you see any room for Amazon in India?

There is a lot of scope for e-commerce to grow in India and there is room for multiple players. We think serious competition can only make the space more interesting for us and beneficial for the customer and ecosystem.

Finally, your tips for youngsters looking at online retail entrepreneurship?

The industry is booming, so there is definitely scope for growth for those who can find a gap and come up with offerings/services that cater to specific needs.

But it’s important for all first-time entrepreneurs to keep a few things in mind. Have a clearly charted-out business plan with tangible goals. If you are looking at funding, that will be a basic requirement from investors. Be ready to go beyond the call of duty for your customers 末 they are the ones who will build your business. And always try to have a co-founder who can share your responsibilities.

Myntra’s Mukesh Bansal on the Flipkart deal and things fashionable

What’s there not to like about Myntra? The coolest fashion brands are on it. Great discounts. And products come with a return policy. So when Flipkart snapped it up reportedly for $300 million on May 22, it became the talking point in the virtual space. The fashion portal’s CEO and co-founder Mukesh Bansal, 39, has been assured that Myntra will be allowed to function “independently” after the acquisition. He tells t2 why that matters.

What does the Flipkart deal mean to you?

This is an exciting deal as it is mutually beneficial for both the companies. The merger will allow us to leverage Flipkart’s technology expertise, vast user base and increase our customer reach substantially. It will combine the strengths of two strong players to further fuel our growth and strong leadership position. With this new association, I will also head the fashion business for Flipkart and be a part of their board, which will help grow both the businesses in tandem.

Why was your being allowed to function independently so vital to this deal?

We have built a very powerful brand in Myntra, which is the market leader in the online fashion and lifestyle segment, and we want to grow this further. A lot of effort has gone into the success of Myntra, both from a service point of view and the culture within the organisation. Hence, I was very particular that we continue to function independently post the acquisition and grow both companies together.

What prompted you to establish Myntra?

During my stint in the US, I was inspired by two start-ups 末 Cafe Press and Zazzle 末 and decided to come back to India to start Myntra.com in 2007. Within a short span, Myntra became a successful corporate and personalised gifting portal. We started selling IPL merchandise and when that started ramping up we conducted extensive market surveys to understand our customers. By the end of 2010, we decided to reinvent ourselves and began to focus on fashion and lifestyle retailing. Soon, we began offering popular Indian and international brands online 末 also aspirational brands 末 to Indian customers. Today, Myntra.com has become the default destination for all fashion and lifestyle purchases.

In India, is it more important to offer good discounts than a good range?

India is a very unique market. There are multiple types of shoppers that you need to cater to 末 some enjoy shopping only during end-of-season sales when almost all products are on offer, while the rest look for the latest fashion and shop regardless of discounts.

Diversification means adding more verticals and product lines...

Myntra has always been a focused vertical player in the fashion segment and we will continue to enhance our core strengths. Our deep expertise in this segment will enable us to further curate our offerings while bringing on board popular international and designer brands exclusively on Myntra.

Who are your customers?

Our customer profile range is between 18 and 35 years. They typically aspire to look good, have increased spending power and are constantly looking for the latest and best fashion in town. They reside across the country 末 in metros, as well as tier-1 or tier-2 cities.

Since 2007, what are some of the interesting trends you have spotted about fashion retailing in India?

E-commerce in general came out from being early adopters to mainstream players, where we saw the transformation with more people having started to buy online. With increased and massive communication through television and other platforms, there was a constant education on the advantages of online shopping and to eventually become a big part of their consideration. Over 20 million people have already experienced online shopping first-hand, and we have seen their faith and trust in the channel having increased in the past few years.

Now that you are with Flipkart, what are your future plans?

Fashion is the most attractive category in e-commerce due to the margins in this segment, which are in the range of 30 to 45 per cent. We’ll continue to focus on our growth strategy and to be the market leader in the Indian online fashion and lifestyle space. Our aim is to reach $1 billion GMV (gross merchandise volume) in the next 24 months.

How did you celebrate after the deal with Flipkart?

On the day of the formal announcement, we called for a meeting with all employees to share this news first with them. We also shared the benefits that each employee would receive post the acquisition. This was an open house where employees were encouraged to share queries about the merger. Post this meeting, we treated ourselves to a special team lunch.

The big fight: Amazon.in changes online retail rules In one year

Same-day delivery, exclusive Amazon.in deals, ease of searching through 15 million products across 28 categories. The Jeff Bezos-founded shopping giant has gathered a number of milestones in just one year. Amit Agarwal, VP and country manager of Amazon India, shares the success story with t2.

What would you highlight as some of the achievements of Amazon.in since its launch?

We launched the Amazon India marketplace on June 5, 2013 and the past one year has been exciting. We launched in India with two categories 末 books and ‘movies & TV shows’. However, in a short span, our total selection stands at more than 15 million products across 28 categories. We are already the largest store in several categories, including books, music, video games, toys, home and kitchen, luggage and backpacks, fashion jewellery, beauty products and movies and TV shows.

In terms of services, we were the first in India to introduce premium guaranteed delivery services, including the ‘one-day delivery’ service for items fulfilled by Amazon (products that are stored, packed and dispatched by Amazon). Within a short time we have made available over 275,000 products for next-day delivery across hundreds of pincodes in India. We started with over 100 sellers and today the base has grown to over 5,000 sellers.

We launched the Amazon mobile shopping app for Android and iOS phones within a couple of months of our India launch and today we get more than 35 per cent of traffic through mobile.

We have two Fulfilment Centres in India 末 one in Bhiwandi, on the outskirts of Mumbai, and the other in Bangalore, each about 150,000 square feet. These FCs have a capacity to stock and store millions of products of all sizes across categories.

How much time does Amazon founder Jeff Bezos give to India?

Jeff Bezos is quite bullish on India as it’s a high-potential market for Amazon globally. He periodically reviews and discusses the progress made by the Amazon India team.

The model for Amazon.com was created keeping Western retail habits in mind....

Our experience of working around the world has shown one thing, that customers are similar. They always want a vast selection at low prices and a convenient, reliable and trustworthy online shopping experience. Indian customers are no different. I am yet to come across a customer who will say that they want a smaller selection or higher prices.

We follow Amazon’s global business strategy, which is the same everywhere but the execution of that strategy is local. For example, pincode-based promises are something we don’t do anywhere else globally because logistics have a different reliability factor based on where you are. Customers find it useful in India.

When you look at our payments experience, given that the payments infrastructure in India has redirection to other payment processes, we have revised payments functionality that allows customers to start where they left off if there were failures in that process and that increases our success rate. That is something we don’t do elsewhere.

We specially tag ‘fulfilled by Amazon’ products on Amazon.in. We do this only in India because we realise that the sophistication level of sellers is very different. We understand that customers find it valuable to discover items using the Amazon infrastructure.

Which vertical on Amazon.in is the most popular in India?

The categories with the strongest growth are books, consumer electronics, baby products, shoes and watches.

Too tired to go shopping? go virtual and browse through our new fashion fixes

Donebynone.com

What: Online fashion store, as close as one gets to high street fashion but at affordable prices

Available: Clothing, bags, shoes, accessories

Price range: Rs 999-plus for footwear and bags, Rs 699-plus for clothing

Shipping and payment: Free shipping everywhere with a cash on delivery (COD) option

Check out: Footwear! We heart the Strawberry Sorbet Moccasins (left) which can brighten up any mood, day or outfit!

Scrunchh.com

What: Online jewellery store for those on a budget

Available: Indian and Western fashion jewellery

Price range: Rs 200 onwards

Shipping and payment: Free shipping all over India with COD

Check out: The Peaches and Cream statement neckpiece (above). Pair it with a monotone bodycon for maximum impact.

Missflurrty.com

What: An online jewellery store from New York

Available: Statement jewellery

Price range: Rs 500 onwards

Shipping and payment: Free shipping all over India, COD and credit card option

Check out: The Nights Alllure Ear Cuff (below), which looks great with both casual and evening wear.

Koovs.com

What: Online store which stocks clothing, shoes, bags, cosmetics, watches, jewellery and accessories

Available: Brands like Steve Madden, Roxy, Forever New, Diesel and Koovs

Price range: Rs 400-plus for clothing, Rs 700-plus for shoes, Rs 600-plus for bags

Shipping and payment: Free shipping all over India, for purchases above Rs 499 with COD option on a minimum purchase of Rs 200

Check out: Summerwear! We love the pineapple print crop top (left), very on trend.

Cupidityonline.com

What: Online store for bags of all kinds, run by the designer duo Karishma and Masumi

Available: Bags, clutches, laptop bags, phone covers and kits

Price range: Rs 800 onwards

Shipping and payment: Free shipping with direct bank transfer and COD

Check out: The Glass Box Clutch (above).

Stylefiesta.com

What: A fashion blog-cum-retail website run by 21-year-old fashion blogger Masoom Minawala

Available: Jewellery, sunglasses, swimwear and men’s accessories

Price range: Rs 400 onwards

Shipping and payment: Free shipping all over India with a COD option upon additional charge of Rs 150

Check out: Ankle cuffs (above) and body chains, best paired with an LBD.

 

 

Here’s where you shop!

www.flipkart.com
www.ebay.com

“I am a Fine Arts student and quality material is very hard to find in Calcutta. Online, I find all the stuff I need for my artwork easily”

—       Avni Agarwal, student

www.flipkart.com

“I use the website mainly to shop for books, hard disks, memory chips, cell phones and movies. It’s cheap and they deliver real quick”

—       Adarsh Anand, student

www.worldofcrow.com
www.pepperfry.com

“I love stylish ethnic wear but find it very tiresome to visit boutiques, give measurements and run up and down collecting the garments. Crow has a great collection and they stitch the garment of your choice according to the size you give them. It’s also affordable and they deliver without any hassles. Pepperfry is a personal favourite for home decor products”

—       Kaavya Gupta, interior designer

www.myntra.com
www.jabong.com

“Though I love shopping, my hectic work schedule gives me very little time to visit the mall. I shop for all my clothes, shoes and home products from Jabong. It’s got a diverse collection and an easy-to-use interface. Myntra has the best stock but not as many offers”

—       Priyanka Biyani, architect

www.snapdeal.com

www.ebay.com

“Being a gadget junkie, owning different kinds of electronics items is almost a necessity. Snapdeal and eBay have great deals and collections. I get all my phones, DVDs and stuff from these websites”

—       Nikhil Gupta, businessman

www.jabong.com
www.postergully.com

“I get cool laptop skins, mobile covers and posters at Postergully which aren’t available offline. I am addicted to TV shows Supernatural and Sherlock and I get theme-posters and accessories from there”

—       Vaidehi Mishra, student

www.candidlycouture.com
www.koovs.com

“I like updating my wardrobe to meet the latest trends and online fashion sites are the best way to do so. Koovs has collections from various big brands that aren’t available in Calcutta, like Oasis and Warehouse. For bags and accessories, Candidlycouture is my favourite”

—       Priyanka Goyal, homemaker

www.limeroad.com
www.faballey.com
www.donebynone.com

“I love these fashion sites because they have a great collection and they suit my budget! My favourite buy has been a pair of round sunnies from www.faballey.com”

— Aakanksha Singhania, student