India is now shopping online like never before. And Flipkart is the hot destination of every internet shopaholic. The mastermind behind this idea and one of the first people to successfully establish an e-commerce website in India is Sachin Bansal, the man who created something of a history in the great Indian internet shopping revolution and made lives a lot easier & convenient than what it used to be earlier. This is the story of Flipkart & its founders Sachin Bansal & Binny Bansal.
Sachin and Binny studied together in IIT and after they graduated, Sachin joined Amazon as Senior Software Engineer and later got Binny too into Amazon. After 6 months, they decided to quit their job to do something bigger. This was when they decided to build India’s very own online shopping platform. That is how Flipkart was born – The e-retail company that went on to become India’s first and biggest in less than 6 years.
Flipkart was launched from an apartment in Bangalore with 4 Lakh Rupees. Both Sachin and Binny were not very sure of the idea. It wasn’t an easy road and Internet connection wasn’t common in India back then. They started with dealing in books. Sachin and Binny, who were highly paid and respected Engineers working for a globally reputed company, were now delivered books themselves on their scooters, door to door up to 40 kms. They worked hard; even gave away pamphlets of their company outside several bookstores to familiarize readers with this online platform. Flipkart slowly expanded its business beyond books to other retail items such as electronics, lifestyle, etc.
There were many difficulties at the beginning like getting the book vendors to tie up, permissions for credit card payment gateway, delivery and supply chain management in rural areas, the habit of Indian shoppers to mostly use only cash when shopping, international competition from Amazon, Alibaba, eBay, etc. In a country where people have different choices and preference it was a risky business game that they got into. The initial sales were disappointing but they stuck to their idea because they were confident that the Internet shopping scene in India was going to soon get better. “We were not thinking about numbers then, but we knew something big can be built out of e-commerce.”
The biggest block in getting people to shop online was that Indian shoppers, at that point of time were specific about having the touch and feel of products before they buy. To tackle this issue, they started the concept of Cash On Delivery so that people could get the product home, check it out and still not choose to pay if they were unhappy with the purchase. This increased the confidence of Indians to try out online shopping. In the first 2 years itself, Flipkart raised funding through venture capital funding. From there, Flipkart kept growing and there was no stopping. To face cut-throat competition, Flipkart acquired a few companies like Myntra.com, Letsbuy.com, FX Mart, Phone Pe, Jeeves, among others to better their presence in the market. Flipkart also made significant efforts to improve its supply chain system which helped the company ensure timely delivery to its customers.
They adopted various strategies that were incidental in its sudden growth, like: -Exclusive product launch of Motorola and Xiomi mobiles -Timely acquisition strategy -Expansion strategy -Adopting the right technology at the right time -Cost cutting on packaging -Vernacular language options on the website to make it more user-friendly and inclusive -Extended range of academic books -Timely fundraising, etc.
Flipkart’s journey from a small e-book retailer to India’s largest e-commerce platform inspires a generation of startups. The Bansal’s e-commerce bet paid off big time within a few years itself. Together, they changed the entire shopping ecosystem of India. On 9th May 2018, Walmart brought 77% stake in Flipkart for a whopping 16 billion dollars. In a vast and diverse country like India that is still developing, Flipkart managed to break the norm and change the e-commerce industry in India forever. This story proves that if you have a great idea, and if you are a doer and not just a thinker, then success isn’t far away! The Bansals believe that with the right skills, hard work, service & customer focus, any startup can make it big.
Having read the Flipkart success story, my question to you is… Do you think that TODAY, small startups still have a chance to compete with the already established big companies? Let me know your opinion in the comments below.