Flipkart, said to be an Indian avatar of Amazon.com established in 2007 by Sachin Bansal. Bansal is one of the personalities in Indian eCommerce industry who have shown to world how to cruise with word of mouth publicity despite of being an online player. Iamwire has caught up with Sachin Bansal, who spoke on various activities and operations of Flipkart. Here is the excerpts of interview:
We started Flipkart in the latter half of 2007. When we started, the country was already witnessing quite a bit of interest in e-commerce in the form of booking of online tickets etc. Our first thought was to start a comparison shopping website that would cater to the growing Indian e-commerce market. However when we further probed the idea, our research revealed that companies in India had still not succeeded in creating a comprehensive e-commerce ecosystem that ensures convenience and security from the customer’s perspective.
The entire category was plagued with issues like delayed deliveries; wrong product deliveries, improper product description etc. Sensing an opportunity, we decided to start an e-commerce company that would focus on providing a great shopping experience to its customers.
2. Initially Flipkart has started with books but now it also forayed in to products in other categories such as mobiles, movies, music, games, cameras and computers. What is the strategy behind such diversification?
From the beginning, our intention was to make Flipkart the largest e-commerce portal in the country. We started by retailing books and after becoming a market leader in this segment we introduced other product categories such as mobiles, movies, music, games, cameras and computers. Our aim is to achieve similar success in these categories while maintaining our USP of a superior customer experience.
3. Flipkart started its business journey from five people and now you have 1000 + employees. Discuss the success story of Flipkart.
The journey has been an extremely interesting and rewarding one. We started off as a modest venture and in just under four years have gone on to become one of India’s leading online shopping destinations. Our focus has always been on keeping our customers satisfied by ensuring convenience and a hassle free shopping experience at every customer engagement point – not to mention the great discounts and product variety that we have to offer.
4. What are the biggest challenges you faced at the time of starting Flipkart and what are the present challenges you face in running Flipkart?
The initial challenges we faced were teething troubles common to most start-ups. It was tough to generate supplier confidence in us and the inability to keep a large enough inventory posed an issue. Slowly however, we succeeded in building up both customer and supplier confidence. Traffic to the site started picking up through word-of-mouth publicity and from then on there has been no looking back.
Today, the challenges are different. We have built our business on the premise of providing a great shopping experience to the customer and our biggest challenge is to maintain the same quality of service while we rapidly scale up the size of our operations. The other challenge is to think big; in terms of scales that are yet to be employed in online retail businesses (travel being an exception) in India.
5. What is the USP of Flipkart in contrast of other online book store operating in India?
Flipkart’s USP is our focus on providing the best customer experience to everyone. We want to be the most customer friendly e-commerce company in the country by providing value through every engagement we have with our customers.
As mentioned earlier, our vision is to make Flipkart India’s largest e-commerce destination while at the same time maintaining our focus of providing our customers a great shopping experience. We also plan to keep innovating within the online space and adding new categories to provide a wider choice to our customers.
6. If possible can you share the statistic in terms of visitors, books and other products sold at Flipkart’s website?
We have sold over 2 million items across all categories. We currently sell around 6 books per minute.
7. Despite of being on online platform, Flipkart has started with word of mouth marketing strategy and now Flipkart is visible on TV and print medium. What was the strategy behind word of mouth marketing? Please elaborate.
We started Flipkart on a modest budget. The initial capital was sourced from our personal money and we did not have a huge marketing budget. Hence we relied heavily on word-of-mouth marketing to promote our site. Moreover, when it comes to mediums like e-commerce, word-of-mouth marketing works extremely well as customers rely on the experience and feedback of their friends and peers before they try out a site.
8. What will be your suggestion for new start ups in online retail?
Our suggestion for new start-ups in online retail will be to focus on keeping their customers happy. In online retail, repeat purchase plays a big role as getting a new customer to buy from your website is much tougher than getting an existing customer to repurchase. By putting the needs of their customer first and listening to what they have to say, companies can succeed in building up a loyal customer base.