I am a fan of e-commerce but one look at e-commerce in India and there are more negatives than positives. Infrastructure issues apart customer service/satisfaction is one aspect where most Indian e-commerce ventures continue to be below average.
Enter Flipkart, the then online bookseller and i thought that the Indian E-commerce sector might just have hope. A user friendly web interface, heavy discounts, prompt delivery and to top it all a super prompt customer service is what Flipkart stood for and it made the company stand out among its peers.
I have personally used Flipkart for all my book purchases despite the fact that online bookstores could still learn a lot from offline bookstores. However, Flipkart was not ready to rest on its laurels and settle with the title of an awesome online bookseller. The company has been a darling of PE’s and VC’s raising millions in multiple funding rounds. The company made good of the funding and diversified into new categories starting with Movie & Game DVD’s. Electronic Gadgets came next and going by the discounted prices, I have no doubt that Flipkart is doing brisk business across all categories.
Now, Just when you thought Flipkart has diversified enough and they are selling pretty much all the hot products with the potential to sell online, it has spread its wings wider.
Yes, Flipkart has launched a new category ‘Personal and Health Care’. To a certain extent, current product range is largely electronics but I am sure they will introduce more products soon.
However, the idea of the post is not to discuss the history and success of Flipkart but to see why Flipkart has reached where it is today despite operating it in a market that is considered unfriendly for e-commerce even today.
- Flipkart probably offers the deepest discounts across product categories. I remember Arun telling that he found the Nexus S cheapest at Flipkart and he was wondering how Flipkart managed it. In a price conscious market like India, deep discount is sure sure mantra and Flipkart has gotten it spot on!
- Flipkart has invested heavily in getting their supply chain right. I don’t have the exact sources but I remember the Flipkart twitter account telling me that they have bought courier services at a few locations to ensure timely delivery. Now that might be a non-core area to invest in but from a customer standpoint it is pure genius. Timely delivery means a happy customer and having a courier service in-house makes their supply chain seamless
- Flipkart has a mad focus on customer satisfaction/support. They have consistently raised my expectations when it comes to online buying and those one-off instances of a mishap, they have been very prompt with an alternative solution
- More than anything, the company’s vision and strategy has been future looking. From keeping the branding open and not typecasting itself as an online bookseller to advertising on TV (unlikely for Indian e-commerce ventures), the company seems to have its pulse on the market and is still adventurous enough to tread unknown waters
- All this has been even when Flipkart like others suffers from pathetic state of e-commerce infrastructure in India. According to this post on Medianama, Flipkart CEO mentioned that their conversion rates stood at mid-single digits. Imagine the company’s performance if the payment gateways were more efficient
With another category, Flipkart is slowly but surely establishing itself as “THE E-Commerce” site in India or as people say "Amazon of India". I wish other e-commerce ventures take a cue from their success and strive for a better customer experience.
However, as Flipkart expands it will face significant challenges in maintaining the service standards it has set for itself. The overall e-commerce ecosystem is also turning better with the likes of Infibeam etc. doing rather well. The journey to reach the zenith of Indian E-commerce will no doubt be tough for Flipkart but the way they are expanding, they look the most likely to win the e-commerce battle in India.
What are your thoughts on Flipkart’s consistent growth and expansion in the last few years? Do you think the company has what it takes to reach the likes of Amazon in the future