Hing, Churan Becomes The New Warfare Of Indian eCommerce – What Exactly Happened Between Amazon, Flipkart?


Amazon Flipkart eCommerce Wars-001

Hing (asafoetida) and Churan (finely powdered spices) have suddenly transformed into the new warfare of Indian ecommerce.

Flipkart and Amazon, which are multi billion dollar ecommerce companies having thousands of employees and billions of dollars of VC funding, are now battling over the question of supremacy hing and churan.

Post the festive day sales from both of these portals, leaders from these two largest ecommerce companies have unleashed a war of words, using hing and churan as metaphors, and observers of ecommerce industry have taken out their pop-corn, and anticipating some fireworks before the Diwali begins in three weeks.

Flipkart’s Fires The First Salvo

Last week, Flipkart sold Rs 1400 crore worth of products on a single day during their Big Billion Day Sales period. This was a new record for Flipkart, and the entire Indian ecommerce industry, as Rs 1000 crore is the average which Indian ecommerce industry clocks on an average, daily.

Thus, in a way, Flipkart managed to overtake entire online retail sector of India, albeit for a single day. This was quite an achievement for an ecommerce startup.

Overall, Flipkart managed to ship 15.5 million units during their festive day sales period, spanning 5 days.

However, challenging Flipkart’s dominance came Amazon from behind, which claimed to ship 15 million units during their own festive day sales period of 5 days. Now, a difference of just 0.5 million between these two ecommerce portals was something which irked Flipkart.

Hence, to negate the Amazon effect, Flipkart came out saying that Amazon achieved such huge numbers by selling low-value commodities such as hing and churan, which are priced below Rs 50; whereas they sold high end products like mobile phones, TV and gadgets.

Indirectly, Flipkart was saying that Amazon’s 15 million units doesn’t compare with their 15.5. Million units, because of the price/quality of the units shipped.

Binny Bansal, CEO of Flipkart, said, “Our focus was on mobile, lifestyle and large appliances, and that is what we believe customers want to buy during this time. You can run sale on hing, churan, besan and bournvita anytime..”

Amazon Responds To The Snub By Flipkart

Not to be put down, Amazon responded aggressively to the accusations by Flipkart and gave a strong reply.

In an interview, Amit Agarwal, head of Amazon India said that they are proud of selling hing, churan, as they signify basic needs of Indians.

Besides, Amit also said that the path of Indian ecommerce passes via hing and churan, which are low-cost, yet crucial commodities for an average Indian.

He said, “People not only bought.. mobile phones, upgrading through an exchange offer or the appliance that they could not get access to in their city or a TV… or furniture they couldn’t or the home appliance or the fashion they were looking to buy but they also bought churan and hing..”

Going deeper into the psyche of consumer behavior, Amit said that it is a fundamental shift in buying trend which is being visible in India, via online sales of hing and churan. He said that a similar shift was visible in US in the last 10 years, and now, India is witnessing the same.

He said, “That is the path that ecommerce in India wants and not just the path of selling mobile phones only.”

Opinion: On a broader level, Amazon has indeed scored a point here. What Amazon India has achieved in 3 years, Flipkart achieved in 10 years, and by empowering and encouraging their users to buy low-cost items like hing and churan, Amazon has shown greater penetration into the daily life of an average Indian, compared to Flipkart which focussed on high end commodities such as life-style products and mobile phones.

Besides, there was no need for Flipkart to comment on hing and churan, because a customer who buys hing and churan today will eventually buy real estate and a car via online platform after few years.

Overall, if two largest ecommerce portals from India were able to sell 30 odd million products within 5 days, then its a great news for the overall digital industry in India.

Do share your views on the warfare of hing and churan, by commenting right here!

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

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