Success stories

Success Story of Snapdeal by Kunal Bahl

The Making of Snapdeal
Kunal Bahl shares his interesting journey of founding Snapdeal and growing it really fast. Snapdeal is a company, just two-and-half years old. Seeing its traction today, it’s difficult to believe so. “The hidden star behind Snapdeal’s success is Vani Kola, MD of IndoUS Venture Partners,” says Kunal. When asked Vani what she thought, she says modestly, “This speaks volumes about Kunal and Rohit, and not about me at all. They are smart and driven, as most entrepreneurs are. They have additional great leadership qualities, as you can see they are modest and humble, they attribute their success to me, their team and others, who were only enablers. They take responsibility for creating success, but shy away from hogging the limelight.

Hiring people on demand is at the core of Snapdeal’s philosophy and never on a whim or as an experiment. And when customers who were buying services wanted Snapdeal to sell products, Kunal felt the customers’ needs should be fulfilled. He goes on to say, “And that led us to create that largest assortment of products in India in a span of 6 months with over 2000 brands and merchants now selling thousands of products on Snapdeal.”

Among his learnings, Kunal lists culture and objectivity. Describing Snapdeal’s culture as “smart, generous and humble,” he feels culture determines the speed of growth of a non-traditional business like Snapdeal’s. Another key factor is the ability to solve problems. He points out, “all the problems that we face in our business are created internally or externally by human beings and they can also be solved by human beings. And so the quality of your team, the education of the team and the direction of the team is key determinant to whether you’ll end up solving those problems or not.” And religiously remaining objective (doing the essential things) has helped the business grow instead of losing focus on umpteen other things.

The secret sauce of Snapdeal’s ability to scale faster than anyone else is, in Kunal’s words “our ability to move very very fast.” Another secret of success is the people who have helped it grow. Kunal gives Vani the first credit for people behind Snapdeal’s success. He says, “I don’t think we’d be doing what we’re doing if it wasn’t for her.” Her mentoring at the early stage of Snapdeal was a huge differentiator.

E-commerce Best Practices
Kunal bets on working backwards to fulfilling what the customer wants and then aligning supply chain, technology, product management, and customer support towards this objective. He adds, “We interrogate things about what is the best experience for the customer.” In doing all this, a conscious effort is made to make it cost-effective too.

E-commerce business is built around three pillars: value, assortment, convenience. The value-based approach of Walmart for example is hard to replicate. In India, there is no middle path in convenience. You are either convenient, or you are out of business. “So, the only differentiating factor is assortment,” says Kunal. Snapdeal, with 500,000 products and adding a product every 10 seconds, has that edge in assortment as of now in both online and offline modes. Another significant factor is the retail sector worth $500 billion in India is only 10% organized. Clearly, Snapdeal has zipped ahead of others.
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Success story of Flipkart by Sachin Bansal (CEO of Flipkart)

“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.

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.

Flipkart started its business journey from five people and now you have 1000 + employees. 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.”

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.
4. 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.

5. 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.
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