25 Sep 2017 13:13 IST

I don’t see any competition, says Flipkart CEO

‘E-commerce is an infinite market if you offer a good value proposition’

Flipkart has bounced back during the past few months largely because of a fresh infusion of funds and a new CEO at the helm of affairs. In an interview with BusinessLine, Kalyan Krishnamurthy shares the learnings from the Big Billion Days sale, the marquee event of the country’s largest e-commerce player. He, however, said he would only answer questions related to the sale and would discuss other issues at a later date. Excerpts:

How has this year’s sale panned out?

It has become a brand of its own now. People wait for the event to start festival shopping. In addition to the breakthrough prices and discounts, we offered our customers a unique selection of high-quality brands. We offered a huge variety of exclusives. We also amplified our affordability concept. Also, we launched some unique initiatives before the sale such as debit card low-cost EMIs; we basically addressed the belly of the market. We did roughly double of what we did last year. We had 70 per cent of the market share in most of the categories and we have now crossed that in some of them.

When you took over as the CEO early this year, what areas did you feel needed to be fixed or improved upon? Have you been able to carry out those changes?

At the company level, we don’t focus on such sale events, but a lot about customers. We look at them as very good initiatives to increase market adoption of new concepts, increase customer count, retain customers and get a lot more people to buy 5-6 more times.

Have there been any changes that you have carried out which are visible in the latest sale?

The focus was on the customers. We launched furniture as a category, and they were out of stock in three days. The big difference was that the selection was a big focus. For example, when customers come into an event like this, they assume they will get a big discount. So we went ahead and increased the variety of selection from, say, 100 to 400 for some of them.

It increasingly looks like the only way to attract customers is to give them discounts, when the fact is e-commerce is actually more about the convenience of shopping. How long will the deep discounts continue? Aren’t you doing it at the cost of becoming profitable?

We will be happy to talk about the strategy we have in place at a later date.

On the first day of the sale, a Flipkart press release said that on a single day, about 1.3 million units of mobile phones were sold. With deep discounts, do you really make money out of selling mobile phones, or is it merely a volume game?

We will certainly be happy to have a separate discussion on these issues.

All right. Which was the largest selling category apart from mobile phones?

The unit drivers were fashion and then there were home-driven categories such as kitchenware. From a volume drive, it was smartphones.

Isn’t mobile phones still the biggest category?

This is how the country shops today in e-commerce . India is going through a revolution of everyone planning to own a smartphone, and we are happy that we are their first choice to buy mobile phones.

What are the takeaways from this kind of sale and are there things which you want to add in the next round of sales, considering the fact that you have some huge competition right across the road?

I don’t see any competition right across the road. Lots of people claim that the market is not growing, which is not true. I think these kinds of events (festival sales) show that this is not true. It is an infinite market if you are able to offer a good value proposition to the customers. The adoption is there. We can actually be very ambitious in this market. The market will grow if you are willing to offer something unique to the customers. It goes to show that we can be very ambitious and there is this huge market waiting for us out there.

Was GST an issue?

Not at all. It was a very good opportunity for us. We have embraced the changes very well. It has done very well for us.

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