Tag Archives: flipkart

My thoughts on the Flipkart fund raising

I got 4-5 calls from journalists and reporters wanting my feedback on the Flipkart funding news yesterday. I am biased, and I like the folks in the company a lot.

That said the main questions I got were: (NB: these were actual verbatim questions from reporters).

1. Does this mean game over for other “ecommerce players”?

2. Does this news mean that the “keep inventory model” will work? Is the snapdeal model better? Which one will “win”?

3. Why does this business need so much money?

4. Will eCommerce ever be profitable? Will flipkart ever be profitable?

5. If Amazon decides to come to India, will Flipkart’s first mover advantage still remain?

Rather than answer the questions one by one, I think I will set some context first and address the questions as I see the macro picture emerge.

Indian retail market is a ~$500 Billion market. It is large. Most of this ($350 Billion) is grocery. Unorganized retail (Kirana stores, small shops, etc.) make up 92%-95% of this market.

Besides grocery, the largest number of stores are called “fancy stores” – selling everything from pencils and books to tupperware and brooms. Jewelry stores are next (in terms of revenue they might be larger than fancy stores).

Of the organized offline retailers (totaling about 1500) , fewer than 5 (changed to 5% based on IBG data) are turning profit. Everyone else loses money. Why? High real estate costs and high payroll costs, compared to unorganized retail.

When Amazon started in the US (circa 1994), they were going after a 90% organized retail market. Fewer than 5% of US retail companies were unprofitable.

Amazon was going after big box organized retail in America.

Organized retail in India is a small part of the puzzle.

Flipkart is going after the 90+%, which we know as unorganized retail.

3 major trends that drive retail in India, for the next 10 years will be increasing urbanization, worsening traffic and higher commercial and retail real estate rentals. The fourth (if it ever passes, will be FDI). I am not holding my breath for that one.

The flipkart model will do well is my perspective, given their dense logistics coverage in urban areas and minimal rentals thanks to warehousing.

Amazon surprisingly will do well as well if and when they go direct in India. The market is very large.

I dont think its game over for other eCommerce players, just like many years after Amazon, came Etsy, Zaapos and others. In India, though those markets are currently small and will grow over time, so in a few years or a decade, things will change again.

The inventory model that is flipkart’s strategy seems to be working for them. That’s the reason to raise $200 Million.

The no inventory model for snapdeal seems to be working for them as well. Snapdeal will try to help many of the unorganized retail players compete with the organized players and flipkart.

I am not sure about whether the online players will actually get profitable over the next 5 years since the offline retailers have still not gotten there in 10+ years, but the online players have a better shot at becoming profitable.

The mystery of success and the articulation of failure

Yesterday a comment was made about why I dont interview successful founding teams instead of focusing on why founding teams split. Actually I did. I spoke at length with Sachin from Flipkart a few weeks ago as I have done several times with Amit Gupta of InMobi and Phani of Redbus and Vivek of Interview street.

Successful people are loathe to describe their success, often talking about “luck” and most often calling themselves “not yet successful”.

Those that failed, however, at anything are often able to point to 1-3 things that they believe were the reasons they did not take off.

I think its relatively easy to assume that 100 things need to go right to be successful, whereas only a few things (or in some cases 1 thing) needs to go right to be a failure.

That directly contradicts my core hypothesis that in any given startup its never one thing that causes failure but a series of things that are not executed well – back to Mark Suster’s comment about lines not dots.

I also think most people analyze failure a lot more since it hurts. That’s a contradiction as well. I ¬†would think most people would not like to think about things that are not “fond memories”. Turns out we remember bad things better because they affect our memory systems more. There’s research that suggests this to be true.

Still that does not explain why people cant articulate success as well as failure. Or am I just asking the wrong questions of the wrong people?