[Also check out my Entrepreneur Journeys book, Seed India – How To Navigate The Seed Capital Gap in India]
I first learned about Flipkart when I discovered that Flipkart is the only e-commerce company in India that is selling my books online. Subsequently, they became the only company in India to sell all five of my books, since I have chosen not to sell the publishing rights to Vision India 2020, Entrepreneur Journeys Volume Three: How To Test, Validate and Bring Your Idea to Market, and Entrepreneur Journeys Volume Four: Innovation, Need Of The Hour to my original publisher, Hachette India, because they offered me horrible terms.
Today, it is my pleasure to bring you our next Entrepreneur Journeys story, a conversation with Sachin Bansal, one of the pioneers in e-commerce. Sachin and his partner Binny are working on building India’s Amazon.
Sramana: Sachin, let’s begin by exploring the genesis of your story. What is your background?
Sachin Bansal: I am originally from Chandigarh, which is the capital of Punjab. My business partner, Binny, is also from Chandigarh. We are not related in any way, it just happens to be a coincidence that we are now working on Flipkart together. We both grew up in Chandigarh and went to the same schools yet did not know each other well. I went to the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi, where I studied computer science, and that is where I really got to know Binny because he was studying computer science as well.
We graduated from IIT in 2005, and we took different jobs in Bangalore. I joined a company called Techspan. Our paths converged again in 2006 when we both joined Amazon.com India. Amazon was building Amazon Web Services ,which is very big now. We built things like Amazon S3. Their services have powered more than half of the startups in the United States.
Sramana: When did you begin thinking about doing your own startup, and was your original concept Flipkart?
Sachin Bansal: We started thinking about that in the middle of 2007. That was driven by the fact that everybody we knew in Bangalore was working hard building great technologies, but they were building them for U.S. companies. We could not relate to that. Amazon is a great business, but as users we could not relate. Benny and I decided to start something on our own and see how it went.
Sramana: You wanted to build a company that catered to the Indian market?
Sachin Bansal: Yes. We wanted to have customers we could relate to. We thought about our parents, friends, and cousins. We wanted to build something that they could use.
Sramana: Once you had decided what type of company you wanted to build, what path did you take to build it?
Sachin Bansal: We both approached the problem from a typical software engineering mentality. We felt we could write some code and make a million dollars. We did not want to make something that requires a lot of running around. We wanted to write some code and make a successful company, and we felt we could do that with a comparative shopping engine.