Sramana: Does your customer base access Flipkart only through desktops and laptops?
Sachin Bansal: We have mobile commerce, but it has very little traction.
Sachin Bansal: We believe strongly in working with great people. We are now ramping up the company, have 300 employees, and will have 1,000 within a year.
Sramana: What do you need 1,000 workers for?
Sachin Bansal: Our employees are divided across many areas. We have our management team, customer support, software engineering, salespeople, and warehouse operations.
Sramana: How large is your software team?
Sachin Bansal: We have a small team, but it will expand as we grow and need support. We are a technology company at the core. We try to solve as many problems as possible with technology. We have optimized our warehouse operations and our customer support by using technology.
Sramana: Are you reinventing customer support and warehouse systems rather than buying off-the-shelf systems?
Sachin Bansal: We are not buying commercial systems. We were not able to find any that met our requirements. Developing them ourselves gave us flexibility. As a company we are learning 10 or more new things a day. By developing our solutions, we have the flexibility to adapt our solutions to our needs.
Sramana: You are illustrating a very Indian mentality by reinventing the wheel at every level. There is one philosophy of management that wants you to build everything yourselves, and another philosophy that wants you to focus on what you do well. In your case, you do Indian e-commerce very well. You should use the ecosystem for the rest of your needs.
Sachin Bansal: The more we have looked, the more we have not found an ecosystem in India for e-commerce operations.
Sramana: There is an international ecosystem. When you play at the high level of the game, you should be purchasing those systems from international players.
Sachin Bansal: Indian consumers are different and have needs unlike those of any other consumers in the world. The systems that work for other countries do not work in India.
Sramana: You can try and sell me that ideology, but right now I am not buying it. Indian companies believe they have to do everything themselves.
Sachin Bansal: Our understanding is that the systems that are available on the market will not do what we want them to do. We want our growth flexibility incorporated into our systems.
Sramana: What does your competitive landscape look like today?
Sachin Bansal: Our brand is well known today. A bunch of other companies have started after us, but we are the largest, especially in books.
Sramana: What other segments of e-commerce are maturing well in India?
Sachin Bansal: Electronics such as mobile phones. The market is still segmented, and no clear dominant player has emerged yet. We hope to compete there as well. Some people are trying to sell apparel online, but that will be very hard to do in India.
Sramana: What percentage of the book market in India have you been able to capture?
Sachin Bansal: The online market is about 10% of what the established retail book market is. We have more than half of the online book market. The remaining online book market is segmented among very small e-commerce companies.
Sramana: This is a great story, and I hope you go much further. Good luck!
[Also check out my Entrepreneur Journeys book, Seed India – How To Navigate The Seed Capital Gap in India]