Case Analysis

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FLIPKART VS. AMAZON VS. SNAPDEAL:
WINNER-TAKE-ALL BATTLE IN INDIA
Rainny Shuyan Xie and Vijay Sethi
HBSP No.: NTU169
Ref No.: ABCC-2018-011
Date: 21 May 2018

In July 2017, Flipkart’s attempt to acquire Snapdeal fell apart, thus making a dent on the company’s plans
to overtake its global rival Amazon India. Not only did Snapdeal terminate merger talks with Flipkart, but it
also announced its plan to pursue an independent path with a leaner business model. Flipkart had been
the undisputed leader in the Indian market and many customers swore by it. Others, however, started to
say that Amazon gave the best experience1 or Snapdeal provided the fastest delivery.

Despite Flipkart’s domination in gross sales, the company continued selling products below their cost prices
and had to lay off at least 700 employees to cut cost. In terms of customer satisfaction, the initial 30-day
return policy – one of the reasons for Flipkart’s rise as an e-commerce business – was tightened on some
of its popular products. Further, with Amazon’s successes as a single, unified brand, Flipkart was faced
with a decision on how to position its acquisitions, such as eBay India, Myntra, and Jabong. In fact, Flipkart
not only faced rivalry from these direct competitors but also from new e-commerce entrants. The other
challenge that Flipkart faced, as would every incumbent, was the changing needs and expectations of
consumers, especially in an era of social media and global awareness. What should Flipkart do in the face
of all these challenges?

1Kunal N. Talgeri. (2016, May 5). Flipkart vs. Amazon. Fortune India. https://www.fortuneindia.com/technology/flipkart-vs-
amazon/101198
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ONLINE RETAIL IN INDIA: OVERVIEW

India saw a rapid growth in the e-commerce industry in the last five years. Since 2009, this sector had
expanded from US$3.8 billion to US$33 billion in 2017. 2Though e-commerce in India was still
underdeveloped, it had a huge potential, with e-tail share of the total retail sales in India being only 2.5% in
2016. 3Though relatively small, strong growth was expected over the coming years as smartphone
penetration increased, and more and more users became Internet-enabled. This potential made India the
fastest growing e-commerce market in the world with the online retail market poised to reach US$64 billion
by 2021,4 with a 31% compound annual growth rate over five years.5

Figure 1: Market Share and Revenue of Flipkart, Amazon, and Snapdeal from 2014 to 2017

Source: Created by authors.

Home-grown Flipkart was launched in 2007, followed by New Delhi-based Snapdeal in 2010, and Amazon
India in 2013. In 2014, Flipkart was the leader with 45% market share, followed by Snapdeal and Amazon
India. By end of 2015, while Flipkart continued to be the leader with 47% market share, Amazon India made
rapid strides to reach second place with a 24% share, pushing Snapdeal to third position. By March 2017,
the landscape had changed with Amazon India commanding the highest market share of 44.6%, followed
by Flipkart with 33.6% (see Figure 1 for the changing fortunes of these three companies in terms of market
share and revenue from 2014 to March 2017).

Flipkart

Flipkart.com was started in 2007 by two former employees of Amazon.com. Their journey commenced with
the selling of books and progressed to the selling of music, movies, and mobile devices in 2010. In 2011,
2 The Economic Times. (2017, July 26). India’s e-commerce market to touch $33 billion this fiscal: Government.
http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/services/retail/indias-e-commerce-market-to-touch-33-billion-this-fiscal-
government/articleshow/59808900.cms
3 eMarketer. (2016, August 15). India’s retail ecommerce sector is small but still growing. https://www.emarketer.com/Article/Indias-
Retail-Ecommerce-Sector-Small-Still-Growing/1014342
4Accenture. (2018). Reinvent your business with industry X.0. https://www.accenture.com/t20180125T031002Z__w__/in-
en/_acnmedia/PDF-70/Accenture-Reinvent-Your-Business-with-Industry-X0.pdf
5 Athira A. Nair. (2017, February 12). India growing fastest in e-commerce, says study. Yourstory. https://yourstory.com/2017/02/e-
commerce-forrester-research
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Flipkart incorporated features, such as cash and card on delivery, dedicated logistics for faster delivery,
and a 30-day replacement policy. In 2012, in-house brand Digiflip opened a new chapter for the company
by offering private labels. In 2014, with their billion-dollar funding, Flipkart acquired Myntra, the biggest
fashion e-tailer in India. By 2017, Flipkart had taken a series of aggressive steps, acquired Ebay.in, and
attempted to pursue a takeover of its top domestic rival Snapdeal. As of April 2017, the company was
valued at US$11.6 billion.6

For Flipkart, October 2016 was a landmark date. The company had been facing intense competition from
Amazon India and had conceded more of its market share in March 2016, eventually relinquishing its
leadership position. It was in the face of mounting losses, stagnant sales growth, and hyper-aggressive
competition that on 2 October 2016, Flipkart rolled out the Big Billion Days sale before Diwali, a local festival.
At the end of the sale period (2–6 October), Flipkart managed to outsell its competitors and, once again,
assumed the market-leader tag. In August 2017, Flipkart announced a major new investment from the
SoftBank Vision Fund.

Amazon India

Prior to Amazon.in, Amazon already had thousands of employees in India performing customer service,
software development, and back-office functions for Amazon’s global operations. 7Amazon India was
started in June 2013 as a marketplace (more on this business model below) when Amazon invested US$2
billion in the company. Its vision was to be the most customer-centric company with the widest selection of
products which the customers could buy at affordable prices.8 Amazon India touched more than US$1
billion in sales in 2014 and by 2015, its web traffic was the highest along with the fastest-growing app
download rate among its competitors.

Amazon India had been on a phenomenal growth trajectory and the company claimed that its gross sale in
the December 2015 quarter surpassed its full-year sales of 2014. The Year 2016 was another record for
Amazon India when it surpassed Flipkart as the preferred online retail destination for metropolitan Indian
consumers.9

Snapdeal

Snapdeal started in 2010 as an e-coupon selling business, which offered customer discounts at hotels and
restaurants. Co-founders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal, however, decided to revamp their company as an
e-commence marketplace after a trip to China in 2011 and seeing the dynamic growth of the Chinese e-
tailer giant Alibaba. Valued at US$1 billion in June 2014, Snapdeal had relied heavily on funding from its
investors.

Following the Alibaba’s business model, Snapdeal offered five million products from over 30,000 sellers.
By May 2014, it had become the largest marketplace in India. Snapdeal opened more than 50 fulfilment
centres (FCs) across the country where it stored and shipped sellers’ products for a fee. It claimed to provide
the fastest deliveries in the Indian e-commerce space. Since its establishment, Snapdeal had also
expanded its footprint through several acquisitions and from 2012 to 2016, Snapdeal acquired six major
companies.
6 Mihir Dalal, & Anirban Sen. (2017, April 11). Flipkart raises $1.4 billion from eBay, Microsoft, Tencent, acquires eBay India.
Livemint. http://www.livemint.com/Companies/RjjyJUShEtiZ2DjgzUBczM/Flipkart-to-buy-eBay-India-as-part-of-14-billion-
fundrais.html
7 Piacentini, D. (2010). Customer focus builds global growth [Video]. eCorner.

Tina Seelig


8 Nikhill Pahwa. (May 2013). Amazon launches India marketplace at Amazon.in. Medianama.

Amazon Launches India Marketplace At Amazon.in


9 Satish Meena. (2016, July 21). Amazon has surpassed Flipkart as Indian consumers’ preferred online retail destination.
Forrester. https://go.forrester.com/blogs/16-07-21-
amazon_has_surpassed_flipkart_as_indian_consumers_preferred_online_retail_destination
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Snapdeal’s growth, however, stalled after the entry of Amazon India. Competition from Flipkart also
intensified after the latter’s acquisitions of Jabong and Myntra. Snapdeal rebranded itself and this enabled
it to sell 11 million units in a week during the festive season sale; nonetheless, it remained a distant third
after Flipkart sold 15.5 million units, and Amazon 15 million units.

ONLINE RETAIL IN INDIA: COMPETITIVE DYNAMICS (2013–2016)

Marketplace Model

Regulatory restrictions did not permit foreign online retailers in India to follow the inventory model in which
the products were actually owned by the intermediaries. This was to protect the millions of small shops
(commonly known as mom-and-pop stores) which comprised the retail sector, one of the most fragmented
in the world. Online players could only adopt the marketplace model in which they acted as a platform which
connected sellers with buyers.

When Flipkart first started, it followed a warehouse model. But since 2013, it had been a 100% B2B
(business to business) marketplace platform. This was due to regulations that forbid foreign single or multi-
brand retailers, or B2C (business to consumer) e-tail. Flipkart was legally not an Indian company because
it was registered in Singapore and a majority of its shareholders were foreigners. Flipkart had also created
a complex business structure by integrating its B2B operations with the marketplace model through a
subsidiary company called WS Retail. WS Retail was incorporated in 2009 and it became the dominant
supplier on Flipkart, allegedly acting as front to get around the marketplace restrictions. By the end of 2015,
Flipkart had about 100,000 sellers. One of key aspects of Flipkart’s model was to consolidate sellers in key
categories, such as mobile phones, large appliances, and men’s fashion – about 10 to 100 sellers were
driving a lot of businesses. In some categories, such as accessories, home and furnishings, it would be a
few thousand sellers driving the business as of the Year 2015.

Flipkart’s top competitor Amazon entered India as a pure marketplace player. Due to the same regulatory
restrictions, Amazon India could not replicate its US hybrid business of selling its own products and serving
as a selling platform.10 Similar to Flipkart’s WS Retail, Amazon Asia and Catamaran ventures jointly formed
Cloudtail as the biggest seller on the Amazon India platform. Amazon brought in their global experiences
in running a marketplace platform. To build its business, Amazon India started with attracting sellers to
provide a wide selection of products for buyers. It also provided conveniences to sellers, such as
onboarding help, verification tools to give insights, and fulfilment services. For example, Amazon provided
mobile studio services that supported the vendor in photographing all the products and making the products
ready for online sale. Amazon India also provided inventory reports, order reports, and trends. By the end
of 2017, Amazon India offered over 160 million products across hundreds of categories.

Snapdeal was well known as a pure marketplace player. In July 2016, Snapdeal tied up with other players,
such as Zomato, Redbus, Cleartrip, and Urbanclap, to cross-sell their offerings on its own platform, thereby
increasing stickiness for its customers.

As could be seen from the strategies of the three players, the marketplace model did not allow for
differentiation based on selling unique products since the retailers could not have their own offerings.
Instead, the race was about who could sign up more sellers and offer greater variety. Thus, there was an
emphasis on onboarding help and value-added services. But the fact remained that sellers wanted to be
on multiple platforms to increase their reach and also to reduce dependence on a single retail platform.
10 Harsimran Julka. (2014, January 9). FDI in online retail: Rift arises as MNCs seek 100% FDI, domestic cos insist on partial opening-
up. The Economic Times. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/internet/fdi-in-online-retail-rift-arises-as-mncs-seek-100-fdi-
domestic-cos-insist-on-partial-opening-up/articleshow/28569069.cms
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These realities and the homogenisation effect of the marketplace model were not lost on the retail platforms
and were key challenges that the platforms faced in India.

Another biggest concern with marketplace model was that the quality of service, shopping, delivery, and
overall customer satisfaction tended to be low. When any seller could sign up to be part of the marketplace,
faulty orders and fraud were common occurrences. In India, being in control of the product empowers a
player in the space with an unrivalled post-purchase shopper experience: having total transparency and
visibility to stock levels.

Logistics and Delivery

Logistics was key to the success of online retailers and the Indian context imposed many unique challenges.
In terms of transportation infrastructure, many of India’s roads were in poor condition and were overly
congested. Nearly 70% of India’s population lived in remote rural areas; in some cases, there was limited
access to major highways. Furthermore, addresses in India were notoriously difficult to find due to non-
sequential numbering, lack of street signs, and narrow, winding streets.

Thus, the challenge for online retailers was how to enable shipping from anywhere and in the time frame
promised to the customers. The model that emerged, which all the three players adopted, was in-house
logistics and maximising each node of the supply chain such that the store, warehouse, and distribution
centre all became fulfilment hubs in order to minimise inventory and maximise customer service.

Right from the beginning, Flipkart invested in building its own logistics networks and capabilities called
Ekart. In fact, Ekart formed the backbone of Flipkart’s business and played a vital role in propelling the
company to its premier position by providing the last-mile connectivity.

The largest tech team we have is in supply chain, which builds automation, systems for
warehousing, logistics, procurement, trip planning and delivery prediction.11

Binny Bansal, Co-founder, Flipkart

Once the customer had completed a transaction, it was the responsibility of the back-end to “connect the
dots”. Back-end operations at Flipkart were initially based on the consignment model: goods were procured
from suppliers on demand, based on the orders received through the website. Customer issues, such as
delivery delays or faulty products, however, motivated the company to open its own warehouses, providing
long-term storage for the sellers. Flipkart completely changed to the warehouse model as the scale of
operations grew. The first warehouse was in Bangalore and later more were built in other major cities.
Logistics at Flipkart comprised three components: warehouse, distribution centres, and order management
and delivery.

Flipkart had initiated its own supply-chain management system since 2009 to provide warehouse solutions
and logistical reach to the most remote corners of India. The company also tapped into offline networks by
joining a clutch of firms, such as Myntra and Urban Ladder, to help its business scale further. Flipkart also
set up a chain of physical outlets and products were also offered on its digital platform.

In addition, the company leveraged Ekart as a courier service. Ekart had always offered warehousing
solutions, end-to-end logistics, and supply-chain capabilities to external clients through several third-party
contracts. By end of 2016, Flipkart utilised 50% of Ekart’s services while the remaining 50% was used to
generate revenue from external clients and businesses.

11 See Note 1.
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Amazon India, on the other hand, started its business in gaining sellers and enabling the sellers’
conveniences. Amazon India considered logistics to be its core capability and had invested a huge sum in
this area. With a total storage capacity of close to 7.5 million cubic feet, its FCs met the growing needs of
its growing seller base in the country. Amazon India had the largest storage space for an e-commerce
company in India with its FCs operational across 10 states in 2016.

The company was committed to investing in their fulfilment and logistics capability to enable and empower
sellers to serve customers nationally at lower costs. Ever since Amazon launched its services in India, it
had introduced many initiatives to benefit the sellers, such as education and skilling programme called
Seller University, and Fulfilment By Amazon (FBA).

Through this FBA service, sellers in India could benefit from a robust and scalable platform to sell their
products online through Amazon’s expertise in fulfilment, reliable delivery, and customer service. FBA gave
sellers access to warehouse space, picking, packing, delivery, and return services. Logistics costs from
Easy Ship (an assisted shipping service that made it easy for sellers to ship products across India) and
Amazon Tatkal (a service-on-wheels to help small- and medium-sized businesses [SMBs] get online within
60 minutes). Smaller FCs were built by Amazon especially for India, and they focused on smaller cities to
increase its reach to differentiate itself. By 2017, Amazon had 41 FCs across 13 states with the largest
storage capacity in the e-commerce industry in India.

Amazon India also built their supply-chain capacity through online channels. As described by Amazon, India
was liberally peppered with small shops – more than 14 million of them, with the overwhelming majority
smaller than 600 square feet. These so-called mom-and-pop stores typically featured high prices and
limited inventories; but in many rural communities, they were the only stores in town. The government’s
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) restrictions were designed in part to protect these convenience-store
owners.

When Amazon.in debuted, many Indian mom-and-pop store owners feared the online behemoth would put
them out of business. Instead, Amazon India enlisted them as partners in its delivery platform. In small
villages and remote areas where few people had Internet access, residents could go to their local store and
use the owner’s Internet connection to browse and select goods from Amazon.in. Store owners recorded
their orders, alerted customers when their products were delivered to the store, collected the cash payment,
and passed along the money – minus a handling fee – to Amazon India. And store owners reported
increased sales of their own products while customers were on-site.

Snapdeal, though with smaller investments in supply chain, was no less a player when it came to delivery.
Vulcan Express, which managed about half of Snapdeal’s deliveries and shipments, replaced the company
GoJavas as the primary logistics partner. GoJavas operated in more than 100 cities, and offered logistics
and supply-chain solutions to retail and consumer companies.

Snapdeal was recognised for its fastest delivery time across the country in 2016.12 Snapdeal built up a
capacity to fulfil 1,000 orders a minute, with the specific goal of being able to fulfil 10,000 orders a minute
at peak time.

The recognition of our best-in-class delivery experience by PwC and Red Seer is a resounding
validation of our efforts to build robust logistical capabilities using both technology and
partnerships.13
Jayant Sood, Chief Customer Experience Officer, Snapdeal
12 Nivedita Bhattacharjee. (2016, May 10). Snapdeal beats Amazon, Flipkart on delivery time promise: Report. TechinAsia.
https://www.techinasia.com/snapdeal-is-fastest
13 India Infoline News Service. (2016, May 10). Snapdeal promises and delivers the fastest in the industry, report PwC and
RedSeer. https://www.indiainfoline.com/article/print/news-top-story/snapdeal-promises-and-delivers-the-fastest-in-the-industry-
report-pwc-and-redseer-116051000414_1.html
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https://www.pwc.com/id/en/publications/assets/cips/2015-16-outlook-for-the-retail-and-consumer-products-sector-in-asia.pdf
https://www.techinasia.com/snapdeal-is-fastest

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And not just impressive in delivery speed, the Red Seer report indicated that Snapdeal also had 99%
delivery accuracy, indicating that 99% of the orders get delivered in the time committed by the company at
the time of order booking.14 This was the result of adding 2 million square feet of warehousing space spread
over 25 cities and the result of building 63 FCs to increase its reach. It partnered with over 20 specialised
logistics companies, creating a delivery network that reached 28,000 pin codes.

Customer Centricity

Over the years, Flipkart introduced in 2010 several customer-centric innovations, starting with delivery
options, such as cash-on delivery (CoD) and doorstep credit/debit card payments upon delivery. This was
not an easy game to execute, since most courier-partners were not prepared either in terms of systems or
capability to support it. The move worked for Flipkart. And delivering customer satisfaction did not end there.
In the same year, Flipkart pioneered and established a dedicated outbound logistics service to fulfil
customer wishes, all the way to the last mile. The prototype of what would eventually become eKart was
launched.

Flipkart also instituted a 30-day return guarantee for its products, the first of its kind in the country. An
integral part of every shopping experience was to get a physical sense of the products one buys. In 2011,
Flipkart introduced the Easy Returns Policy. If customers were unhappy with a product purchased from
Flipkart or if a product was damaged on arrival, they could easily return or replace it, with no questions
asked.

As shoppers became increasingly familiar with the idea of buying online, Flipkart took customer satisfaction
a step further. With the launch of Next Day Delivery launched in 2013, customers no longer had to wait to
get their hands on what they had ordered; it was an innovation that made shopping that much more personal.
Later in 2014, Same Day Delivery was provided to their customers too.

In 2015, many parts of the country still did not have Internet connectivity and responsive websites were still
taking shape. To make shopping accessible to the farthest ends of India, Flipkart launched Flipkart Lite,
one of the world’s first and fastest progressive web apps. Flipkart Lite combined the experience of mobile-
app browsing and the convenience of web browsing.

Flipkart launched No Cost Equated Monthly Instalments (EMI) in 2016, an innovative payment option for
online shoppers, which had no extra costs and no hidden charges. Now India had access to high-value
products, such as televisions, refrigerators, and premium smartphones, without worrying about budget. And
to make it even more affordable, Flipkart launched easy exchange offers on old products.

This customer-centric move permitted consumers to be more and more open to online shopping, and
Flipkart’s efforts were paying off. The competition had not gone easy for Flipkart, however, as its top rival
Amazon India surpassed Flipkart as the preferred online retail destination for metropolitan Indian
consumers. In fact, the customer-centric approach was the tactic that helped Amazon India to become
India’s most trusted e-commerce brand. The company claimed to be customer obsessed.

The three pillars of their customer-centric strategy were to give customers a great selection of products, to
create great value for customers whether it was in price or quick delivery, and to provide convenience in
shopping. Over 150 million products across hundreds of categories were offered by the end of 2016. To
provide convenience to the customers, Amazon India ensured their mobile app was fast and easy to use,
as it contributed over 85% of the traffic on Amazon. Over 100 million downloads were achieved by 2016.

14 Ritu Kochar (2016, May 10). Snapdeal emerges out as the fastest of them all. Entrepreneur India.
https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/275498

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For Amazon India, sellers were also considered as their customers, and their innovation programmes were
designed to make the selling and shopping experience better for both sellers and buyers. For example,
innovations such as KiranaNow, Project Udaan, and Amazon Business received great feedback since their
respective launches. Amazon India also launched the Global Selling Program, which empowered 5,000
SMBs to sell their products in global markets. KiranaNow was a way to connect customers with Kirana
stores using technology and deliveries could be made within 2 hours. Project Udaan was an assisted
shopping service for the digitally marginalised and was introduced in Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, and
Maharashtra, where trainings were provided to help customers and to handle shipments, returns, and some
amount of customer service. AmazonBusiness.in was a unique service intended for very small businesses
that want to buy their weekly supplies at wholesale prices. Some of these initiatives had gone global too.

Snapdeal too was moving away from the Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV) game and trying to win more
customers, especially after Amazon India had pushed it one rank below and replaced them on the e-
commerce leader board. Keeping customer centricity at the core, Snapdeal provided value-added services,
such as next-day delivery across over 2,000 pin codes and easy mobile exchange across over 30 cities. It
kept its promise of delivering authentic products purchases by only selling through brand authorised sellers.
Most electronical products were available with initiatives, such as Exciting Exchange Offers, Zero Interest
EMI schemes, and attractive discounts with credit cards.

Figure 2: Overall ELI scores of Flipkart, Amazon, and Snapdeal from 2016 to 2017

95 97
95 9287 93
95 92
66 80 80
73
0
20
40
60
80
100
120
Q2 (2016) Q4 (2016) Q1 (2017) Q3 (2017)
Overall ELI Score for 2016: Q2, Q4 and 2017: Q1, Q3
FLIPKART AMAZON INDIA SNAPDEAL

Figure 2 was the Customer Satisfaction Reports15,16,17,18 produced by the Red Seer E-tailing Leadership
Index (ELI) of these three companies for Years 2016 and 2017.

15 Mihir Dalal. (2016, September 5). Improved customer service keeps Flipkart on top of e-commerce rankings. Livemint.
https://www.livemint.com/Companies/EVDD2YHyjgQ5lnOnj5sDDL/Improved-customer-servicekeeps-Flipkart-on-top-of-
ecommerc.html. This provides the ELI Score 2016 Q2.
16 Anirban Sen. (2017, January 19). Flipkart remains most popular e-commerce brand in India: RedSeer report. Livemint.
https://www.livemint.com/Companies/Fr3TRBvk0Cy0bjlUCg1XrJ/Flipkart-remains-most-popular-ecommerce-brand-in-India-
Red.html. This provides the ELI Score 2016 Q4.
17 Anirban Sen. (2017, April 25). Amazon catches up with Flipkart on Redseer e-commerce rankings. Livemint.
https://www.livemint.com/Companies/mOsktQ2ZuluAqscCHiCidO/Amazon-India-shares-top-spotwith-Flipkart-on-etailer-
leade.html. This provides the ELI Score 2017 Q1.
18 Redseer. (2017). RedSeer etailing Leadership Index (ELI) Q3-2017. Redseer website.
http://redseer.com/leadershipIndex/redseer-etailing-leadership-index-eli-q3-2017. This provides the ELI Score 2017 Q3.
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THE NEW DISRUPTIVE FORCES

New Regulation and the Rise of Private Labels

The new regulation in April 2016, 100% FDI in e-commerce were permitted in India, had been shaping up
a new competitive landscape.

The Indian laws stated that 100% FDI was permitted to operate under marketplace model, but not for the
inventory model. Due to the law restrictions, instead of selling directly, Flipkart granted their licenses to
different sellers to distribute their private labels. Flipkart created brands and those brands would be licensed
to various sellers, based on specifications directed by the company, the ownership of the brand would rest
with Flipkart.

This model was being seen as profitable because there was less capital requirement and also gave certain
level of control towards client experience. Also, private labels became one of the popular ways to control
the inventory, quality, and costs. It was also inspired by the government’s Make In India initiative,19 which
was launched in September 2014 by Prime Minister Narenda Modi with the goal of encouraging
multinational and domestic companies to manufacture their products in India.

After its first entry into the private label business in 2012, Flipkart dissolved its brands of digital music Flyte,
consumer electronics DigiFlip and home appliance Citron. Learning from its past failure experiences,
Flipkart again launched a private label Flipkart Smart Buy in December 2016, a new category that offered
an exclusive range of quality everyday products. In early 2017, the company also launched Divastri, its first
private fashion label. In September 2017, Flipkart launched its in-house and made-for-Indian brand Billion,
and its large appliance brand MarQ.20

Flipkart is constantly innovating to deliver the best e-commerce experience for Indian customers,
which includes access to quality products at affordable prices. Billion is our newest such
innovation, offering products designed specifically for Indian shoppers.21

Sachin Bansal, Co-founder and Executive Chairman, Flipkart

Flipkart’s flagship sales event in September 2017, Big Billion Days, witnessed a surge in demand for its
products across various segments. The company was gearing up for the festive season by offering the
private labels, hoping for the sales to double the 2016 total sales.

As for the benefits of profitability and quality control, Amazon India also learnt how to loop around the legal
system. Like Flipkart, Amazon India extended their sale’s certificate to the other sellers, including Cloudtail,
to distribute their private labels. 22With its global experience of inventory management, Amazon also
believed that private labels were the only factor that could assure profit for marketplaces, for which sellers’
commissions were much lower than logistic costs. 23 Private-label business at Amazon had been very
successful due to factors, such as product uniqueness and identity, control over pricing and design, cost of
production, and the control over assortment and categories based on consumer demand. The main driver
19 Make In India. (2017). Make in India: The vision, new processes, sectors, infrastructure and mindset. Make In India website.
http://www.makeinindia.com/article/-/v/make-in-india-reason-vision-for-the-initiative
20 Gadgets 360. Flipkart unveils MarQ Private label brand for TVs, ACs, washing machines, and other large appliances.
http://gadgets.ndtv.com/internet/news/flipkart-marq-private-label-brand-launched-for-large-appliances-1759043
21 Yourstory. (2017, July 31). Flipkart launches private brand “Billion”. https://yourstory.com/2017/07/flipkart-launches-private-brand-
billion
22 Rasul Bailay. (2015, March 19). Flipkart seeks to cut dependence on WS Retail to focus on marketplace model.
http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/services/retail/flipkart-seeks-to-cut-dependence-on-ws-retail-to-focus-on-
marketplace-model/articleshow/46615794.cms
23 Jubin Mehta. (2015, June 11). Is private label the way to go for e-commerce companies to turn profitable? Yourstory.
https://yourstory.com/2015/06/private-label-e-commerce-companies
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This document is authorized for use only by Jia ye Li in MIS 441 Summer 2022 taught by Carlos Torres, Washington State University from May 2022 to Jun 2022.
http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/services/retail/flipkart-seeks-to-cut-dependence-on-ws-retail-to-focus-on-marketplace-model/articleshow/46615794.cms
http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/services/retail/flipkart-seeks-to-cut-dependence-on-ws-retail-to-focus-on-marketplace-model/articleshow/46615794.cms
https://yourstory.com/2015/06/private-label-e-commerce-companies/
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was margin related and Amazon India tried to eliminate the intermediary to save on distribution and
marketing cost. In addition, the availability of product from a single source further promoted recognition and
loyalty from the customers.

With Amazon’s early development of in-house products, such as the Kindle e-readers to Echo wireless
speakers, Amazon was able to build up its reputation in terms of their in-house technology and marketing
strength, thus enabling Amazon to gain a high standing in the e-commerce market. One example of
Amazon’s in-house branding success was the Echo brand which had sold more than 8 million units since
the year of launch. Amazon launched its private apparel label in September 2016 in India, and this label
subsequently included fast-moving consuming goods (FMCG), kitchen appliances and products, and décor,
amongst other verticals. In September 2017, Amazon India launched their exclusive E smartphone 10.or
to its Indian market. It came pre-loaded with Amazon apps for shopping, and with Kindle App and Prime
Video.

Private labels seemed to be one way forward for online marketplaces to take their business to the next
level. Even Snapdeal, which had intended to be a pure marketplace player, announced in September 2016
that it had set up a wholesale unit to buy products upfront.24 The move helped Snapdeal to have better
control over its inventory and service level, and it was an attitude shift from a pure marketplace model. In
2017, Snapdeal extended its partnership with Asus for the launch of Asus Zenfone 3s Max smartphones
on its platform. Bahl said at event at IIM-Calcutta on 15 November 2017, “In the next few months, we will
make some big moves in fashion. We will not limit ourselves to selling other people’s products only”. 25

Leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Innovation

Data, talent and infrastructure are critical factors to be successful in AI – and Flipkart has all three
in abundance.26

Sachin Bansal, Co-founder and Chairman, Flipkart

Customer-centric approach was and would always be the focus for Flipkart. How would the corporate
chieftains on the drawing board anticipate the customer demands of tomorrow? That was the question
facing Flipkart. The answer was AI, which was fast-becoming the nervous system of the company. With the
technology disruption in the e-commerce sector, Flipkart ramped up its capabilities in analytics and AI, and
that gave it an edge in the battle for growth.

AI for India

To enhance customer experience, Flipkart was deeply committed to its AI as a function. Identifying new
opportunities in accentuating customer experience, understanding customer behaviour, and improving
customer segmentation were core to Flipkart’s analytics team. Some of the innovations that contributed to
driving superior customer experience involved machine learning and statistical modelling.

Flipkart adopted a data-driven approach to evaluate their products and listing quality in real time. Their
search algorithms not only helped customers search for the desired product, but it also made sure that the
best quality listings were shown.

24 Shrutika Verma. (2016, September 19). Snapdeal sets up wholesale unit, in shift from true marketplace model. Livemint.
https://www.livemint.com/Companies/jqj1whY4viLABIKH5eNuAK/Snapdeal-sets-up-wholesale-unit-in-shift-from-true-
marketpl.html
25 Hector, D. T. (2016, November 17). What Snapdeal CEO Kunal Bahl’s $100 mn investment plan in fashion means. Techcircle.
http://techcircle.vccircle.com/2016/11/17/what-snapdeal-ceo-kunal-bahls-100-mn-investment-plan-in-fashion-means
26 Srivastav. T. (2017, December 21) Flipkart unveils ‘AIforIndia’ programme to drive innovation, The Drum,
http://www.thedrum.com/news/2017/12/21/flipkart-unveils-aiforindia-programme-drive-innovation
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A new unit, AI for India, used AI technologies to mine the consumer data that Flipkart had gathered over
the last decade to strengthen its business offerings. AI for India could help Flipkart provide its existing
customers with better insights, as well as attract new buyers. For example, the company would use natural
language processing – a stream of AI related to programming computers to process natural human
language data – to cater to people who were not proficient in English. This could go a long way in getting
to more users in smaller cities. Flipkart set up this unit to use AI for a highly localised and home-grown
approach to problem-solving in India.

In 2017, Flipkart partnered with Microsoft to provide consumers in India with a better online shopping
service. Flipkart adopted Microsoft Azure as its exclusive public cloud platform. The company would
leverage AI, machine learning, and analytics capabilities in Azure, such as Cortana Intelligence Suite and
Power BI, to optimise its data for innovative merchandising, advertising, marketing, and customer service.

Project Mira, a shopping assistant that guided shoppers with relevant questions, conversational filters,
shopping ideas, offers, and trending collections, was developed as a response to Flipkart’s reported 10–
11% return rate. Flipkart’s President of Product Ram Papatla claimed that the company studied its
customers and came to the conclusion that a large percentage of their returns could have been prevented
with one or two simple questions asked before customers made their purchase. For example, if a buyer
came to Flipkart searching for an air-conditioner, Project Mira enabled Flipkart to be able to ask the buyer
about what kind of air-conditioner, what size, what brand, among other things. It was designed to help
customers find the exact product.

Flipkart also expanded its presence in the Silicon Valley in the US where talents and infrastructure were
mature. F7 Labs, Flipkart’s US-based research arm in Palo Alto, was established to focus on AI-based
products by making use of the Silicon Valley research facilities and resources.

Flipkart, however, had a number of AI problems that were made more complicated in the Indian context.
For example, colour recognition could be different as there was Gulaabi (a deeper shade of red and pink)
in India. The difference between a kurta (long) and a kurti (short) was the length of the tops that ladies wear.
Those are things that had to be taught to the AI. F7 Labs had made progress using natural language
processing to understand the specific kind of colloquial English which was commonly used in India.

Besides, in the earlier innovation of No Cost EMI, Flipkart had been also experimenting with features that
had removed the hassle or friction from making a payment after each purchase. A feature would be Buy
Now, Pay Later for select customers.

Amazon’s adaption to India by utilising AI

With US$2 billion of investments already pumped into its India business operations, Amazon was committed
to long-term investment in technology and infrastructure in India, of which AI was a critical technology.

Amazon India used machine learning and AI in a number of areas. For example, catalogue quality had
been lacking, and there were poor-quality images and missing attributes, such as brand and colour. The
company used AI and machine learning to extract missing attribute information from product titles and
images.

Product recommendation was another area. In categories such as shoes and other apparel, different brands
often had different size conventions. Amazon India used machine learning to recommend the product size
that would best fit a customer when the customer visited a product page. The algorithms leveraged past
customer purchase and returns data (e.g., product size was too large/small) to infer the best size for the
customers.

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Address correction was an applied area of AI. Addresses in India were not well structured and users often
entered incorrect addresses (e.g., wrong pin code) or addresses with missing information (e.g., missing
street name). The company used machine learning techniques to detect junk addresses, compute address
quality scores, correct city pin-code mismatches, and provide suggestions to users to correct wrong
addresses.

Leveraging machine learning, Amazon India also enhanced its delivery service. In 2017, Amazon’s latest
logistics approach involved delivery of orders from rival’s platforms, such as Flipkart and Snapdeal.27

The e-commerce platform is made of hundreds of software services that work in concert to deliver
functionality ranging from recommendations to order fulfilment to inventory tracking.28

Bezos, Founder, Amazon

Snapdeal boosts its AI capacity outside India

Snapdeal established its data sciences centre in San Carlos, California in 2016. Big data and advanced
analytics was leveraged to develop their AI capacity by looking to “optimise the operational efficiencies
using data-driven algorithms, data analytics, and predictive modelling”,29 according to an official statement
release.

In September 2016, Snapdeal acquired Silicon Valley-based startup Reduce Data, a programmatic display
advertising platform. Reduce Data’s platform used AI, real-time data, and other tools to help brands deliver
advertising strategies for consumers across platforms and devices.

With a richer understanding of the customers by the capturing and integrating of the information on their
buying behaviour, the company hoped to realise their Habit Commerce Vision of 20-million daily transacting
users by the Year 2020.

Enhancing Data Analytics and Advantaged Technology to Improve Logistics

Underlying all of Flipkart’s innovations (Figure 3) was data. Flipkart’s data sciences team analysed
terabytes of data in real-time, built dashboards during sales events so the business team could make quick
decisions, and helped the company understand the rapidly evolving nature of the e-commerce customer.
Flipkart’s data team worked on everything from dissecting brand awareness to predicting user response to
a product, understanding user tastes and preferences, and detecting fraud. Flipkart had accumulated a
large number of customer-related data.

27 Menezes, R. (2017, August 4). Amazon to deliver Flipkart & Snapdeal orders to control Indian ecommerce. Indian Online Seller.
http://indianonlineseller.com/2017/08/amazon-to-deliver-flipkart-snapdeal-orders-to-capture-indian-ecommerce
28 Vinnie Mirchandani. (2012). The new technology elite. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. See p. 324.
29 Biswarup Gooptu. (2016, May 30). Snapdeal establishes its US-based data sciences centre in California. ETtech.
https://tech.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/internet/snapdeal-establishes-its-us-based-data-sciences-centre-in-
california/52501836
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Figure 3: Flipkart’s Top Innovations

CoD 2010
30 Day
return/Easy
Return
2011
Next day
delivery
2013
Same Day
Delivery
2014
Flipkart Lite
2015
No-Cost EMI
2016
Buy Now Pay
Later 2017

Source: Created by the authors. Flipkart Stories. (2017, November 28). 10 years of Flipkart – A timeline of milestones.
https://stories.flipkart.com/10-years-timeline-milestones

Most of Flipkart’s innovations were focused on these areas: How easily could a customer access the site?
How easily could they browse through the site and find products that they want to buy? How could their
decision to buy become an easy one? How simple could the process of paying for a product become? How
quickly the product could physically be delivered to the customer?

With Flipkart, customer-centric processes were created by harnessing order, forecast, point-of-sale,
channel, and social data to sense both short-term and long-term demands. Flipkart believed that connecting
this data with R&D, manufacturing, and supply processes would enable the production and delivery of the
most profitable solutions and services to be given to the customer. At any given point in time, Flipkart had
about 100 experiments running. Some might be the result of its data team having identified patterns while
others might be an initiative that the tech team was leading. Ram Papatla oversaw them all. He believed
that constant experimentation with their rich customer data would be the name of the game in Indian e-
commerce for the next few years.

Delivery efficiency had always been a high priority and this was a complex task in a country where the
relative absence of zoning rules and urban planning had resulted in extremely complex and unconventional
addresses. Flipkart took advantage of the new data-dominated era and in May 2016, Flipkart partnered
with Mapunity, a social technology which brought together public information about governance and urban
development. This marked the debut of Flipkart Maps. The integration of Mapunity technology with Flipkart
logistics arm Ekart enabled Ekart to gather and ascertain accurate details on addresses, shorter routes,
and more efficient ways to reach consumers. Ekart gathered data and intelligence to the delivery address
accurately. This was a further step from its strategic move in December 2015, when Flipkart acquired a 34%
stake in Delhi-based digital mapping firm MapMyIndia. Binny Bansal mentioned that the integration of
comprehensive and accurate location data would allow them to deliver a personalised experience to
customers. 30The company also introduced services such as real-time shipment tracking and theft
minimisation.

Flipkart’s rivals Amazon India and Snapdeal were also busy to leverage data to solve the logistics issues
to improve customers’ online experiences.

To enable its ability of handling the logistics operation, data analytics became one of the top priorities for
Amazon India. Real-time link with manufacturers to track inventory demands based on data to determine
delivery options (same day/next day) to customers. Big data assisted in the selection of warehouses based
off the proximity of the vendors to cut down on distribution costs by 10–40%. Predictive analytics was used
30 Arka Bhattacharya. (2016, May 5). Flipkart launches its map services, ties up with MapUnity. The Economic Times.
https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/services/retail/flipkart-launches-its-map-services-ties-up-with-
mapunity/articleshow/52127530.cms
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to predict the number of warehouses needed and the capacity that each warehouse should have. 31
Utilisation of big data analytics in the supply-chain management was heavily engaged to control inventory
of over a billion products in 200 FCs.32 To ease the pain point of the big sellers, Easy Ship was launched.
It was for sellers who wished to stock products in their own warehouses but only needed help with shipping
and delivery. With its delivery service expansion, Amazon India had over 65% orders from Tier II and III
cities and towns by 2017. There were more than 19,000 pin codes reached through Amazon India’s logistics
network.

Considering the huge amount of data that Amazon India churns every second, they also built a Data Mart
which held data sets on customers, their preferences, selling history, seller’s details, and market trends on
products. Amazon’s IT teams were united globally on one platform. This was a machine at play, with
systems and processes honed over many years.

While Flipkart and Amazon busied themselves in building their technology team, Snapdeal was again
acknowledged for its fastest delivery in the country in early 2017.

One area Snapdeal will focus on is to cut delivery times by investing in better data analytics and
demand forecasting.33

Rohit Bansal, Co-founder, Snapdeal

In early 2015, Snapdeal acquired Unicommerce, an e-commerce management software and fulfilment
solution provider. The software helped Snapdeal to manage vendors, inventory, warehouse, shipment, and
returns. Snapdeal had already acquired and invested in 10 companies the year earlier, almost all of them
in the field of technology and payments.34

Vulcan Express was founded in 2013 as an end-to-end logistics and supply-chain solution to manage
Snapdeal’s shipments. Snapdeal invested in Vulcan’s infrastructure across the top 10 metros and 80 key
cities strategically connected to satellite towns in Tier II and III cities, which would allow businesses to
deliver an enhanced customer experience to the farthest ends of the country.35 In 2017, the company’s
services included transportation, warehouse management, line haul, last-minute distribution, quality control,
inventory tracking, and reverse logistics.

Omni-channel Retailing

With its net worth of US$15 billion, Flipkart had to constantly innovate and build their presence outside of
only being an online retail. The focus of the digital transformation was improving the omni-channel customer
experience. Through this experience, one could buy through numerous channels at any time in any location
on any device. One could also check out the products from the comfort of their home via a personal
computer or mobile device, then buy it in a physical store. Or one could check the items in the store and
then get a better deal online. To fully leverage technology to improve customers’ experience, Flipkart
expanded and focused on mobile and offline retailing.

31 Ann. (2016, January 26). How Amazon uses its own cloud to process vast, multidimensional datasets. DZone.
https://dzone.com/articles/big-data-analytics-delivering-business-value-at-am
32 Neha Uttam. (2017). The edge factor – May 2017. CGN website. http://india.cgnglobal.com/the_edge_factor/May_2017
33 Himank Sharma. (December 2015). India’s Snapdeal to invest in logistics to speed up delivery.
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-snapdeal-india/indias-snapdeal-to-invest-in-logistics-to-speed-up-delivery-
idUSKBN0UB12T20151228
34 Gaurav Sangwani. (2015, December 29). Snapdeal to increase investment in logistics. Iamwire.
http://www.iamwire.com/2015/12/snapdeal-increase-investment-logistics/129302
35 Sangeetha Chengappa, & K. Giriprakash. (2017, June 21). Flipkart aims to bag Snapdeal for $400 m. The Hindu Business Line.
http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/info-tech/flipkart-aims-to-bag-snapdeal-for-400-m/article9732279.ece
For the exclusive use of J. Li, 2022.
This document is authorized for use only by Jia ye Li in MIS 441 Summer 2022 taught by Carlos Torres, Washington State University from May 2022 to Jun 2022.
https://dzone.com/articles/big-data-analytics-delivering-business-value-at-am
http://india.cgnglobal.com/the_edge_factor/May_2017
http://www.iamwire.com/2015/12/snapdeal-increase-investment-logistics/129302
http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/info-tech/flipkart-aims-to-bag-snapdeal-for-400-m/article9732279.ece

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The number of Indians with mobile phones outnumbered those with personal computers. Mary Meeker’s
Internet trend report showed that more than 40% of online sales was on smartphones. Smartphone users
had crossed 300 million in 2016 and digital shopping over mobile phone was showing more than 60%.36 It
was expected to see revenue of US$120 billion by 2020. The increase would be mainly on the back of
young demographic profile, rising Internet penetration, and in relative terms, economic performance.37

In November 2015, Flipkart launched Flipkart Lite, one of the world’s first and fastest progressive web apps,
which combined the experience of mobile app browsing and the convenience of web browsing. Flipkart’s
Azure was also developed to improve its shopping experience, including offline customers.

India was home to an estimated 12 million mom-and-pop stores and they dominated the country’s retailing
business with sales of an estimated US$600 million. Flipkart had 30 experience centres in 19 cities. It was
believed that the setting up of experience centres would encourage customers whom were not inclined to
Internet shopping to view and use the product physically. When the customer was convinced on making a
purchase, the shop assistant would help the customer purchase the product with Flipkart’s mobile app.
Furthermore, customers would have the option to pick up the item from the store itself or have it delivered.
Also, Flipkart partnered with Spice Hotspot, a mobile chain retailer, for customers to experience an
exclusive range of phones only offered on Flipkart app in selected Spice Hotspot retailers.

In July 2017, Flipkart was in talks with Giordano, the Hong Kong–based global retailer for its offline
expansion plan. As per this licensing deal, Flipkart would set up Giordano’s offline stores besides selling it
online through their own e-commerce platform. It would sub-franchisee these offline brand stores to others.

There was another urgent reason to rapidly expand Flipkart’s omni-channel retailing: Amazon was charging
ahead in India. Amazon India’s purchase of Emvantage in February 2016 was a crucial move to gain ground
in mobile payments. In April 2017, Amazon India rapidly amassed a large share of the mobile commerce
market in India, accounting for 30.3% of the country’s mobile users as compared to 30.7% for Flipkart.38
Amazon was the first one who designed the most light-weight app to suit the low-end smartphones. The
app which was originally 17 megabytes in size was reduced to a mere 2 megabytes. Near automated sign-
ups for the first-time mobile users was also introduced. Amazon India had the ability to analyse reviews and
to search on the mobiles and websites. Amazon India also utilised AI to analyse the search records to
identify what customers tried to find but were not able to.

Amazon also channelled out to the physical shops. Since 2014, Amazon had been operating an offline
shopping Project Udaan. It linked a partnership with the rural e-commence firm StoreKing. Amazon added
1,000 more outlets as part of its Udaan initiative. Under this project, Amazon India trained local
entrepreneurs in small towns, cities, and in certain urban areas with poor Internet connectivity. While local
entrepreneurs persuaded consumers to buy products, Amazon India delivered those products with the
entrepreneurs taking a cut from the transaction. In 2017, Amazon India’s store programme (I Have Space)
reached 225 cities with nearly 17,500 pick-up points. It was a programme that involved any kind of physical
shops working together as pickup points for the customers.

Through AmazonNow and Amazon Pantry, customers were able to shop for groceries and other essentials
from the ecosystem of their local stores and get them delivered within 90 minutes or next day, respectively.

36 First Post. (2017, January 25). Number of smartphone users crosses 300 million in India as shipments grew 18 percent.
http://www.firstpost.com/tech/news-analysis/number-of-smartphone-users-crosses-300-million-in-india-as-shipments-grew-18-
percent-3696457.html
37 First Post. (2016, May 9). India’s e-commerce sector to see $120 billion revenue by 2020, claims study.
http://www.firstpost.com/tech/news-analysis/indias-e-commerce-sector-to-see-120-billion-revenue-by-2020-claims-study-
3681427.html
38 O’Shea, D. (2017, April 17). Amazon gains on Flipkart in India’s mobile commerce market. Retaildive.
http://www.retaildive.com/news/amazon-gains-on-flipkart-in-indias-mobile-commerce-market/440618
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Snapdeal had also geared up for its mobile strategy too. In April 2015, Snapdeal bought out the mobile
recharge company FreeCharge for US$450 million and launched its mobile wallet through its utility
payments unit. Due to its late entry on the mobile strategy, Snapdeal could not catch up with the competitors
and sold FreeCharge in 2017.

The omni-channel strategy was emphasised by Snapdeal with the intention of bringing consumers to local
retail stores.

Almost 99% of shopping is still offline in India because customers still want to touch-and-feel,
which can only happen at offline stores. So, that way you can go after the 99% of the business.
My lens is on how you can make these offline retailers more successful. 39

Kunal Behl, Co-founder and CEO, Snapdeal

The company rolled out plans for its omni-channel business and an India-specific software platform was
pushed out to help local retailers go online. The platform helped consumers find any particular brand or
product in physical stores within a radius. Consumers had the option to buy online from Snapdeal and the
items were delivered from the neighbourhood store or bought it directly from a store through online guidance.
Snapdeal provided technology and logistics to retailers who wanted to adopt an omni-channel approach
with Snapdeal.

Our teams have worked tirelessly to build a seamless omni-channel platform which we call
“Janus”, referring to the Roman God of beginnings, transitions, gates, doors, and doorways. This
platform will blur the lines between offline and online retail, demonstrating that both channels can
act as gateways to each other. The synergies between online and offline commerce in India will
be unlocked like never before.40

Kunal Bahl, Co-founder and CEO, Snapdeal

It also let users access value-added and expert services as a part of their purchase, including demonstration,
installation, activation, or returns at a store near them. Customers would be able to procure products within
two hours of ordering and to access these services at the nearest store anywhere across 70 cities in India
if they chose the pickup option.

To keep up with the game and address customers’ needs, Snapdeal addressed their omni-channel
approach and stressed the importance of the third leg of the e-commerce machine: fast delivery. Half of its
orders were shipped to through its FCs that reduced time to delivery, while improving homogeneity of
packaging. Snapdeal picked up the supply-chain company GoJavas that was present in more than 100
Indian cities.

THE ROAD AHEAD

With the rapid development and success of e-commerce in India, there were opportunities and challenges.
In fact, there was much to consider to stay ahead of the game as these three giants battled for market
share.

39 Rasul Bailay, & Chaitali Chakravarty. (2015, June 11). Snapdeal’s omni-channel strategy may bring consumers to local retail stores.
Economic Times. http://m.economictimes.com/industry/services/retail/snapdeals-omni-channel-strategy-may-bring-consumers-to-
local-retail-stores/amp_articleshow/47621463.cms
40 Jai Vardhan. (2015, October 5). Snapdeal launches omni-channel platform for retailers, consumers can procure products within 2
hours. Yourstory. https://yourstory.com/2015/10/snapdeal-omni-channel
For the exclusive use of J. Li, 2022.
This document is authorized for use only by Jia ye Li in MIS 441 Summer 2022 taught by Carlos Torres, Washington State University from May 2022 to Jun 2022.
http://m.economictimes.com/industry/services/retail/snapdeals-omni-channel-strategy-may-bring-consumers-to-local-retail-stores/amp_articleshow/47621463.cms
http://m.economictimes.com/industry/services/retail/snapdeals-omni-channel-strategy-may-bring-consumers-to-local-retail-stores/amp_articleshow/47621463.cms

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e-Payment and Consumer Ecosystem

Digital payment was expected to be the future way of paying. In 2017, more and more consumers were
likely to use online or mobile wallets to make purchases. Of the existing digital payment users, 80%
preferred digital payment to any other non-cash payment methods. Indian consumers were 90% as likely
to use digital payments for both online and offline transactions.41 Seeing the rising trend, Flipkart tried to
catch the upper end of this e-payment opportunity.

At the backend, Flipkart had large servers. There were payments-tech teams to integrate with the
IT systems in banks, Visa, MasterCard, and so on.42

Sachin Sandal, Co-founder, Flipkart

To boost savings and retain customers within its ecosystem, Amazon India received a payment wallet
license from the Reserve Bank of India. It allowed users to shop on its platform, make offline payment, buy
bus and rail tickets, and pay for utilities through its digital wallet. In the same year, Amazon India made a
bid to acquire Indian digital payments startup FreeCharge from Snapdeal.43

While Amazon and Flipkart busied to build up its digital platform, Snapdeal sold its digital payment platform
FreeCharge in 2017.44 The founders proposed running what had been described as a leaner and stripped
down version of the e-commerce company, with a smaller workforce to focus on its core business.

Every opportunity would come with challenges too. Only 9% of rural India had access to mobile Internet,
which was not favourable for mobile transactions. Lack of awareness and language barriers were also
hindering the growth of smartphone adoption and online transactions in rural India. Data protection and
integrity of the systems that handled data and transactions were serious concerns among users. Security
and trust was thus another major factor that Flipkart needed to address in order to change India’s preference
of cash payments. In India, the laws governing the e-commerce industry were still evolving. Flipkart needed
to have a robust compliance framework to prevent time-consuming lawsuits.

Consumer ecosystem could be built around the payment. Instead of only getting involved during a final
payment transaction, Flipkart delivered a stronger customer end-to-end experience integrated into their
daily lives in order to ensure customer loyalty. Flipkart started to partner with banks and relied on credit
rating agencies to provide credit scores for online buyers too. But the margins for Flipkart on products, such
as mutual funds through partnerships, could be as low as 1%. In any case, sourcing for participating
partners at a low cost would also be a challenge.

Amazon India also started offering financial products, especially since it was already an investor in
BankBazaar in 2017. BankBazaar provided price comparison of various financial products online to Indian
consumers, and gave SMBs loan comparison to its offering Capital Float, a digital lending platform,
partnered with Amazon India to disburse loans to e-sellers.

Snapdeal had begun to target the entire consumption ecosystem as early as 2015; however, the company
decided to sell off all the non-core business in 2017 and focused on its pure marketplace e-commerce.

41 Meha Agarwal. (2016, July 25). Digital payments in India to hit $500 bn by 2020: Google and BCG report. Inc42.
https://inc42.com/flash-feed/digital-payments-india-2020
42 See Note 1.
43 Digital Commerce 360. (2017, July 25). The offer, which could be worth up to $80 million, comes as Amazon takes on competitors
in India. https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2017/07/25/amazon-bids-indian-payments-startup-freecharge-owned-snapdeal
44 Biswarup Gooptu. (2017, July 29). FreeCharge sale adds to Snapdeal founders’ arsenal; Says time to “seize opportunity”.
Economic Times Rise.
http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/59811843.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campai
gn=cppst
For the exclusive use of J. Li, 2022.
This document is authorized for use only by Jia ye Li in MIS 441 Summer 2022 taught by Carlos Torres, Washington State University from May 2022 to Jun 2022.
Page 18
ABCC-2018-011

Regulatory Restrictions

Flipkart faced serious obstacle from the government regulation which required a change in their business
model. As e-commerce was moving towards an inventory-led model, the government regulation decided to
not allow the inventory model, so as to protect its mom-and-pop stores. The government banned predatory
pricing through discounting by these three big players. Knowing that WS Retail was the affiliated and largest
retailer for Flipkart, the new rules put restrictions on any single vendor accounting for more than 25% of
overall sales. This forced the e-commerce companies to bring on board more sellers and reduce the
dominance of their in-house vendors. Further, with these three major players having heavy war chests
behind them, the battle to increase their claim for the top spot had become fiercer.

Since March 2017, Flipkart had raised more than US$4 billion in investments and that gave the company
an impetus to invest in its technology, digital payment, and logistics subsidiaries. Similarly, Amazon, with
its commitment to invest US$5 billion in India, was also investing heavily in similar areas.

Despite the raising opportunities in the Indian e-commerce market, the online retail market was still not
mature enough to help companies rake the benefits from economies of scale like the offline stores. Also,
with no clear guidelines on issues like Angel tax, capital expenditure norms, and others, survival would
become tougher.

Flipkart reported a 29% YoY increase in its revenue, a staggering amount of US$3.9 billion for FY 2017.
The company, however, continued to record high loses of US$1.3 billion, which translated to an increase
of 68% from a loss of US$814 million in FY 2016. The revenue growth was recorded slower than 50% of
FY 2016.

Perceived to be better managed and equipped, Flipkart did weather the Amazon India challenge to win
back investor confidence, but Snapdeal had to become a smaller entity with an asset-light business model.
With seemingly two players of significance left in the Indian e-commerce space, the ground was wide open
for fence sitters, many among whom were keeping a close watch on the powers at play to make a strategic
entry.

Would Alibaba back up Paytm to enter the e-commerce battle? Was there also a possibility of cash-rich
Indian corporate houses, such as the Tatas and the Reliance, making deeper inroads into the e-commerce
space?

Facing the beginning of a new war front, Flipkart was preparing for a tougher fight not only against the
existing e-commerce giants, but also the upcoming new entrants.

For the exclusive use of J. Li, 2022.
This document is authorized for use only by Jia ye Li in MIS 441 Summer 2022 taught by Carlos Torres, Washington State University from May 2022 to Jun 2022.
Structure Bookmarks
FLIPKART VS. AMAZON VS. SNAPDEAL: WINNER-TAKE-ALL BATTLE IN INDIA
ONLINE RETAIL IN INDIA: OVERVIEW
Figure 1: Market Share and Revenue of Flipkart, Amazon, and Snapdeal from 2014 to 2017
Flipkart
Amazon India
Snapdeal
ONLINE RETAIL IN INDIA: COMPETITIVE DYNAMICS (2013–2016)
Marketplace Model
Logistics and Delivery
Customer Centricity
Figure 2: Overall ELI scores of Flipkart, Amazon, and Snapdeal from 2016 to 2017
THE NEW DISRUPTIVE FORCES
Leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Innovation
Enhancing Data Analytics and Advantaged Technology to Improve Logistics
Omni-channel Retailing
THE ROAD AHEAD
e-Payment and Consumer Ecosystem
Regulatory Restrictions
Case Analysis Template
Current Situation
Step 1. The Facts

WHO is the decision maker?

WHAT is the task to be done (decision to make, problem to solve, opportunity to seize)?

WHY has the issue arisen now? What is its significance to the organization?

WHEN does the decision maker have to decide, resolve, act or dispose of the issue? What is the urgency to the situation?

Step 2. In Depth Analysis
Analyze the case situation in detail.Start with a more formal definition of the problem and analysis of the situation. Consider the following sorts of questions (the exact questions will vary somewhat depending on the case).
1. What business problem are we trying to solve?
2. Why is that problem important to the business?
3. How does the nature of the current IT contribute to or alleviate the problem?
4. How does the current organization (structure, people, culture etc.) contribute to or alleviate the problem?
5. How did we get here? Critically assess the factors that have contributed to our current situation?
Criteria
Use your analysis of the current situation to identify the relevant criteria.

Criteria

Meaning/Measurement

Why Selected?

Analysis of Alternatives
What options are given in the case?
Are there additional options you think need to be considered?

Performance Against Criteria

Options

1

2

3

1

2

3

Decision
Which option do you think is best?Why?
How does this proposed solution address the business problem identified in your analysis of the current situation?
Implementation
How will you go about implementing your decision (who will do what, when, and how)?

Short Term (= ________ days/wks/mths/yrs)

Medium Term (= _____ days/wks/mths/yrs)

Long Term (= ________ days/wks/mths/yrs)

What are the major risks associated with your decision?
What steps will you take to avoid or mitigate those risks?

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