Exclusive: Flipkart 2016 - The Way Forward


2015 has been an eventful year for e-commerce biggies. They’ve made billions (as VC investment), they’ve lost Crores (in discount wars), and they’ve hired big. Debated GMVs and tax disputes aside, Indian e-commerce companies could call it a day (or year?).

As 2016 rolls in, the cash only seems greener on the other side with more money, innovation and definitely more bling coming their way.
I chatted up with Mausam Bhatt, Flipkart’s Head for Growth (Sales, Online Marketing and Alliances) and Senior Director, Mobile Commerce and Online Marketing to take a sneak peek into what the coming year might mean for this e-commerce giant.

· You’ve said browsers are slow and the experience couldn’t be personalized. However, Flipkart Lite was released on the mobile web instead of the app. Why?
Even 6 months ago this was not feasibility. That’s because we’ve changed the paradigm completely. We’re very much on the cutting edge of what a light weight mobile site would look like. We worked closely together with the guys from Google to figure out a way to offer a native experience on a browser. Let’s see how far we can tread.

· When you did launch the mobile website again, why not offer a full fledged website them?
This is a fully fledged mobile site in the sense that everything that could have been bought earlier on our site could be bought now. It will just get better in time with notifications and personalization. Load times are also so much lesser.

· Flipkart Lite comes on Opera and Google Chrome. Any plans to extend it to other browsers?
Our team is working to standardize the interface. In the next couple of quarters we could have this across all browsers.

· What are you focus areas in 2016?
Our primary focus is to ensure the app remains light on the system. It shouldn’t bloat with the added functionalities. We are also looking to leverage the fundamental features that a mobile device offers. Search is a major focus area. Last but not the least are ratings and reviews. We can leverage gestures for reviews, enable Vine videos, audio bytes and so on. Social and location proof could also be added.

· Flipkart recently picked up over 34% stake in digital mapping firm MapmyIndia. What are you planning to do with that?
Location and logistics are a big problem in India. We’re working closely to solve issues like longer delivery times, repeat deliveries and unnecessary phone conversations.

· Where are you pouring most of your marketing budget as 2016 rolls in?
Increasingly we’re committed digital and online more and more. The people we are trying to attract are online anyway. If you look at the hierarchy of online needs, it starts out with online messaging, photo sharing, content, and then e-commerce. The opportunities for us are online, and get them to shopping. It’s a matter of being closer to where the users are, and it is online.

Few years ago mass media was more important because as a country we were running campaign posts to advertise the benefits of online shopping. Now awareness levels around e-commerce are fairly high.

· Flipkart bled close to Rs 2,000 Crores in the year ending March. Most of that was in discounting war. Do think you guys overdid it a bit?
Over a period of time product differentiation will become more important than the prices. Companies will then differentiate on overall end-to-end customer experience and trust.

· There has been a firm push to encourage prepaid payment. How is it picking up?
Cash on Delivery continues to be important in the country. Wallet and credit card adoption are rising for repeat consumers. As brand loyalty kicks in, people seem OK with saving money in a wallet.

· Flipkart has introduced native advertising for companies to engage better with customers on its mobile platform. Tell me more about this.
We have collected a lot of consumer-based data over the last 8 years. This can be great for brands to leverage. This can drive a lot of traffic for intent-based purchases to brands.

· What’s Flipkart’s primary focus for the app in the coming year?
A lot of effort will go into making the experience more personalized. That will make sure it is a one-of-a-kind experience.

· You are hiring big this placement season. What are your plans with the fresh talent you’re getting?
Seeing companies express appetite for more engineering talent is really heart-warming. We are planning to build our own data platform. It is a high priority for us now. Once more engineering talent comes in we’re also planning to do more on Engineering and Vision. We’ll balance expertise in these areas with raw talent from the universities.

All I can say is exciting times are ahead!

Image credit: Indiatimes

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