Monday 29 June 2015

After Seller Hub, Flipkart launches online business campaign for sellers

 E-commerce major Flipkart has launched a nationwide campaign to educate sellers about taking their business online.The campaign 'Apne Sapne Jee Kar Dekho' aims at educating entrepreneurs/manufacturers/SMEs about the advantages of getting their business up on Flipkart's platform, the company said in a statement.

Through the campaign, Flipkart will help new sellers with fast-track registrations to the platform and additionally provide special support services, such as dedicated pick-ups, product shoots, training on platform usage and payments.The 45-day long campaign will be live in over 15 key cities, the online retailer said, adding, "Targetted at both the metros and non-metros, this campaign focuses to give sellers a more holistic view of ecommerce and encourage them to be a part of this growing ecosystem.”Flipkart is among Indian’s largest online marketplaces with 30,000 sellers and over 4.5 crore registered customers. With this campaign, the company aims to expand its seller portfolio to 1,00,000 this year and expects the media campaign to help it reach this target. 

Earlier this month, the company launched a seller specific app; ‘Seller Hub’ to offer sellers end-to-end visibility and enable them to enjoy a seamless selling experience.

E-commerce set for a rejig

The dynamics of the Indian e-commerce universe will perhaps begin to change in 2016. While most major groups of India Inc, including the Tatas, Reliance Industries and Aditya Birla, are expected to fully roll out their online retail ventures by the end of the current year, experts believe the impact of their entry into a world now dominated by pure-play internet businesses such as Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon will be felt in the second half of 2016. But, any change in the e-commerce pecking order linked to market share could take anything from three to five years, according to analysts.

Even as the big groups have years of experience of doing business aided by deep pockets as well as telecom services under their banners, they are likely to miss the nimbleness of the new-age players operating in the Indian e-commerce space, pegged at around $4 billion or Rs 24,000 crore (without counting online travel, financial and a few other services). Only if the balancing act goes right, the traditional brick and mortar businesses, aspiring to have an online edge, may succeed, argue industry watchers. They also point out that Chinese e-commerce leader Alibaba, through its play in Noida-based mobile wallet platform turned into a full-fledged e-tailer - Paytm - will be the one to watch out for.
Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of One97 Communications which runs Paytm, told Business Standard that Paytm was all set to be one of the top players in e-commerce by end of this year, not withstanding the entry of large brick and mortar groups into the area. Since its foray into e-commerce in April 2014, Paytm has touched an annual run rate GMV (gross merchandise volume) of Rs 9,000 crore, according to Sharma. (Run rate is an estimation of future financial data assuming the present trend continues.) Paytm is targeting Rs 25,000 crore to Rs 30,000 crore GMV by end of 2015. The Alibaba factor will help - in fact founder Jack Ma is likely to be in India around the end of July to announce concrete India plans, it is learnt. In February, Ant Financial, the finance arm of Alibaba, had invested about $500 million for a 25 per cent stake in Paytm.

Even as Paytm, along with Alibaba, is aiming to be among the top, experts said whatever the level of competition, market leader Flipkart is unlikely to allow anybody else to grab its place anytime soon. A major advantage with Flipkart is that while its chunkiest segment is electronics and mobile phones, its fashion business got a push with the acquisition of Myntra last year. Electronics and fashion are the primary categories in e-commerce now. Sources in Flipkart had indicated earlier this year that the company was looking at doubling its GMV from $4 billion Rs 24,000 crore) to $8 billion Rs 48,000 crore) by December 2015. Some reports suggested that the company could exceed its target by year-end.

According to Mukesh Bansal, who founded Myntra and is now part of the core management team at Flipkart, the e-commerce leader in India was expected to hold 70-80 per cent of the market in the next four to five years. From holding an estimated 50 per cent of the market share now, Flipkart-Myntra is jointly targeting that goal, sources said. Incidentally, Alibaba's market share in Chinese e-commerce now is around 80 per cent.

Where does Amazon, which is fighting Walmart's online thrust in the US, stand then in the rejigged e-commerce space in India? A top executive with an e-commerce company argued that Amazon was not seen as an aggressive player in India. He added that Amazon has been successful in the US but not much outside the home country. Although it's too early to conclude on who will be the winner, Amazon's position on competition has been constant. Amit Agarwal, India head of Amazon, replying to this newspaper's query on whether the company aspired to be the number one player in this country, said recently, "We are very focused on being a customer-centric company. We want to be the number one company from that perspective. If you take a long-term outlook, that should translate into other meaningful outputs that you are talking about.''

Even if the traditional brick-and-mortar businesses make their e-commerce foray in the next six months, the current online players will continue to raise more capital and go on with their billion-dollar sales for some time, according to Arvind Singhal, founder, Technopak, a retail consultancy. Execution of the e-commerce business by the big groups will determine whether they would succeed or not, he said, adding that consumers will have a good time with far more deals and better services over the next one year or so. "The real action will unfold in the second half of 2016, with an all-out battle for the digital wallet of the consumer.'' Also, Singhal said a comparison with Amazon-Walmart competition in the US was not fair because Walmart has been an extremely strong player in America, while physical retail never took off in India.

Besides coming as a bonanza for the buyer, offline's entry into online would also mean high growth for e-commerce, KPMG's Mohit Bahl said. It may also bring more stability in the business model in e-commerce. Perhaps, the large businesses will evolve their own approach, rather than sticking to the GMV and run rate format popularised by the current lot.

As for the traditional businesses, they are mostly experimenting with e-commerce. Future Group founder and Chief Executive Kishore Biyani, after recently acquiring a majority stake in Bharti group's retail business EasyDay, said, "For us, it is all about selling a product to the consumer … by whichever means. You could use technology or physical stores. Globally, the best models that are scalable and profitable are a combination of physical and digital - omni."

Reliance Retail, the only one in this industry to make a profit, is planning its "next phase of building a high-growth trajectory supported by e-commerce and larger geographic coverage," RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani told shareholders at the company's AGM earlier this month. He pointed out that the group would leverage Jio (the group's telecom venture) as well as its physical retail, to create a differentiated e-commerce model for India.

The Aditya Birla group, also spotting opportunity in e-commerce, got online grocer Zop Now as its technology partner recently. The group might go beyond food and grocery, too.

The Tatas, too, are working on its online business, though not much is known about how it will unfold except that it will be in the marketplace format and will be launched under Tata Industries, a subsidiary of Tata Sons. But, it is Ratan Tata, the chairman emeritus of Tata Sons, who has been in the news for the past one year for making investments in his personal capacity in a series of e-commerce companies such as Snapdeal, Paytm, Urban Ladder and Bluestone.

  • Reliance Retail is planning its 'next phase of building a high-growth trajectory supported by e-commerce and larger geographic coverage'. It would leverage Jio (telecom arm) and its physical retail to create an e-commerce model
  • The Aditya Birla group, also spotting opportunity in e-commerce, got online grocer Zop Now as its technology partner recently. The group might go beyond food and grocery, too
  • Tata Industries, a subsidiary of Tata Sons, might enter the online business through a marketplace format. Ratan Tata has invested in e-commerce companies such as Snapdeal, Paytm, Urban Ladder and Bluestone

E-business boom reshapes powerloom town of Bhiwandi

If you live in Mumbai and have shopped online, you could not have missed the references to "Bhiwandi sorting hub" while tracking your order. Over the past five years, this powerloom town 37km northeast of Mumbai has emerged as a key, if unlikely, hub in the logistics chain serving the region. 

Fields that were once covered with paddy and vegetables have sprouted high-tech warehouses. All the ecommerce biggies, from Flipkart to Amazon to Snapdeal, as well as niche players have warehouses here to route products to Mumbai homes. In the process, the new warehouse industry is reshaping the Bhiwandi economy — and changing the lives of some of the local farmers. 

The transformation has happened slowly, and without any regulation. No one knows how many warehouses there are here — local police say the number runs into the thousands. A survey has now been initiated, says tehsildar Vaishali Lambhate, as the government looks to start tapping revenue from the sector. 

Rise of a warehousing hub: 

Bhiwandi has always enjoyed a location advantage, sitting astride highways that connect Mumbai, Thane, and the JNPT port. It had warehouses years ago, too; old-fashioned godowns to store cement and the like. But those were too few to make a difference to the local economy. Bhiwandi remained a town of powerlooms, with a largely poor, migrant and Muslim population, and a history of communal riots. 

Then, between 2005 and 2008, Indian companies began strengthening their logistics chains. This was when villagers in Rahnal first gave their farm land on lease for constructing warehouses, says social worker and local resident Surendra Tiwari. 

But it was the post-2010 e-commerce boom that changed everything. Online companies wanted fulfilment centres at a place that could serve their key markets within a day. Bhiwandi fit the bill — the rentals were cheap as these were panchayat areas and there were no taxes, says an industry insider. Vashi or Koparkhairane also had the location advantage but skyrocketing land prices made those areas uncompetitive. 

So when Karan Behal decided early last year to adopt an online-only model for his thriving business selling specialized women's lingerie, he didn't have to think twice about locating his warehouse in Bhiwandi. Behal hired a warehouse at Sonale village for and recently shifted to a bigger warehouse at nearby Pogaon village. Big warehouses range in size from 1,000 square feet to 5-10 lakh square feet, with rentals from Rs 13 to Rs 25 per square foot per month.

From the outside, the warehouses look like huge factories but they do not make things, only store them. Still, they offer semi-skilled and unskilled jobs such as picking and sorting goods, and employ anywhere from 15 to 500 people, depending on the size of the warehouse. Wages can go up to Rs 25,000 per month, and more for managers. 

Most of the skilled jobs are done by labour from outside Bhiwandi, says Biren Thakkar, an accounts manager at Every day, thousands of warehouse workers are bussed in and out of Bhiwandi from Kalyan, Dombivli and Navi Mumbai. Kalyan resident Santosh Rai used to work in Mumbai at a grocery distribution company but now works as a loader at a tea warehouse in Bhiwandi — at better pay, he says.

Some locals have also landed jobs. "Earlier there was no employment in my village and my father used to go to Bhiwandi city for work and bring home about Rs 4,000-Rs ?5,000 every month," says Dinesh Gayakhe from Pogaon village, who works as a biller at a warehouse. "But I now work in my village itself and earn Rs 12,000 a month." 

But locals are more likely to make money from land rents, from loading contracts, and from providing services. Many no longer look for work in Kalyan to supplement their incomes.

A real-estate boom: 

The new economy has also attracted real-estate developers. High-rises up to 22 stories have come up in areas like Anjurphata, Kalyan-Bhiwandi road and Kambha. Private banks that used to refuse home loans in Bhiwandi have begun sanctioning loans for these projects. "You can buy flats in buildings without any amenities, or go for one [with] a club house, garden and swimming pool," says Ajay Singh, a local developer. The rates range from Rs 2,700-Rs 4,000 per square feet. 

Rishabh Srivastava, an accountant at a warehouse, stays in Ambernath but recently bought a flat in Anjurphata to avoid the three-hour commute. There is a lot of new good-quality construction going on here, he says. 

But locals say illegal constructions are also mushrooming. And indeed, the rise of modern warehouses here has yet to lead to broader improvements in regulations, infrastructure and even basic services in the area.

Transfers: Employees flip out, mull quitting Flipkart

Transfers: Employees flip out, mull quitting Flipkart
The resignations — when the company is trying to get more sellers onto its platform — have management in damage-control mode

E-commerce giant Flipkart's decision to transfer hundreds of its employees to business process outsourcing (BPO) firm Serco has not gone down well with the middle-level staff. Many of them are now contemplating resigning as they do not want to be downgraded on the brand-scale.
"Why should I work for a BPO?" asked a Flipkart employee who had two options before him — either quit or join the BPO. The employee, who did not want to be named, said he had worked with Flipkart for two years, and moving to Serco, according to him, is nothing short of a demotion.
"Flipkart has made it very clear that our names will not appear in its records and, instead, we will be on an outsourced payroll. How can I go from an established brand to a lesser-known BPO? It will not only reflect negatively on my resume, but will also change other socio-economic dynamics," the employee said.
There are many, in the batch of at least 300 Flipkart employees transferred to Serco, who have either already put in their papers or are contemplating quitting after failing to come to terms with the change in the name of the brand they work for. Bangalore Mirror spoke to several employees and each one of them seemed disgruntled. Most of the transferred employees are from the marketplace team (that interacts with the sellers).
The resignations, which come at a time when Flipkart is rolling out an aggressive campaign to bring more sellers onto its platform, has put the management in damage-control mode.
When contacted for their reaction, Flipkart authorities sent out a statement that read: "Flipkart's decision to outsource a few roles is a strategic move which will help us scale faster and also grow the partner ecosystem around us. Around 300 of our employees are moving to an MNC partner. We believe that re-aligning the organisation to business priorities is critical for keeping pace with the dynamic environment that we operate in."
However, employees say the main point behind the shift was to sack employees. Another employee, who did not want to be named, said, "To make sure there are no legal implications on their sacking activity, the company has offered all employees an option to work with Serco. I was given two options — either resign or shift to Serco India BPO. They also told me that there will be a 10 percent salary hike. But for me, it is like degrading myself. On quitting, I was not allowed to serve my notice period. Instead, I was just asked to leave the office. Also, as per the general practice, in my next job I can demand for a 20 to 30 percent salary hike."
While the process of shifting is still on, the employees believe that most people have either already quit or decided to quit post the announcement. A Flipkart spokesperson said, "To ensure that they are well taken care of, we have rolled out a generous financial package including a salary hike for each one of them. Additionally, we can confirm that this move has not resulted in any resignations."
Explaining why he did not accept the Flipkart offer, another employee said: "The Flipkart office is on Hosur Road and Serco office is in Bommanahalli. Since I have been working here, everything is planned for my family and me around the area. A sudden shift is not possible. As a Flipkart employee, I had certain benefits such as transportation and timings. I might not have any of those in the BPO. It is better to quit than join the BPO."
Meanwhile, the fear among other employees is compounding with speculation rife that another 800 employees will be shown the exit soon. A current employee, on condition of anonymity, said: "Instead of a company firing me, it makes more sense that I quit. At this moment, I have not been asked to shift, but the day does not seem far. The next target could be me. As an employee, I joined Flipkart because it would be good on my resume. I am not sure the other company will benefit my career prospects. I think people are quitting because people want to choose the company they work for and not be forced to work in some company."

The company speaks
Flipkart's decision to outsource a few roles is a strategic move which will help us scale faster and also grow the partner ecosystem around us. Around 300 of our employees are moving to an MNC partner. We believe that re-aligning the organisation to business priorities is critical for keeping pace with the dynamic environment that we operate in.

Wednesday 24 June 2015

From bricks to clicks and back again to the basics

Easier listing norms will benefit cos like us: Snapdeal

NEW DELHI: E-commerce major Snapdeal today said Sebi's move to relax regulations relating to listing on domestic stock exchanges will benefit "India-focused companies" like it in the long-run. 

Welcoming the market regulator's proposed plans to implement e-IPO and start-up specific listings platform, the city-based firm said it will provide "much needed access to funds for start-ups". 

"For us at Snapdeal, we are particularly pleased with this move considering that easing of listings norms will benefit India-focussed companies like ours in the long-run," a company spokesperson said. 

According to reports, Snapdeal was looking at American bourses for listing. In 2013, Snapdeal co-founder and chief executive officer Kunal Bahl had talked of a US listing without disclosing any deadline. 

Capital markets regulator Sebi today relaxed its regulations for companies to list and raise funds through a dedicated platform on domestic stock exchanges rather than going overseas. 

Under the new norms approved by Sebi's board today, the stock exchanges would have a separate institutional trading platform for listing of start-ups from the new age sectors, including e-commerce firms, while the minimum investment requirement would be Rs 10 lakh. 

For their listing, Sebi has relaxed the mandatory lock-in period for promoters and other pre-listing investors to six months, as against three years for other companies. 

Sebi Chairman U K Sinha said, "Indian start-up space is very vibrant and the country is ranked number five as far as start-ups are concerned. 

"More than 3,100 start-ups are there in the country and a large number of M&As have also happened." 

"However, most of these start-ups were thinking of listing outside... We have made a very special provision for them," Sinha added.

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Timberland may partner Myntra in its comeback bid in India

NEW DELHI: Timberland is staging a comeback in India, albeit through an online alliance. The US manufacturer known for its hiking boots and outdoor clothing is close to a tie-up with, India's largest fashion e-commerce portal, two people familiar with the development said. "Myntra and Timberland are in an advanced stage of agreement," said one of the persons, asking not to be named.

Although Timberland's products are currently available on e-commerce sites including Amazon. in,, the US-based company's products will only be available on Myntra in future, the second person said. Myntra declined to comment while Timberland's external public relations agency said the company "has a policy of not commenting on questions that are speculative or based on unsourced talk in the market". 

Timberland is set to join foreign brands including Replay jeans and Energie fashion label that had earlier exited India and are now making a comeback through the country's booming e-commerce market.

The company had exited the Indian market after poor sales and competition from local player Woodland. The two companies were also locked in trademark disputes over atree logo that both the companies used. "Woodland had copied everything from products and logo to marketing of Timberland and Woodland's products were available for prices less than half of that of Timberland," alleged a former senior executive who worked with Timberland, requesting not to be identified.

Monday 22 June 2015

Delivery start-up Roadrunnr gets $10 m from Sequoia, Nexus Venture

With hyperlocal delivery start-ups being the flavour of the season, investors are looking for several such start-ups that aim to make smooth, convenient and faster delivery.
Investors are even ready to write larger cheques for nascent start-ups.
According to sources, Bengaluru-based delivery company Roadrunnr has scooped up a funding of $10 million (about ₹63 crore) in the very first round from marquee investors such as Sequoia and Nexus Venture Partners.
While, Sequoia declined to comment, Roadrunner’s co-founder Aaravind Reddy told BusinessLine that the company was raising a substantial amount but would not be able to divulge the exact amount. The company has raised a very small seed funding earlier.
Unlike other hyperlocal delivery companies, Roadrunnr is a B2B venture and has other e-commerce and offline retailers as their clients.
The venture is not meant for consumers.
The company has been piloting with chains and food delivery companies such as TinyOwl, Bhukkad, PizzaStop, Calvins, Grabeat and Faaso’s in Bengaluru.
It is also soon entering Mumbai, Delhi, Gurgaon and Hyderabad.
Roadrunnr is founded by IIT Kharagpur alumni Aaravind Reddy along with Mohit Kumar and Arpit Dave, who also are from Reddy’s alma mater. All the three founders are also ex-employees of e-commerce major Flipkart.
Delivery boys

According to a source, Roadrunnr is intending to build Uber-for-food delivery in the long run.
Delivery boys will plug in to the Roadrunnr platform and start getting orders in the vicinity, just like what Uber cab drivers do.
Since there is a huge demand for delivery boys in the market and unorganised workers tend to prefer full-time jobs than part-time assignments, they are taking a portion of delivery boys on payroll and some on hourly basis.
Several start-ups working around the hyper-local model have raised substantial funding in the last six months. Recently, Swiggy, a hyperlocal food ordering and delivery platform, raised about $16.5 million. It had raised $2 million in January this year.
Similarly Delhi-based Zopper and PepperTap raised about $20 million and $10 million recently from investors such as SAIF Partners, Sequoia, Helion and Tiger Global.
Other players that received investments are Jiffstore, Grofers (Tiger Global invested $35 million) and ZopNow.
These start-ups enable customers to buy anything from grocery and apparel to medical supplies and consumer durables from their neighbourhood stores and ensure delivery in less than three hours.
Hyperlocal players are also creating an ecosystem that helps both online and offline players to flourish in the highly burgeoning e-commerce market.

Snapdeal trolls Flipkart's #AcchaKiya campaign

 The country's e-commerce giants have added spice to ambush marketing in the country. Gone are the days when rivals targeted each other cagily, now it's an all out open war - both online and offline. The latest round is between e-commerce majors Snapdeal and Flipkart.

In the latest clash, Snapdeal is hitting at arch-rival Flipkart's ongoing #AcchaKiya campaign. The Bangalore-based e-commerce company has been aggressively pushing this campaign on both online and offline media with TV and newspaper ads as well as regular social media posts.

Trolling Flipkart's campaign, Snapdeal has come up with its 'Accha kiya bata diya' #YahaSeKharido campaign.

And it's not just #AcchaKiya campaign, Snapdeal has also taken a dig at Flipkart's 'ab har wish hogi puri' campaign.

Incidentally, Snapdeal is not just targeting Flipkart on social media, the company's taken its ambush marketing offline too. The company has strategically installed its hoardings just below Flipkart's.

This is not for the first time that country's leading e-commerce companies are engaged in a social media war.

Recently, the CEO's of the two shopping giants were involved in a showdown on Twitter. Flipkart CEO Sachin Bansal took a stab at Snapdeal co-founder Rohit

Bansal for reportedly suggesting that India does not have enough software engineering talent of the type it needs in an interview to Wall Street Journal.

Responding to Bansal's comment, Flipkart's Bansal wrote on Twitter: "Don't blame India for your failure to hire great engineers. They join for culture and challenge."

To this Snapdeal CEO responded through a blog post where he claimed he has been quoted out of context. He clarified that while India has "some of the smartest engineers on the planet", building large technology product firms is a more recent phenomenon.