Mangal Pandey of E-Commerce — A perspective

Is history repeating? Did you see the Uprising of 1857 happened in India’s E-Commerce space?

Has Mangal Pandey appeared in a different Avatar this time in the midst of digital boom India is seeing?

Is Flipkart losing out to competition or are they enjoying this competition fostered by themselves?

Many analysts from Ecommerce space feel Flipkart is not doing as great as these analysts anticipated hence there are interesting viewpoints getting popped up in the print and social media where in most of them are rejoicing the assumed failure of Flipkart. Let me share my personal views.

May be even in 1857 there were citizens who would have rejoiced at the death of Mangal Pandey, the man who said “Halla Bol” to the India’s War of Independence. 2016 is no different than 1857, except for reasons and expression of delight.

It may not be a great idea to rejoice at the slower growth of a 9 years old start-up which had actually set the tone for E-Commerce market in this third world country when most of us including myself did not believe the idea could fly. And today in hindsight you can see that the idea has not only taken off from the ground and flown high, it has convinced each one of us that even touching moon is a definite possibility. Is this rapid growth making us so cynical that we feel overwhelmed when we get to hear the slower momentum of Flipkart? What a Pity!!!

Amazon is a global giant with a massive war-chest available to take on the leadership position in India’s e-commerce business. For the sake of argument let us accept Amazon wants to kill the competition by their money power, what does it mean for me? My guess is I will make the most from my E-Commerce transactions. In any case an end consumer like me is the biggest beneficiary and hence I should be glad for the competition fostered by Bansals of Flipkart, instead of rejoicing their assumed failure which may or may not turn out to be a reality. I definitely love shopping on Amazon but in India, e-commerce craze was created by Flipkart and the kind of benefits which we have derived from Flipkart in the past so many years before Amazon’s entry is definitely a matter to feel happy. It also makes me wonder am I getting benefitted from Amazon because of Flipkart? If not for Flipkart, Amazon would have taken much longer to enter this market so what it means in financial terms is that, I am already having better present value for future cash flows? Question I ask myself is, if Jeff Bezos is fulfilling the dream Bansals saw for India? To put it differently, is Flipkart achieving the Indian dream along with Amazon?

In India while building business empires we have always believed that profit is very important and here is this giant E-Tailer — Flipkart, who changed the way the business is done and created a behemoth that world leaders in Ecommerce started chasing them. The way I understand, For Flipkart profit was never the mantra for expanding and looks like agenda was clear “Growth, Growth & Growth” in top line and creating the reach. Valuations started multiplying without having profitability in the list of key contributors for such a fantastic valuation. This was definitely unheard of until we heard Flipkart.

Swamy Vivekananda or Bhagat Singh died very young and are remembered till date for their contributions. Is it fair to assume they were successful in whatever they did? And here we are waiting to prove a company is a failure just because we assume it will not sustain in future and will die young. Even for argument sake if we assume Flipkart will wind up in a year, so should we add it to the history books in the failures column? How fair is it? I personally feel it as a great story of success in the shortest span of time which needs to be remembered for a long time to come. It will be irony if we decide the success based on the age in a world where we have great stories like Facebook to Google to Whatsapp. Yes, it is very easy to get complacent and concede that India is a place for “employees” and “H1B resources” but not for entrepreneurs. If Bansals had started their business in Seattle, USA and even if they were 1/4thsuccessful of what they are today I believe they would have been in the news for their entrepreneurship skills. Also the entire eco-system of Entrepreneur’s valley of USA would have ensured they become more successful and achieve bigger milestones and set a greater trend for the industry and country. At least let me grow up and accept that we have the capability to create entrepreneurs who can drive scale and deliver well, so to remind the world about one of the oldest business hubs known to civilization still has the ability to create a giant which can attract the attention of the world.

Today when the local government decides to create a Vision group for Silicon Valley of India, Sachin Bansal of Flipkart is part of the team which is also represented by well-known names like Mr Murthy and Mr Pai who were with Infosys, Azim Premji of Wipro, Kiran M Shaw of Biocon and Ramesh R of Jana Group. Sharing the dais with other well-known entrepreneurs would not have been possible, if not for Flipkart!!! Wow now this is amazing feat. In less than 9 years of its existence Flipkart has 33000 employees and enterprise valuation of few Billion dollars which Traditional retail giants will take much longer to achieve even after being in existence for over 1.5 decades. Bansals have seen the complete life cycle of an entrepreneur in less than a decade while the other big names in India’s first generation entrepreneurs took much longer time to achieve, not that the achievements of others are less credible or noteworthy.

Technology and business goes hand in hand was well depicted by this Mangal Pandey of E-Commerce industry who said “Halla-Bol” for entire Ecommerce revolution in India and it is time for us to be proud as most of us were beneficiaries of this change and also convey to our next generation that we were part of HIStory, Yes, the Flipkart of Bansal’s.

Is Flipkart on the backfoot now or have they already scored a better average as well as the strike rate which others are feeling too big to achieve will be a question to answer for yourself.

Long Live Revolution, Halla Bol !!!