The following is a guest post by V V K Chandra, who blogs at WebGeekBlog.
I have got a chance to interact with the founders of a new web startup company â€˜FlipKartâ€˜. FlipKart is an online book store primarily serving Indian consumers.
I am one of the very first consumers and I have ordered over a dozen books in the last two months from FlipKart. I am really impressed with the way they ship the books so fast and at no cost.
Following is the interview I have done over email with Binny Bansal who is one of the two co-founders.
When was flipkart.com founded?
Flipkart.com was founded on 5th Sept 2007. The website was launched on 15th Oct 2007.
Could you tell me about founders and their background?
Sachin Bansal (26) and myself, Binny Bansal (25), started flipkart.com. Both of us are computer science graduates from IIT-Delhi from the 2005 batch. Sachin worked at Techspan for 6 months and then at Amazon India for a year and a half. I worked at Sarnoff India for a year and a half and then at Amazon India for 8 months. We quit our jobs in September 2007 to begin our startup journey. And to clarify any doubts in advance, we are not related to each other.
How many days it took to launch the service?
It took us about a month and a half to start a basic working website with 50,000 titles. Weâ€™ve now grown our catalog to over 1 Lakh available titles.
Whats the total team size?
Primarily, there is only Sachin and myself. We also manage a small team which takes care of our back-end operations.
What made you to start something on your own?
We started flipkart.com because we ourselves felt the need for a good online book store. E-commerce sector is one of the toughest to get into in India. We believe that we can make a difference here. We wanted to create something which has a long lasting value and which we can be proud of. Also at this point in our life we can devote our entire time and energy to flipkart which is very important for any startup.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced while launching the service?
One major challenge was to get tie-ups with the major book vendors as we didnâ€™t have an off-line book store. We have somehow managed to persuade them and now most of the vendors are supporting us.
The second major challenge was to get the approval for the credit card payment gateway. We didnâ€™t want to use CCAvenue as their interface is really confusing. So we had to convince Axis Bank for the payment gateway and that wasnâ€™t easy given the fact that we are a self-funded startup and we donâ€™t have an offline presence.
What are your current challenges to scale flipkart to the next level?
The biggest challenge currently is reaching out to a larger set of people with minimum budget. Scaling the back-end operations will be a challenge too. We do plan to get angel/seed funding in the next three months to scale our operations.
What are your future plans for flipkart? Do you want to go beyond books and offer other products as well?
Currently we are completely focussed on books. We want to be number one in books first, get a big customer base and then look at the possibilities of offering other products.
Could you give me an idea about the market size for online book stores in India?
Market size for online book shopping in India is expected to be between Rs. 20-25 crore for 2007-2008. Market size of whole of book industry in India is estimated at 4000 crores and is growing at a very quick pace.
How are you marketing the service?
Marketing on a small budget is very difficult. A large part of our marketing is built into our low prices. We believe that if we keep prices low and keep the customer happy we can generate a lot of positive word of mouth which has much better ROI than spending that
money on regular marketing techniques.
But, we do have to reach out to people somehow and hence we are experimenting with pay per click online advertising. We are also going to start a marketing campaign in Bangalore targeted at people working in IT companies. The current goal is to reach as many enthusiastic online book shoppers as possible.
How are you building trust? How can a first time visitor trust your service?
We have clearly defined and listed our shipping and return policies on the website. Also, we think free shipping adds a lot to the trust factor. We also have a page on which we address the issue of secure online payments.
All this coupled with an interface that quick, clean and user friendly, and the positive reviews on the web from our early adopters builds trust for our service.
Do you have any off-line presence?
We donâ€™t have an off-line presence and we donâ€™t plan to have one in the future either.
What is flipkartâ€™s USP compared to other online book stores in India?
Flipkart.comâ€™s USP is simplicity, convenience and customer service. Weâ€™ve made searching and browsing for books as simple as possible. And there are a lot of features lined up for the future which would help you in selecting books based on your interests.
And one of our major goals is to maintain very high standards for customer support. The lack of customer service is one of the major reasons for the slow E-commerce growth in India. We want to change this perception and get people to embrace E-commerce due to the many benefits it provides.
If possible can you share some statistics till date?(books sold and number of visitors, etc)
We canâ€™t share exact statistics at this point but we are growing at the speed that we had expected when we first started out and we also met the goal that we had set for the first 3-4 months.
Finally, what are your suggestions for wanna be entrepreneurs in India?
Take the plunge. The timing couldnâ€™t be better. And very importantly donâ€™t go at it alone. Have at least one co-founder.
It was a real pleasure interacting with FlipKart founders and I wish them all the luck. Being part of a founding team in a start-up is one of the very exciting and challenging jobs I can think of. Every transaction a customer makes will lift up your spirits to a greater level, every good testimonial you receive keeps you excited about the future and every day is a new day with new challenges and opportunities which will unleash the creativity and talent you have got.