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How an Indian E-commerce Startup Became a Billion-Dollar Company : The Inspiring Story of Flipkart

Flipkart Private Limited, an Indian e-commerce company headquartered in Bengaluru and incorporated in Singapore, has become a leader in the Indian e-commerce market, with a dominant position in the apparel segment and a significant share in electronics and mobile phones. In August 2018, Flipkart was acquired by American retail chain Walmart, valuing it at around $20 billion. Since then, the company has grown further, with a valuation of $37.6 billion as of 2022, and is planning to go public through a listing in the United States in 2023.

Start-up Phase

Flipkart was founded in October 2007 by Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, alumni of the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi and former Amazon employees. The company initially focused on online book sales with country-wide shipping. Flipkart slowly grew in prominence and was receiving 100 orders per day by 2008.

To fund the company’s growth, Flipkart raised its first funding round of $1 million from Accel Partners in 2009. The company’s success in the Indian e-commerce market attracted further investment from Tiger Global Management, which invested $10 million in 2010. Flipkart’s valuation grew to $1 billion in 2011, making it India’s first internet startup to reach this milestone. The company continued to expand its product categories and improve its logistics and supply chain infrastructure to meet the growing demand for online shopping in India.

Acquisitions

WeRead, Mime360, and Chakpak

In 2010, Flipkart acquired WeRead, a social book discovery service based in Bangalore. In 2011, it acquired the digital distribution business Mime360 and the digital content library of Chakpak, a Bollywood portal. Following these acquisitions, Flipkart launched Flyte, an online music store that was DRM-free. However, Flyte was not successful and shut down in June 2013.

Letsbuy and Myntra

With its sights set on India’s retail market, Flipkart acquired Letsbuy, an online electronics retailer, in 2012 and Myntra, an online fashion retailer, for $280 million in May 2014. Myntra continues to operate as a standalone subsidiary focusing on separate market segments.

Appiterate and MapmyIndia

In April 2015, Flipkart acquired Appiterate, a Delhi-based mobile marketing automation firm, and stated that it would use Appiterate’s technology to enhance its mobile services. In December 2015, Flipkart purchased a minority stake in MapmyIndia, a digital mapping provider.

Jabong.com and eBay.in

In 2016, Flipkart acquired Jabong.com, an online fashion retailer, from Rocket Internet for $70 million. In April 2017, eBay announced that it would sell its Indian subsidiary, eBay.in, to Flipkart and invest $500 million in the company. However, the partnership did not materialize as planned.

Investments

TinyStep, EasyRewardz, and Arvind Fashions

In January 2017, Flipkart made a $2 million investment in TinyStep, a parenting information startup. In 2019, Flipkart invested $4 million in the customer engagement and rewards platform EasyRewardz. In July 2020, Flipkart acquired a 27% stake in Arvind Fashions Limited’s subsidiary Arvind Youth Brands for $35 million.

Flipkart Wholesale and Flipkart Quick

In 2020, Flipkart Wholesale launched a digital platform for kiranas and MSMEs. Flipkart also rolled out Flipkart Quick, a hyperlocal 90-minute delivery service for product categories such as groceries, home accessories, mobile phones, and stationery.

Mech M’s intellectual property

In November 2020, Flipkart acquired the intellectual property of Mech M, a gaming startup.Mech M is known for developing a real-time multiplayer social-gaming platform called Mech Mocha, which focuses on the Indian market. The acquisition of Mech M’s intellectual property aligns with Flipkart’s push to diversify its offerings beyond traditional e-commerce. With this acquisition, Flipkart plans to introduce more gaming experiences to its customers and increase engagement on its platform.

Flipkart’s acquisitions and investments have played a crucial role in expanding its market reach and strengthening its position in the highly competitive Indian e-commerce space. With a strong focus on customer experience and innovation, Flipkart is well-positioned to continue its growth trajectory in the coming years.

Partnerships

In 2014, the company partnered with Motorola Mobility to exclusively sell the Moto G smartphone in India. This partnership helped the phone manufacturer penetrate the Indian market and became a huge success. Flipkart continued to hold exclusive Indian launches for other smartphones, such as the Xiaomi Mi 3 in 2014 and the Redmi 1S and Redmi Note later that year.

In 2014, Flipkart launched its Big Billion Day sale, a major event that coincided with the company’s anniversary and the Diwali season. The event sold $100 million worth of goods in 10 hours but received criticism due to technical issues and stock shortages. Despite this, the sale showcased Flipkart’s ability to handle large-scale events and generated significant revenue for the company.

In recent years, Flipkart has continued to form partnerships to expand its reach and support local artisans. In 2019, it partnered with Authentic Brands to license and distribute Nautica in India, while also investing in last-mile delivery startup Shadowfax. Flipkart also launched Super coins, a reward system that allowed customers to earn points on various Flipkart brands. The company has also partnered with local governments to support artisans and weavers, such as its partnerships with Narayanpet District and the Government of West Bengal’s MSME&T Department. These partnerships showcase Flipkart’s commitment to supporting local economies and communities while expanding its offerings to customers.

Going Public and Future Plans

In 2023, Flipkart announced its plans to go public through a listing in the United States of America. This decision comes after years of speculation about when Flipkart would go public, and it marks a major milestone for the company. Going public will allow Flipkart to raise funds to invest in its business and continue its expansion plans.

In the years to come, Flipkart is expected to continue its focus on expanding its product categories and improving its technology and logistics infrastructure. It will also face increasing competition from other e-commerce giants such as Amazon and Alibaba, as well as newer startups looking to enter the Indian e-commerce market.

In the years ahead, Flipkart will navigate the dynamic landscape of the Indian e-commerce industry while facing competition from established giants like Amazon and Alibaba. Additionally, it will contend with emerging startups seeking to enter the market. To stay ahead, Flipkart will maintain its commitment to expanding product categories, enhancing its technology, and strengthening its logistics infrastructure. These efforts will ensure that Flipkart remains a leading player in the Indian e-commerce space, meeting the evolving needs and demands of its customers. With its recent announcement to go public, Flipkart is poised to secure the necessary funds to fuel its growth and continue its expansion plans, further solidifying its position in the industry.


Awards and Recognition

Flipkart and its founders have received several awards and recognitions over the years. In 2012-13, Sachin Bansal was awarded Entrepreneur of the Year by The Economic Times, one of India’s leading economic daily newspapers. This award was a testament to Sachin’s leadership and contribution to the growth of the e-commerce industry in India.

In 2015, both Sachin and Binny Bansal were included in Forbes India’s list of richest Indians, debuting at the 86th position with a net worth of US$1.3 billion each. In the following year, the founders were named to Time magazine’s annual list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World, a recognition of their impact on the Indian business ecosystem.

In 2021, Flipkart was ranked at the top in the annual Fairwork India Ratings, which evaluates platforms based on fair pay, conditions, contracts, management, and representation. The rating system creates a score out of 10 points, and Flipkart scored the highest in the evaluation conducted by a consortium of Centre for IT and Public Policy (CITAPP), International IIIT Bangalore, and the global Fairwork network. The methodology included qualitative interviews with workers in Delhi and Bangalore, making the recognition a testimony to the company’s commitment to its employees.

Conclusion

The story of Flipkart is one of perseverance, innovation, and strategic acquisitions. From its humble beginnings as an online bookstore, Flipkart has grown to become a dominant player in the Indian e-commerce market, with a market share of 39.5% as of 2017. Its success can be attributed to its focus on customer experience, investment in technology and logistics infrastructure, and strategic acquisitions of other e-commerce companies.

Flipkart’s acquisition by Walmart in 2018 marked a major milestone for the company, valuing it at around $20 billion. Since then, Flipkart’s valuation has continued to rise, reaching $37.6 billion in 2022. The company is now preparing to go public in the United States in 2023, which is expected to be a major event for the Indian e-commerce market.

Despite facing increasing competition from other e-commerce giants, Flipkart’s future looks bright. Its continued focus on innovation and strategic acquisitions, combined with its commitment to providing a great customer experience, should help it continue to grow and succeed in the years to come.

Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the growth of Indian e-commerce as more consumers turn to online shopping for their needs. Flipkart has been at the forefront of this growth, adapting quickly to changing market conditions and expanding its offerings to meet the needs of customers. The company’s recent investments in areas such as grocery delivery and digital payments have helped it stay ahead of the curve and position itself for long-term success in the rapidly evolving Indian e-commerce market. As the e-commerce industry in India continues to mature, Flipkart is well-positioned to maintain its leadership position and drive innovation.

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