Flipkart Story: Selling books online to dream start-up in 11 years

AgenciesUpdated: Wednesday, May 29, 2019, 09:30 AM IST
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New Delhi: From selling books online to striking a jaw-dropping USD 16 billion deal with the world’s largest retailer Walmart, all within 11 years, Flipkart has given India its big start-up success story – the one which is likely to be quoted by starry-eyed entrepreneurs for years to come. Former employees of US e-commerce giant Amazon, Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, had met in 2005 at IIT-Delhi.

Flipkart was launched in October 2007. The idea was simple. Consumers could shop online and get books delivered to their doorstep. Flipkart registered 20 shipments in the year of its debut. It wasn’t an easy road as Internet penetration was abysmally low and e-commerce, unheard of. Bricks and mortar retailers were not threatened and many dismissed e-tailing as a foreign concept saying that Indians want to touch and feel’ whatever they buy.

Today, Indian e-commerce industry is already close to USD 30 billion in size and analysts expect this to zoom to USD 200 billion by 2026.The growth of the sector was comfortably in sync with the meteoric rise of Flipkart.From a modest two-bedroom apartment in Koramangala, the Bengaluru-headquartered company now has multiple offices across the country. A bulk of its operations are run out of a plush campus in the city that is spread over 1 lakh sq ft and houses 6,800 employees.Things started looking up when Accel Partners came on board as an investor and pumped in USD 1 million.

A few months later, US hedge fund Tiger Global bought into the vision and Flipkart received a funding of USD 10 million. Then, there was no looking back.The year 2010 was an important one for Flipkart with the company shipping among other things, electronics and mobile phones. This category now makes up for a significant portion of the sales for the online platform.It was also the year when Flipkart pioneered ‘Cash on Delivery’ in India, which changed the course of online retail as consumers now paid for items only after receiving them, adding a layer of comfort to online shopping.

In 2016, Flipkart achieved the milestone of 100 million registered customers and saw Sachin and Binny earning a spot among TIME magazine’s list of 100 most influential people.Bansals’ e-commerce bet finally has paid off big time. The deal was greeted with some amount of skepticism on Wall Street with Walmart sharEs down by 4%.

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