As a TiE Chennai charter member I got a pass to eTailing India Expo Chennai 2014 today at Hotel Trident. I was not interested on the trade show and expo, the panel discussions by eCommerce players like Flipkart & Amazon India caught my attention and I decided to attend it. Especially with $1Bn and $2Bn investments I got to hear from Flipkart and Amazon India, isn’t it.

In my opinion the line between Brick ‘n’ Mortar and eCommerce (Online) marketplaces is a temporary phenomena. Brands and Shops sold through door to door, neighborhood markets, farmers market, coupons/mail order, individual shops, malls, telephone/television shoppe and now eCommerce. Online is yet another medium to sell.

Any day successful firms are those that focus on core values – Quality, Variety, Price, Customer Service, Reach & Branding (list is not in any order).

For today’s conference Ashish Jhalani (Founder of eTailing India) set the context by sharing in his brief (appreciate him for that) presentation key statistics of the eCommerce space in India:

  • eCommerce industry in India is just 0.69% of India’s overall GDP
  • Though India has over 200Million Internet users (majority using Mobile) only 25 Million of them are shopping online today. By 2016 this is expected to grow to only 40M
  • 80% of transactions are in  Travel category (led by IRCTC), in the remaining 20% electronics & apparels dominate

Seeing the above numbers it is clear that the argument of Brick ‘N’ Mortar stores are killed by Online is just hype and premature. In my opinion the brands (JBL, Toshiba, Lenovo and others who have publicly complained against Flipkart and Snapdeal) are just incompetent to handle the forward movement of technology and their consumers.

Sachin Kotangale of Flipkart delivered the keynote address. He highlighted the importance on customer service and why Flipkart is spending huge on this and what they learned so far. In their studies they found the following reasons (in the order) for customer dissatisfaction.

  1. Product Quality (You can’t satisfy a customer with a bad product, that’s what they are paying for)
  2. Delivery time
  3. Packaging (not surprising but the order up did)
  4. Pricing
  5. Depth and Breadth of Catalog

He added Don’t wait for customers to give you feedback, but be proactive and interact with them.

As a customer of Flipkart I have experienced their superior customer service over others, so it was clear they had a superior process on this just like Amazon in USA.

Why all the six panelists in the ecommerce panel are men and wearing spectacles. Indicative of Entrepreneurship even in new age business in India are male dominated.

Why all the six panelists in the eCommerce panel are men (and wearing spectacles). Indicative of Entrepreneurship even in new age business in India are male dominated.

Next was the first panel discussion of the day, the speakers were: Samir Saraiya (, an Adult products store), Nayan Bheda (Founder ISeB and formerly founder of a grocery store fulfilled through neighborhood Kirana shops), Sriram Ravi (Hasbro, Basic apparels), Deepak Tulsian (eBay India) and Anant Ranjan (Formerly Bata India). They all talked of their experience and what led them to their current eCommerce venture, the summary had an explicit message of Online & Offline has to co-exist and an implied message survival one will survive, whether its online or offline.

Samir Saraiya (Who was a former Microsoft manager in Singapore) seemed to have caught the audience attention, especially the way he put forward his case of a product category that most feel embarrassed to talk about in public. Samir talked of on how he selected on this, while employed in Singapore he looked at every product category out there and there was already a giant in them. The only one nobody was looking into was Adult products. His message on his unique selling was point was crystal clear “Buy from me, no one will know“!

After the panel discussion it was a workshop by Nishant Gupta of Flipkart. He shared the product mix that’s being bought in Flipkart, surprising to me Books was just 5% (Mobiles 37%, Lifestyle 27%, Electronics 20% & others 11%). After ten minutes I realized he is going to be doing only slides to death so I left.

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