Startup Interview: FlipKart founder Binny Bansal

I am really glad to publish my first ever interview on this blog. I have got a chance to interact with the founders of a new web startup company ‘FlipKart‘. 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 is 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. We’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 didn’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 didn’t want to use CCAvenue as their interface is really confusing. So we had to convince Axis Bank for the payment gateway and that wasn’t easy given the fact that we are a self-funded startup and we don’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 don’t have an off-line presence and we don’t plan to have one in the future either.

What is flipkart’s USP compared to other online book stores in India?

Flipkart.com’s USP is simplicity, convenience and customer service. We’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 can’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 couldn’t be better. And very importantly don’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.

Please use the comments section to let me know your thoughts about this post.

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9 Comments

  1. Posted January 19, 2008 at 1:29 am | Permalink

    I’m a big fan of interviews, would be cool if you could do some specific web related interviews. I enjoyed this one.

  2. Posted February 21, 2008 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

    Great interview Chandra.
    Good luck Bansals!!

  3. Aditya
    Posted April 25, 2008 at 4:04 am | Permalink

    nice … love to see more like these
    especially from indian startups .

  4. Posted February 16, 2009 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    I’m impressed. Both by the Bansals and your interview. I have been dreaming of becoming an entrepreneur myself. This one was inspiring. I agree that customer care and being hassle-free make the key to an e-commerce venture. All the best to flipkart. You keep writing more interviews.

  5. Harun Shaikh
    Posted May 28, 2009 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    Really very inspiring- would like to see more interviews

    thanks you

    • Posted May 31, 2009 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

      Thank you. I am happy that it inspired you.

      Let me see if I can publish more interviews.

  6. Sandeep Singh
    Posted August 24, 2009 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    FlipKart.com, I think should seriously think about getting rid of Google Adsense ads on their website. In addition, they should not have margins left on the sides. If want the side margins, they should include top and bottom margins as well..

  7. Posted October 21, 2009 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Good Inteview.
    I have bought books from flipkart.com and found it very satisfying. Wesite is good and easy to understand, you can see your order status. I think it is a good site to buy book online. The moment i knew about this site, i have stopped buying books from Books store. One of the reason is that the kind of discount given, whereas in book store you do not get any single percent discount.

  8. Mohit Mittal
    Posted April 16, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    nice one .. i really wanted some information regarding entrepreneurship. i have got some statics about their website. thanks a lot .

2 Trackbacks

  1. [...] mostly family, friends, friends of family and families of friends) and also subsequently went on to interview Flipkart. There is no way we can quantify what that post did for us – nay – continues to do for us. At the [...]

  2. By Flipkart.com Case Study | Shivaprashanth's Blog on February 22, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    [...] Read the start-up interview [...]

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