‘If anybody can do something of this scale, it is Flipkart': Binny Bansal on Big Billion Day sale


Over a telephonic conversation on Thursday evening, Binny Bansal sounds tired yet exhilarated. The CEO and co-founder of India’s largest marketplace says the office is in a celebratory mood, and aptly so — selling 15.5 million units in five days is no easy task — even if it is across three platforms: Flipkart, Myntra, and Jabong. Flipkart claims that the internal targets in terms of GMV and revenue were crossed by 40 percent.

Binny calls the Big Billion Day (BBD) sale a “flawless event,” and says the question on who is leading the online retail market has been answered. “It is now clear that if anybody can do something of this scale, it is Flipkart,” he adds, attributing the feat to the insights which helped local execution and ensured value for money.

The BBD of 2014 was almost a disaster for Flipkart, and they have learnt from their mistakes in the years after it. Next year, the BBD sale had fewer glitches, though the company’s app-only approach made it more challenging to build systems supporting it. Come 2016 and Flipkart seems to have truly impressed India’s big billion population . At least that’s the story the numbers tell. The company claims that their total count of 15.5 million SKUs includes only physical goods and is not inclusive of virtual membership and low-cost items. Interestingly, this detail helps us compare numbers with the 15 million SKUs sold by Amazon India during their Great Indian Festival Sale.

Flipkart claims that 99 percent of all their units were above Rs 200 selling price, and 95 percent above Rs 300 selling price. Furthermore, the shopping carts of one lakh customers exceeded Rs 50,000. Their sales on October 3 crossed Rs 1,400 crore — the highest in history, crossing single-day sales of organised retail in India.

Months of planning

The Flipkart team has clearly worked hard for the Big Billion sale. Binny says, “We planned in advance for the merchandise in categories which customers want to buy during festive sales, like lifestyle, electronics, mobile phones, etc. The overall innovation in supply chain too helped.” Flipkart’s ads platform also got their biggest revenue during the sale — with more brands and customers signed up, the revenue is more than twice the figures for a month.

Flipkart’s logistics arm Ekart carries out 85 percent of their deliveries. “Getting Ekart ready for 5–10x scale sales was a challenge. One of the innovations we did was to get all high value items delivered faster. About 80 percent of the iPhones we sold were delivered within two days,” says Binny.

If the numbers are true, by selling 2.5 million smartphones in five days, Flipkart has surely irked the offline smartphone sellers. That is more smartphones sold in five days than entire sales of mobile phones in India in a week. Also, they claim that LED televisions sold on Flipkart in five days exceeded the entire sales of LED TVs by organised retail in 45 days.

Long way to go

Flipkart had earlier claimed that they would cover half the fashion sector during the sales. Backed by Myntra and their most recent acquisition Jabong, Flipkart claims that three out of every four items of clothing sold online were on their platforms. But Binny believes that Flipkart can still do better.

“This time, a lot of items went out of stock after two or three days. We could have sold a lot more than we did if we had enough inventories. Planning the demand in the right way and getting enough inventories is something we could do better. Delivery can be even faster too. High value items can be delivered on the same day.” He added that there is a lot of opportunity in tier 2 and tier 3 towns too.

When asked if this sale has proven who the winner of the Flipkart-Amazon battle is, Binny says it is too early to tell. Online selling, after all, is less than 2 percent of total Indian retail. “In overall marketing, we spent only a third of what our competitors spent, and we got much better results. The Big Billion sale is an event which moves the whole e-commerce market forward.”

So what next for Flipkart? Binny says,

We are figuring out how to get the next 100 million users on to Flipkart, and how to get the current 100 million to buy more. There are a lot more innovations coming up.