What startup India thinks about Sachin Bansal and Bhavish Aggarwal's comments on protectionism

By Sindhu Kashyaap|9th Dec 2016
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Is China-style protectionism to ensure that local companies survive and thrive against foreign counterparts, the answer for India?

Two of the flag bearers of the Indian startup ecosystem – Flipkart’s Co-founder and Executive Chairman Sachin Bansal and Ola’s Co-founder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal -- believe so.

Sachin Bansal and Bhavish Aggarwal
Sachin Bansal and Bhavish Aggarwal

It has been two days since Sachin pronounced,

"We need to do what China did -- we need to tell the world, 'We need your capital and not your companies.'

Bhavish Aggarwal echoed him, saying,

"Capital infusion is what pushes the impression of better service quality.”

Many believe this was the very refrain that taxi drivers and operators like Meru were using against Ola not too long ago. And weren't the discounts and level playing field central to the questions being posed by brick and mortar retailers a while back?

Like the demonetisation battle, the protectionism refrain seems to garner multiple and strongly diverse viewpoints from the Indian startup ecosystem. A common refrain by many was that ironically Flipkart is itself registered in Singapore, and yet, Sachin is crying wolf.

Is it because these companies aren’t able to compete with the superior quality of services that the global players offer? While Bhavish and Sachin disagreed when YourStory posed that question, the ecosystem by and large sees things differently.

One comment to the story said that the reason that people prefer Amazon and Uber is because of their better quality and cost-effectiveness. It said that most of our homegrown companies like Ola, Oyo, and Flipkart are all just imitations of well-established foreign ideas.

Also, their larger market share itself came from the global capital, and in order to survive, they need to work on better service quality and provide unique offerings.


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Another Facebook post said:

"If you ask me, I've left shopping from Flipkart about a year ago as their deals are not so lucrative, their shipment is not correct and their customer service is poor. For Ola, only good thing which I admire about them is that they have started Ola share and Ola Pass etc etc and nothing is good about Snapdeal.

"They want govt. help in protecting them becoz clearly they know that their expenses will outweigh their operating margins and for long they will not be able to continue with whatever capital they have with them."

But there were also opposing views. Many believed that the Indian startups are innovating and giving services that suit the Indian market, and it is the irrational capital that is pumped in that has actually given global companies a better advantage. These voices expressed that it is time to protect our consumer internet companies. They also believe that there isn’t anything wrong with the government protecting their homegrown companies.

There were also comments that companies like Uber and Amazon have deep pockets and in order for Indian companies to survive it is important to have checks and balances in place.


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Another argument against Flipkart and Ola is that because their investors are American and Japanese respectively, they cannot be hundred percent Indian companies.

Supporting Flipkart and Ola, Shashank Murali of TapChief said that Alibaba’s first investor was Goldman Sachs and then Softbank, that didn’t make Alibaba an American or Japanese company. Nitan Jain, Co-founder and CEO of XOR Labs, also believed that the government should provide state-of-the-art infrastructure and help companies.


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Is it time that India starts protecting its companies, or do these companies need to rethink their models and focus on better innovation? This debate is never ending.

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