Flipkart captured 58 percent market share in the festive sale period on the back of investments in its logistics network.
Flipkart’s logistics arm Ekart has matched its record of doing over one million deliveries in a day and created a new record of handling over two million packages in a day at its main Bengaluru hub during the Big Billion Days (BBD), the company’s biggest sale in the year.
Flipkart has had a good festive sale this year – it captured 58 percent market share in the sale period versus Amazon’s 26 percent, according to a report by research and advisory firm RedSeer Consulting.
Rohit Sharma, Flipkart’s Vice President and in-charge of operations at Ekart, says investments in its logistics network in the months leading up to BBD ensured a record-breaking sale for the company. Rohit says:
We have doubled storage capacity since BBD 2016. We added 20,000 temporary staff. Ekart has a direct presence in every state in the country except Nagaland and Manipur and in all union territories except Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep. We are now directly present in 7,000 pin codes."
Ekart now has around 600 delivery hubs across the country. Rohit says at any given point you are 30 minutes away from an Ekart wishmaster, as the company’s delivery personnel are called internally.
Experimentation to scale
Interestingly, 25 percent of the deliveries are through Ekart’s alternate delivery network. The alternate delivery network includes lockers set up at office buildings, tech parks and apartment blocks and neighbourhood mom-and-pop shops.
In fact, Rohit says in Bengaluru Ekart will make up to 3,000 deliveries a day through the locker network. Ekart works with over 6,000 mom-and-pop stores to deliver packages on a regular basis. This number crosses the 10,000 mark during high sales periods like BBD.
This alternate delivery model was under pilot in 2016, when Flipkart had partnered with QikPod, a smart locker startup launched by serial entrepreneur Ravi Gururaj. Flipkart is an investor in QikPod. This year, the initiative moved from the experimentation stage to at-scale operations. Ekart now does locker deliveries in Bengaluru and Delhi. The mom-and-pop network is spread across the country.
Amazon too delivers through brick-and-mortar stores. It had partnered with 12,500 stores in 50 cities last year.
Innovating for efficiency
Flipkart has been focusing on tech and process innovations across the company to increase efficiency and to make the customer experience better.
Rohit says Ekart has also worked on a number of innovations, some of which were already working during BBD.
Flipkart has scaled up its product exchange programme, Prexo, which it had piloted in 2016. The whole process can become extremely time and effort-heavy as the old product, which could be a phone or television or laptop, being picked up needs to be checked. Ekart’s delivery personnel are trained to check the products on the spot to see if they match details given by the customer. The delivery of the new product and the pickup of the old product happens simultaneously. This programme is available in most places where Ekart delivers directly.
The company has also introduced an anti-theft packaging just before BBD, specifically for high-value items like phones and watches. This includes features like interlocking inside flaps that prevents cutting of the box.
Rohit claims the box is completely tamper-proof and Flipkart has filed a patent for this innovation.
The company is now working on a technology solution that will help delivery personnel get a customer’s location with pin-point precision even if addresses are not completely clear. This might not seem like a big deal in metros, but in smaller cities and towns with non-standard addresses a solution like this will reduce the number of calls a delivery person has to make to the customer.
We want to offer same experience in remote areas as in metros. Whether the customer is in Silchar or Cochin, the location should not make any difference.”