Flipkart is an Indian e-commerce company, headquartered in Bangalore, Karnataka, India, and incorporated in Singapore as a private limited company. The company initially focused on online book sales before expanding into other product categories such as consumer electronics, fashion, home essentials, groceries, and lifestyle products.
|Headquarters||Bangalore, Karnataka, India (operational HQ)|
Singapore (legal domicile)
|Kalyan Krishnamurthy (CEO)|
|Revenue||₹43,615 crore (US$5.8 billion) (FY 2019)|
Number of employees
The service competes primarily with Amazon's Indian subsidiary and domestic rival Snapdeal. As of March 2017, Flipkart held a 39.5% market share of India's e-commerce industry. Flipkart has a dominant position in the apparel segment, bolstered by its acquisition of Myntra, and was described as being "neck and neck" with Amazon in the sale of electronics and mobile phones. Flipkart also owns PhonePe, a mobile payments service based on the UPI.
Flipkart was founded in October 2007 by Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, alumni of the IIT, Delhi and former Amazon employees. The company initially focused on online book sales with country-wide shipping. Flipkart slowly grew in prominence and was receiving 100 orders per day by 2008. In 2010, Flipkart acquired the Bangalore-based social book discovery service WeRead from Lulu.com.
Partnerships and acquisitions
In 2011, Flipkart acquired the digital distribution business Mime360.com and the digital content library of the Bollywood portal Chakpak. Following this acquisition, Flipkart launched their DRM-free online music store Flyte in 2012. Because of competition from free streaming sites, the site was unsuccessful and shut down in June 2013.
With its eyes on India's retail market, Flipkart acquired Letsbuy, an online electronics retailer, in 2012, and Myntra, an online fashion retailer, for $280 million in May 2014. Myntra continues to operate alongside Flipkart as a standalone subsidiary focusing on separate market segments. In April 2015, Flipkart acquired Appiterate, a Delhi-based mobile marketing automation firm. Flipkart stated that it would use Appiterate's technology to enhance its mobile services. In December 2015, Flipkart purchased a minority stake in the digital mapping provider MapmyIndia. In 2016, Flipkart acquired the online fashion retailer Jabong.com from Rocket Internet for $70 million and the UPI mobile payments startup PhonePe. In January 2017, Flipkart made a $2 million investment in TinyStep, a parenting information startup. Flipkart invested $35 million in Arvind Fashions Limited's newly formed subsidiary Arvind Youth Brands for a 27% stake in the company. Arvind Youth Brands owns Flying Machine.
In April 2017, eBay announced that it would sell its Indian subsidiary, eBay.in, to Flipkart and invest $500 million in the company. While eBay suggested that the partnership would eventually allow Flipkart to access eBay's network of international vendors, these plans never actually came to fruition. In July 2017, Flipkart made an offer to acquire its main domestic competitor, Snapdeal, for $700–800 million. It was rejected by Snapdeal, which was seeking at least $1 billion.
In August 2019, Flipkart entered into a partnership with Authentic Brands to license and distribute Nautica in India. Flipkart invested $4 million in the customer engagement and rewards platform EasyRewardz on 19 November 2019.
In February 2014, Flipkart partnered with Motorola Mobility to be the exclusive Indian retailer of its Moto G smartphone. Motorola also partnered with Flipkart on the Moto E, a phone targeted primarily towards emerging markets such as India. High demand for the phone following its midnight launch on 14 May caused the Flipkart website to crash. Flipkart subsequently held exclusive Indian launches for other smartphones, including the Xiaomi Mi 3 in July 2014 (whose initial release of 10,000 devices sold out in around 5 seconds), the Redmi 1S and Redmi Note in late 2014, and Micromax's Yu Yunique 2 in 2017. Flipkart held a 51% share of all Indian smartphone shipments in 2017, overtaking Amazon India (33%).
On 6 October 2014, in honor of the company's anniversary and the Diwali season, Flipkart held a major sale that it promoted as "Big Billion Day". The event generated a surge of traffic, selling $100 million worth of goods in 10 hours. The event received criticism via social media over technical issues the site experienced during the event and stock shortages.
In October 2015, Flipkart reprised the Big Billion Day event as a multi-day event exclusive to the Flipkart app. Flipkart bolstered its supply chain and introduced more fulfillment centers to meet customer demand. Flipkart achieved a gross merchandise volume of $300 million during the event, with the largest volumes coming from fashion sales and the largest value coming from mobiles. In 2017, Flipkart sold 1.3 million phones in 20 hours on 21 September in its Big Billion Days promotion, doubling the number sold on the first day of the same event in 2016.
In March 2015, Flipkart blocked access to its website on mobile devices and began requiring that users download the site's mobile app instead. The following month, Myntra went further and discontinued its website on all platforms, operating exclusively through its app. The "app-only" model, however, proved to be unsuccessful for Myntra, reducing its sales by 10%, and its main website was reinstated in February 2016. The experiment with Myntra led to rumors that Flipkart itself would perform a similar move, but the company did not follow suit. In November 2015, Flipkart launched a new mobile website branded as "Flipkart Lite" that provides an experience inspired by Flipkart's app and runs in smartphone web browsers.
Acquisition by Walmart
On 4 May 2018, it was reported that the US retail chain Walmart had won a bidding war with Amazon to acquire a majority stake in Flipkart for $15 billion. On 9 May 2018, Walmart officially announced its intent to acquire a 77% controlling stake in Flipkart for $16 billion. Following the purchase, Flipkart co-founder Sachin Bansal left the company. The remaining management team now reports to Marc Lore, CEO of Walmart eCommerce US. Walmart president Doug McMillon cited the "attractiveness" of the market, explaining that their purchase "is an opportunity to partner with the company that is leading transformation of eCommerce in the market". Indian traders protested against the deal, considering the deal a threat to domestic business.
In a filing with the U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission on 11 May 2018, Walmart stated that a condition of the deal prescribed the possibility that Flipkart's current minority shareholders "may require Flipkart to effect an initial public offering following the fourth anniversary of the closing of the transactions at a valuation no less than that paid by Walmart".
Following the announcement of Walmart's deal, eBay announced that it would sell its stake in Flipkart back to the company for approximately $1.1 billion and relaunch its own Indian operations. The company stated that "there is the huge growth potential for e-commerce in India and significant opportunity for multiple players to succeed in India's diverse, domestic market." Softbank Group also sold its entire 20% stake to Walmart without disclosing terms of the sale.
On 13 November 2018, Flipkart CEO Binny Bansal resigned after facing an allegation of "serious personal misconduct". Walmart stated that "while the investigation did not find evidence to corroborate the complainant's assertions against Binny, it did reveal other lapses in judgment, particularly a lack of transparency, related to how Binny responded to the situation."
According to a report in November 2014, Flipkart was operating through a complex business structure that included nine firms, some registered in Singapore and some in India. In 2012, Flipkart co-founders sold WS Retail to a consortium of investors led by Rajeev Kuchhal. Flipkart's Indian entities are owned by Flipkart Pvt. Ltd, which is registered in Singapore. The Singapore-registered entity owns eight Indian companies, including Flipkart Internet Pvt. Ltd, the company that runs the e-commerce marketplace Flipkart.com, Flipkart India Pvt. Ltd, the wholesale business, and Flipkart Logistics Pvt. Ltd, which runs Ekart.
The initial development budget of Flipkart was INR ₹400,000 (US$5,300). It later raised funding from venture capital firms Accel India (receiving US$1 million in funding in 2009) and Tiger Global (US$10 million in 2010 and US$20 million in June 2011). On 24 August 2012, Flipkart announced the completion of its 4th round of funding, netting a total of US$150 million from MIH (part of the Naspers Group) and ICONIQ Capital. The company announced on 10 July 2013 that it had raised an additional US$200 million from existing investors, including Tiger Global, Naspers, Accel Partners and Iconiq Capital.
In October 2013, it was reported that Flipkart had raised an additional US$160 million from new investors Dragoneer Investment Group, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, Sofina SA, and Vulcan Inc., with a share of the funding coming from existing investor Tiger Global.
On 29 July 2014, Flipkart announced that it raised US$1 billion from Tiger Global, Accel Partners, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, and a new investor, Singaporean sovereign-wealth fund GIC.
In December 2014, after it received $700 million from another round of funding, Flipkart had a market cap of $11 billion.
On 20 December 2014, Flipkart announced its filing application with Singapore-based company regulator ACRA to become a public company. This announcement came after the company received $700 million in long-term strategic investments from more than 50 Indian investors. The $700 million in funding raised by Flipkart added new investors to the company's board, including Baillie Gifford, Greenoaks Capital, Steadview Capital, T. Rowe Price Associates, and Qatar Investment Authority. Its existing investors DST Global, GIC, ICONIQ Capital and Tiger Global also participated in this financing round. As of May 2015[update], Flipkart had raised $550 million in additional funding from its existing investors in a deal that raised its total valuation to $15 billion.
By August 2015, after raising another US$700 million, Flipkart had raised a total of $3 billion over 12 rounds of funding from 16 major investors. In April 2017, Flipkart underwent another round of funding, receiving $1.4 billion in funding from investors including eBay, Microsoft, and Tencent. On 10 August 2017, SoftBank Vision Fund invested another US$2.5 billion in Flipkart.
On 19 September 2018, Flipkart Marketplace Singapore infused ₹3,463 crore into Flipkart Internet. The transaction was done in two tranches, according to regulatory filings.
Regulatory action and lawsuits
In November 2012, the Indian Enforcement Directorate began investigating Flipkart for alleged violations of the foreign direct investment regulations of the Foreign Exchange Management Act of 1999. On 30 November 2012, Flipkart's offices were raided by the Enforcement Directorate. Documents and computer hard drives were seized by the agency. In August 2014, the Enforcement Directorate claimed that it had found Flipkart to be in violation of the Foreign Exchange Management Act. The Delhi High Court declared that several e-commerce firms, including Flipkart, had violated foreign investment regulations.
In January 2016, a public interest litigation hearing came up accusing Flipkart of contravention of foreign investment norms. The court asked the Reserve Bank of India to provide the latest circular on foreign investment policy. The same month, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) clarified that it did not recognize the marketplace model of online retail. In February 2016, Health Minister J P Nadda announced that the Maharashtra FDA had taken action against Flipkart, among others, for selling drugs without a valid license.
Flipkart operates several house brands, including Citron (home appliances) and Digiflip (formerly for electronics and accessories). In 2017, Flipkart launched additional house brands, including Billion (smartphones), Smartbuy (electronics accessories, effectively replacing Digiflip), and MarQ (for large appliances, although its launch was complicated by a trademark dispute with an existing company, Marc Enterprises).
In 2019, Flipkart began selling Nokia-brand televisions. A 55-inch, Android TV-based 4K Smart TV was the first product released under that licensing agreement. A 43-inch TV was unveiled on 4 June 2020.
Flipkart launched an in-app streaming service called Flipkart Video in August 2019, so as to compete with industry rivals like Amazon who were also offering premium video options. The initial line up of content was curated from the service providers like Viu, Voot and TVF.
Flipkart Video Originals
To strengthen its content offering on Flipkart Video, Flipkart forayed into original content production, known as Flipkart Video Originals. The first show was launched on 19 October 2019. Named Back Benchers, it was a Bollywood celebrity quiz show hosted by Farah Khan.
On 13 September 2014, a Flipkart deliveryman allegedly molested a housemaid in Hyderabad. The housemaid's employer sued Flipkart for this incident, citing the need for regulations to make offline delivery services safer.
In 2014, competitors such as Future Group (owner of retail chain Big Bazaar at that time) filed complaints with India's Ministry of Commerce and Industry, alleging that Flipkart's Big Billion Days discounts undercut prices in a manner predatory to other retailers. The ministry stated that it would look into the complaints.
In April 2015, Flipkart faced criticism for being a launch partner in the Airtel Zero program. Critics alleged that the zero-rating scheme violated the principles of net neutrality. Flipkart later pulled out of the project.
In 2015, around 400 delivery executives working with eKart, the logistics arm of Flipkart, went on strike to protest poor working conditions. Complaints included seven-day workweeks, extended hours, and a lack of clean toilets and medical assistance for bike riders involved in accidents. In 2016, delivery executive Nanjunda Swamy was murdered by a customer who did not have enough money to pay for a product. In response, Flipkart launched a safety initiative -'Project Nanjunda', named after the deceased executive. This included an SOS button in the mobile app (called the Nanjunda button) that could be used by field executives in case of emergencies.
Vendors on Flipkart have faced several challenges while doing business on the company's marketplace, to the extent that some of them have quit the portal. Some of these challenges include Flipkart's alleged unfair policies towards sellers, the lack of a competent logistics service, and customer returns that are a result of consumer fraud.
Awards and recognition
- Sachin Bansal was awarded Entrepreneur of the Year, 2012–2013 from The Economic Times, a leading Indian economic daily newspaper.
- In September 2015, the two founders entered Forbes' India Rich List, debuting in the 86th position with a net worth of $1.3 billion each.
- In April 2016, Sachin and Binny Bansal were named to Time magazine's annual list of The 100 Most Influential People in the World.
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