Flipkart: From A to Finish First
Close to 11 years ago, when the Indian ecommerce ecosystem was still in the nascent stages, one company, with an investment of Rs. 4, 00,000 did not know it would become India’s leading ecommerce player. Launched by IIT Delhi alumnus Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, today, Flipkart is valued at $11.6 billion. Slowly but surely, the firm gained investors such as Tiger Global Management, Tencent Holdings and Naspers.
But, the company faced some major competition in these ten years. From Snapdeal to eBay, the Bengaluru based ecommerce firm fought tooth and nail to gain a majority of the Indian online retail market. After a long drawn out battle, last year Flipkart and India’s next ecommerce major Snapdeal almost joined hands to become one entity. However, the deal didn’t come through as the Gurgaon based startup, Snapdeal, wanted to pursue an ‘independent path.’ The silver lining of this merger was Flipkart gained one of it’s biggest shareholders after ending the merger talks with Snapdeal. With backing from Japan’s venture firm SoftBank, US based Microsoft and eBay among other investors, Flipkart was finally prepared to take on the world. However, the company faced a bigger threat in the form of the American retail giant Amazon led by Jeff Bezos.
The Flipkart versus Amazon battle was always present from the very word go. The real war, however, started back in 2015, when both Flipkart and Amazon decided to move into the online smartphone market. At that point, Amazon lost its foothold in the Chinese market, with other ecommerce platforms figuring out they could do what Amazon was doing in a faster and cheaper way.
With that happening on the side, founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, decided to do whatever it takes to keep their foothold strong in the Indian market. This included signing a cheque worth $ 2 billion to anyone who stood in its way! While this matter in itself was worrisome for Flipkart, the fact that Amazon was entering into the world of smartphones made things exciting.
Over the years, the Flipkart and Amazon war gave rise to a lot of exciting eyeballs, making everyone stand on edge with excitement. Flipkart wanted to be the reason Indians bought products on the Internet. Its focus on technology to solve product ecommerce for the domestic market put it in a league of its own. Even the storied Indian IT and BPO industry derived nearly 90% of its profitable revenues from global enterprise clients.
What makes the two ecommerce platforms stand neck to neck is the fact that the number of coders, as well as the technology used by both the companies. Refined to its core, this battle is a classic “homegrown pioneer vs. giant multinational” story on the grounds of Nirma vs. Hindustan Lever, Thums Up vs. Coca Cola, or Mahindra & Mahindra vs. Toyota Motors; with technology as the mid ground. Flipkart has the scale and local footprint. Amazon has staying power and a platform it has seasoned globally for 21 years.
With SoftBank’s recent investment into Flipkart, the battle stands at an interesting level. As of 2017, the homegrown ecommerce platform raised $ 3.9 billion in two rounds of funding from SoftBank and Tencent. At such a time, even the idea of a potential investment from the biggest retail giant, USA based Walmart would give the boost it requires to beat Amazon once and for all. However, before that could happen Amazon decided to show its hand in the game as well. The Seattle based company recently offered Flipkart a breakup fee of $ 2 billion to convince it to discuss an offer which analysts say would bring with it substantial antitrust challenges, as Flipkart and Amazon dominate the online shopping space in Asia’s third largest economy. Furthermore, Amazon is interested in buying about 51 to 55 % stake in the ecommerce platform. Whichever way the deal plays out, it is safe to say Flipkart has garnered a great deal of attraction from the international ecommerce marketplace.
Whether the deal goes through between Flipkart Amazon.com Inc., or with Walmart and Flipkart, it will be the biggest deal made by a US based company in terms of buying out another similar online platform. Regardless of how this flips, it would also be a win win situation for the Indian ecommerce company!
Emerging Startup Stories
Suki: This Startup Wants To Transform Healthcare With Its Artificial Intelligence Tool
We live in a rapidly transforming era where humanity is making exponential leaps in technology. Thirty years ago, no one would have believed you could talk to an online voice assistant to create tasks and get things done. Ten years ago, no one would have believed humanity would land robots on Mars. Technology truly has improved the quality of living of every human who owns a smartphone and has access to an internet connection. Voice assistants are slowly replacing manual tasks and making lives easier and efficient. Siri, Alexa, Google Voice Assistant are just some of the widely used artificial intelligence based tools which are employed on a daily basis. Artificial intelligence, which is hailed as the technology of the future is now slowly making its way into much more complex domains like self driving vehicles, quantum computing and also health care.
Suki, a United States of America based startup founded by Punit Soni, developed their own voice assistant which runs on artificial intelligence to simplify healthcare for doctors and other healthcare professionals. In simple terms, Suki is akin to Siri for doctors. While you could order a pizza or schedule an appointment on Siri, doctors could modify, edit and add health records of their patients. Suki is a powerful tool to help doctors with documentation of health records which often take hours of their (doctors) time.
Suki currently focuses on documentation but has the potential to expand its usage to data queries, ordering, prescribing and billing. According to a white paper published by Suki, using its technology increases the time a doctor spends with a patient by 12% by cutting note taking time by 76%. The time which is saved also brings in a financial benefit of $30,000 more in revenue a year on average for doctors.
Suki raised a $ 20 million Series B round from Flare Capital Partners, First Round Capital, and Venrock, doubling its total funding to $ 40 million since its 2017 launch. Suki is also looking to expand its reach in India and has decided to establish Bangalore as their base of operations. India holds a lot of potential for Suki considering the amount of manual work which goes into almost any sector.
It would be interesting to watch how Suki and other similar AI based startups would transform healthcare across the world.
Leher Versus Clubhouse: Which Audio Listening Startup Would You Choose?
Clubhouse is a new type of social networking platform which is an audio only platform. This means every conversation takes place through audio where users speak to let their thoughts known. Users can create and host rooms where speakers will talk about a particular topic. Originating in the Silicon Valley, Clubhouse attracted some major names onto its platform like Elon Musk, Evan Williams, Reddit co founder Alexis Ohanian, former Y Combinator President Sam Altman, AngelList co founder Naval Ravikant, Ashton Kuthcer, Oprah Winfrey, Drake, Kevin Hart and many others are some of the influential personalities who are on Clubhouse. There is however a catch as Clubhouse is currently limited to iOS.
Leher is an Indian made alternative to Clubhouse and is a similar audio sharing and listening startup. Leher also has video support unlike Clubhouse and is also available for both Android and iOS. However, Leher does not have the biggest names in the world on its platform but it does have significant micro influencers and is growing at a rapid pace. Within 180 days of its beta version launch, the company claimed to have its users spend about 44 minutes every day and 250,000 minutes per month for live video sessions.
We at Startup Stories are curious to see which among Leher or Clubhouse would our readers choose to take part in a virtual discussion. Please let us know your answer in the poll below.
Facebook Launches BARS For Creating Raps To Counter TikTok’s Growing Popularity
Facebook is leaving no stone unturned to tackle the surging popularity of the Chinese video making app TikTok. As part of its redoubled efforts Facebook is launching a new app named BARS which could be used to create and share raps. The core idea behind the app is rappers could focus on creating content without having to worry about investing heavily in production and equipment.
Facebook said, “Audio production tools can be complicated, expensive and difficult to use. With BARS, you can select one of our professionally-created beats, write lyrics and record yourself dropping bars (sic.)” The company also added, “BARS auto-suggests rhymes as you’re writing to keep your flow going. You can also jump into Challenge mode and freestyle with auto-suggested word cues. Choose from a variety of audio and visual filters to take your creations to the next level (sic.)”
The app is now available in the Apple App Store in the United States of America. The invites for using BARS would be sent out in batches beginning in the USA and then expanded worldwide.
This would be the second app which Facebook is launching to counter TikTok’s growing popularity. Instagram Reels was the latest offering from the photo sharing platform Instagram (owned by Facebook) and was launched as a replacement for the video sharing application TikTok. TikTok was enjoying an unrivalled popularity in India as it became a means to keep boredom at bay during the nationwide lockdown which was imposed in light of the COVID-19 virus. However, the Indian government announced that it would ban 59 Chinese applications in which TikTok was one, along with WeChat, Helo, Cam Scanner and many others. This left a sudden void in video making applications, and Instagram realised the need for urgency to capitalize on this void. Therefore, Instagram immediately pushed their latest feature Instagram Reels which lets its users create 15 second videos with music from Instagram’s database. These videos look very similar to the ones made on TikTok and has gained a lot of popularity in India where Tik Tok continues to be banned.
ALSO READ: 4 Things To Know About Instagram Reels
Google also took advantage of the Indian Government’s ban of the viral application TikTok. Google introduced a new feature on YouTube called YouTube Shorts. The feature for all intents and purposes mimics the same features TikTok used to provide. The new feature mimics many of TikTok’s most popular features, allowing users to make and post 15 second videos with built in creative tools encouraging them to add licensed music and more.
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