‘Get emotionally attached to problems, not solutions’

Chitra Narayanan New Delhi | Updated on January 20, 2018

SACHIN BANSAL Executive Chairman, Flipkart   -  BL

Winning customer trust is key, Flipkart’s Sachin Bansal tells young entrepreneurs

In 2008, just a year after launching Flipkart, the Bansal duo — Sachin and Binny — came close to selling out.

A mentor persuaded them to stay the course, advising them: “Don’t give up and quit so early.” Just imagine how different India’s start-up ecosystem would have been without Flipkart shining the light for others to follow.

On the sidelines of India Internet Day, organised by TiE-Delhi-NCR, Bansal, who bravely fielded queries on down rounds (he said even Facebook had faced lowered valuations and there was nothing negative about it), played mentor to a group of budding entrepreneurs.

BusinessLine got to be a fly on the wall and listen in. Excerpts:

Why does Flipkart’s recent advertising campaign talk about “100 per cent original” products? Nine years after launching, why is the messaging still so defensive? Aren’t we beyond that?

Only less than 10 per cent of Internet users shop online today. We want to expand the base. Trust is still a big issue in converting people to shop online. And even for those shopping online, the transaction per user is only 5 per cent. That is, out of 100 transactions a customer does, only five are online. The largest reason the rest are not coming online is lack of trust. Whether it is COD or our replacement policy, all these have been to address the issue of trust.

So will an offline presence — setting up outlets where customers can see the products — help resolve the trust issue?

That depends on the category. And that may be a later decision. We don’t get emotionally attached to solutions, we get emotionally attached to the problem. And customers not trusting is still a big problem.

For an early-stage start-up that is right now building and retaining teams, when should one build HR processes?

HR processes help take you to scale. But don’t overdo them. To give you an example, if you are running a 10-room hotel you may not need HR processes right now: if there is any problem you get to know very quickly. But if you are scaling up to become a chain, you need to set up processes as you should be able to run all the hotels in the same way. As things progress, employees appreciate the consistency. As for building teams, our strategy currently is to look for senior professionals — some of them in the Bay area – and persuade them to work for us at a lower salary. To compensate for the pay cut, you need to give stocks.

How do you convince people to take pay cuts to join a start-up?

At the end of the day, the founder’s job is a sales job — selling to customers, selling to investors, selling to employees and even selling to the family.

How do we choose our mentors?

Get mentors who understand your space. Don’t get generic start-up gurus or gyaanis. Get domain experts. If you are in the medicine business, get a trade expert; if you are in the social space, get a network specialist.

I am a solar energy start-up and am looking at a digital presence. Do I seek a domain expert in power or do I seek a tech mentor?

In that case, go for multiple people. One domain expert and one tech.

If you are an early-stage company, how should you pitch a business plan to investors?

If you are an early-stage company, focus on the market conditions and the team strength.

Everyone knows that the business plan of a start-up will undergo change, so focus on the market opportunity and on how good your team is.

Does your family shop on Flipkart?

Of course they do! But I personally don’t shop on Flipkart. I shop at every competitor’s site and then send dozens of emails to my team on my learnings from that.

Published on May 01, 2016

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