Inside The Mind of Flipkart’s Sachin Bansal


Inside The Mind of Flipkart’s Sachin Bansal

Illustration: Akshita Monga

It’s been an exciting week. I don’t want to brag, but after the Walmart deal, I’m going to be richer by $1 billion (minus the fucking taxes). It was a pleasant change to read all the positive messages on social media. Frankly, I was a bit fed up of people asking me why Redmi phones are always out of stock and how to cheat the flash sale.

When I was a kid, mom would always tell me, “Sachin, you’ll never get anywhere in life playing video games all day.” After a decade of tremendous success, jubilation and wealth, I can confidently say, my mom was right.

But now I have $1bn and all the time in the world to pursue my passion for gaming. Maybe even I should challenge Shah Rukh Khan to a game of FIFA. If AIB can, why can’t I? I may not be funny, but I have the money. I also plan to take some time out and get back to an engineering student’s first and only true love – coding. I no longer remember anything beyond #include<stdio.h> cout << “hello world” and that’s a shame.

As I look back at my journey, I’m quite proud to have inspired a generation of engineers with an idea to start a website and make money out of it. No matter how stupid the idea is. (Seriously, who the fuck came up with BookMyChotu?)

Binny and I started as interns at Amazon and left it within six months to start Flipkart in India. Nobody gives us credit, but we were the ones who gave Modiji the idea of Make in India. Flipkart was launched in an apartment in Bangalore with ₹4,00,000 in cash and we would personally deliver books on scooters. Those were different times, people were still reading books instead of listicles and the traffic at Silk Board junction was not yet frozen.

Now I don’t want to say Amazon offers good service, but even I have started ordering stuff from Amazon instead of Flipkart.

I knew people were reluctant to buy stuff online. People would tell me, “So our account gets debited immediately and the goods reach a week later. Chutiya samjha hai? What happens if the goods don’t show up? Website ko police station kaise le jaayenge?” These were genuine concerns and it was then, that we (me, of course) came up with the cash on delivery feature that changed everything. That’s what Indians need, you pay rokda only when the product is in your hand. Wonder how PNB didn’t get that memo?

As Flipkart got bigger, we started selling everything from electronics and furniture to Hajmola candies and mango trees. Even I lost track of all the weird stuff we were selling. And no, we were never selling bricks instead of iPhones. I had a slightly more relaxed role in the company and it was during this time that I developed a hobby of reading reviews and sharing the funniest ones on an internal WhatsApp group. It almost became an addiction and got me fired from the CEO position. Fun times.

Ah well, those were the days! At one point, we became so big that the Big Billion Sale would bring down the servers every time. Things got so bad, we had to approach IRCTC for consultancy. We were offering the lowest prices, were the only big player in the market, and were increasing customers at phenomenal pace. At that moment, I thought this dream was going to last forever.

But every Messi needs a Ronaldo and every Federer needs a Nadal. And in came Amazon.

Now I don’t want to say Amazon offers good service, but even I have started ordering stuff from Amazon instead of Flipkart. ₹999 bucks for Prime delivery, Prime Video and Amazon Music. Are you kidding me?! They started offering more products, lower prices, bigger sales. But it was when Jeff Bezos went from being a nerd to get that new badass look, and that’s when I knew they meant business.

Make no mistake, we tried to compete with the limited resources we had. They would have front page ads in leading newspapers, we would spam people on email. Their advertising focussed on hopes and dreams, we got children to pretend they were doctors and plumbers. They could offer 10 per cent discount, we could offer only one per cent. But we did use bigger fonts to strike out numbers and write “discount”.

I never thought Amazon would come so hard at me for leaving them. Yeah, I quit during my probation period there but jeez Jeff, that’s really petty. As the years went by, we knew we were struggling and Amazon was gaining ground over us every year. So the moment an offer came in from Walmart, it was a no-brainer.

You know how you beat a bully? You side with a bigger bully. I’m expecting a proper street fight between Amazon and Walmart now. It’s amazing how much fun you can have watching a brawl when you have nothing to do with it.

Me? I’ll be sipping cold coffee in my Bangalore home, playing God of War on the PlayStation 4. Some men just like to watch the online world burn.