A conversation with Sachin Bansal, one of the pioneers in e-commerce. Sachin(29) and his partner Binny Bansal(28) have build India’s Amazon i.e. FLIPKART.COM
I am originally from Chandigarh, which is the capital of Punjab. My business partner, Binny, is also from Chandigarh. We are not related in any way, it just happens to be a coincidence that we are now working on Flipkart together. We both grew up in Chandigarh and went to the same schools yet did not know each other well. I went to the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi, where I studied computer science, and that is where I really got to know Binny because he was studying computer science as well.
We graduated from IIT in 2005, and we took different jobs in Bangalore. I joined a company called Techspan. Our paths converged again in 2006 when we both joined Amazon.com India. Amazon was building Amazon Web Services ,which is very big now. We built things like Amazon S3. Their services have powered more than half of the startups in the United States.
We both approached the problem from a typical software engineering mentality. We felt we could write some code and make a million dollars. We did not want to make something that requires a lot of running around. We wanted to write some code and make a successful company, and we felt we could do that with a comparative shopping engine.
That is when we decided to just build an e-commerce company. It was just two people who knew nothing about business starting a business out of their homes. We were good only at writing code and we had a basic idea of how provide a customer experience. We had limited capital. We had to figure out if two guys sitting at home could do a better job than a whole team of engineers in a well-funded startup. We were very optimistic and thought we could. We both quit our jobs in September and launched the site in October 2007.
We spoke with a lot of book suppliers in Bangalore. They were distributors who had been supplying inventory to bookstores throughout the area. We approached them and explained that we were a small company and asked them if they would be willing to work with us. The first time they all said no. They had two people like us coming to them almost every day and asking the same types of questions. They could not differentiate which offers were serious and which ones were not.
We re-approached them and demonstrated that we were indeed good with technology. They had also heard that before. We then asked them to simply tell us their terms. We managed to get deals with two suppliers out of 25 in the city. We just started with them.
The terms required us to pay in cash every time we placed an order, and that we had to go to their warehouses to pick up our orders. In the end we did most of the heavy lifting because we were the new faces to the suppliers.
Current Status –
Flipkart was started in 2007 by Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, the company currently has 4,500 employees across the country now. With close to 11.5 million titles, Flipkart is the largest online book retailer in India. It has a registered user base of two million customers and ships out as many as 30,000 items a day, clocking daily sales of Rs 2.5 crore.