To zip past rivals in the online marketplace, Snapdeal is aggressively clubbing different products and services to make its own eco-system of online transactions. Two months ago, it hired Anand Chandrasekaran, former CTO of Airtel as chief product officer. In a conversation with Avanish Tiwary, Chandrasekaran speaks on his role in the company, and Snapdeal’s new research lab in Bengaluru. Excerpts:
How will Snapdeal spend $100 million it has kept aside for Multimedia Research Lab in Bengaluru?
Most of it will be spent on deep tech and bringing more people on board. We will double the tech head soon. We recently got Amitava Ghosh, former CTO of Taxi For Sure. He understands logistics very well. We hired Govind Rajan, former CMO of Airtel. So, Bengaluru office has a lot of heavy hitters joining us and you will see a lot of new names in the coming months.
What are the projects you’re working on at the lab?
We are working on something which will help sellers know what kind of product image he should upload based on the success of other sellers posting similar kind of pictures. We feel there are two driving visions for us. We want to enable 1 million merchants sell their products online. Other big piece is based on our belief that users will not use one monolithic platform for their different needs. Now users know which service to use for specific use case, like recharging phone, shopping and booking tickets. Our sense is that this behaviour will continue and probably extend to other sectors as well.
Our different portfolio companies are doing well. We have a lot of products in our stable such as Exclusively, Shopo, Freecharge and Rupee Power, and we intend to make them work together for our sellers and customers.
Do you think Snapdeal is lagging behind in terms of tech-innovation? Flipkart has already launched image search feature.
In the last two months, we have completely rebooted Snapdeal’s look on iOS, Android and other platforms. We have launched Shopo — a completely new category where anyone can sell. There are tonne of things that we have done. I would put these against any company. We don’t spend much time as a company on what’s fashionable to do. We are loyal to our vision and whatever we think is best to achieve these visions, we do that.
If you look at Shopo, there is nothing similar to it in the market. In China, Taobao is bigger than Tmall. Shopo in some sense is the Taobao of our market and I would not be surprised if in a few years, Shopo becomes as big as Snapdeal. We are not scared to disrupt ourselves. Many people asked us won’t Shopo affect our seller base. We are fine with it because we are serving different sellers. We are at a stage we don’t know where these sellers will go. We want to be the first one to learn that.
Like previous years, which were more about getting customers, is this year about roping merchants?
It’s now that the whole industry is waking up to the fact that sellers are important. Today, we have about 1,50,000 sellers on board and my view is it’s just 15% of our goal which is reaching to a million sellers in two-three years. We do our own checks and balances before getting a seller on board and actually turn away six to seven sellers out of 10. But we understand the sore point of those sellers and that is why we launched Shopo about three weeks ago.
How often do people uninstall their apps?
It’s been very clear to us that we are not going to play that game of getting more and more downloads. Around 90% people uninstall the apps, mostly it has to do with memory issues. The mandate that an app has to be installed is quite frustrating for customers. We want users and purchases to happen and not necessarily downloads. We would like the users to have our app, but we don’t want their experience to be zero if they don’t have it.
Certainly, app users tend to be more engaged. We feel like there will be a natural journey where users will move on to apps. As they become more sophisticated, you don’t have to do much, but just nudge them and they will do everything on their own.