FACE OFF Shoumyan Biswas, senior director-marketing, Flipkart
In June, India’s e-commerce posterboy Flipkart embarked on a fresh look with a new logo and a mobile app for sellers. In a segment that is seeing new e-retailers coming up every month, Flipkart went in for a brand revamp after eight years of dominating the e-commerce landscape in India. At a time when more and more customers are transacting on the mobile, the import isn’t lost on anybody. As senior director, marketing at Flipkart, Shoumyan Biswas says, the idea is to remain ahead of the pack and ensure that “everyone with a pincode or a smart phone, should come and transact with us”.
In this interview with Anushree Chandran of FE Brandwagon, Biswas talks about the need for a refreshed brand identity for Flipkart and how the brand has matured over the years. Edited excerpts:
Why did Flipkart embark on a brand revamp programme at this particular juncture?
Flipkart started in 2007, and in less than eight years, we have reached unprecedented heights. What has driven us is very strong service credentials. We were the brand that created instant trust among consumers on online shopping. We have such a strong foundation, but what do we do to take the brand to the next level? While contemplating this brand refresh, we had to decide on a few things. We were already a strong brand. We had to do some retaining and some imbibing. India is going through a lot of change. The internet has liberated us in a lot of ways. It has also democratised us. People are not constrained by age, gender or social class. There is a lot of aspiration among people today. We believe that our brand has to own a place which celebrates this optimism. We found that the space of fueling and fulfilling wishes was the most potent one, which is when we embarked on “Ab har wish hogi puri”.
How has the campaign been received?
We’ve put up the film across all digital touch points and it has garnered more than 3 million views. We are also active in cinema halls. What you see here is the embodiment of the new brand. Everything that you see—be it a pricing led event or a new category launch or a film on our mobile first approach or accelerating seller acquisition — it will be around the wishes and fulfillment premise. The thought is both powerful and persuasive. Everything for Flipkart will be around this thought. We have an exciting line-up of activities planned.
How do you plan to scale up further from 45 million users, 10 millon daily users and 8 million shipments daily. Are there any plans of entering the grocery segment?
Yes, that would be a correct estimate. But we don’t share projections on numbers. We are talking about a very large opportunity here. Our goal is that everyone with a pincode or a smart phone, should come and transact with us.
Every current and future businessman should list with us. Think of the population of India, the size of the retail market and the nature of the transactions that happen here. This dream is beyond numbers. A lot of our investments will obviously be in customer acquisition. In the last few quarters—in terms of sheer percentage, our business has grown from small towns. In these cities, the primary mode of access is from mobile devices. Whether we go fully on our mobile app depends on our consumers. We will let our consumers decide on how they want us to service them.
On the entry into the grocery business, we are always open to new opportunities and evaluating them.
Flipkart has been hit by a fake discount controversy on social media. How are you dealing with it?
Discounts on e-commerce happen for a reason; which is a fair and right value on good quality products. This incident is an isolated incident and should by no means reflect on Flipkart as a brand, because we have been very transparent on discounts and pricing. We have always been obsessed with customer experience. It is very unfortunate that an incident such as this one has happened to us. We have a zero tolerance policy and have tried to figure out the root cause. Be assured that whatever decision we take, we have the consumer’s interest at the centre of it all. Action will be taken promptly.
In this whole race for seller acquisition, how do you make sure that the quality of merchandise is good?
Our governing principle is that we always been obsessed about insights that drive consumers to transact, and drive sellers to list their business with us. We have some good checks and balances in place. As much as we want to accelerate and provide a strong seller eco system, it is important to take on board the right set of partners.
Is native advertising a potentially great source of income for e-commerce companies?
We are doing a great deal of native ads ourselves with a lot of gaming apps and music apps. We put in contextual ads side by side with content, so that people understand the benefits of what we are offering. We have seen a lot of benefits on this. But there is a separate team here that deals specifically with native advertising. There is no doubt that native advertising is supremely beneficial, powerful and relevant. To what extent, it will impact e-commerce, it remains to be seen and there is a team that is best equipped to answer that.
Is India ready for programmatic advertising?
Programmatic advertising is obviously a lot more possible on digital media. There are two broad themes in our digital media and deployment strategy. The first is where we buy media and broadcast content through our performance channels and where search engine management (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) come into play. The other aspect is where we run branded campaigns to generate online salience. Programmatic buying happens in both the cases. We are doing programmatic in these cases, and are in discussions with partners on such automated transactions. We are still examining the benefits of such transactions and are documenting the benefits. I wouldn’t say that offline media is traditional but it is a little different from how digital media has evolved. It is more broadbased with gross rating points, reach and frequency. These are early days for programmatic buying in the country.