I recently had the honor and the pleasure of interviewing Kunal Bahl, the CEO of Snapdeal.com, perhaps the hottest c-commerce company in India. If you are not familiar with the Indian e-commerce market, I recommend this recent article from Forbes magazine, “Startup India Flips Out over E-Commerce,” which mentions Snapdeal prominently. We touched on a wide range of subjects, and of course, I asked him about how he uses data in his business.
Dana Stanley: For those readers who may not be familiar, please tell me about your company.
Kunal Bahl: Snapdeal.com is one of the fastest growing e-commerce companies in India. Launched in February 2010, the company is the largest online marketplace for Products and Services, featuring a wide range of products and services across an array of categories from thousands of national, international and regional brands. The company is 1000+ people strong and is the largest e-retailer of local merchant deals, watches, sunglasses, jewellery, perfumes, personal care, among other categories, delivering to 5000+ cities and towns in India. 1 out of every 7 internet users in India is subscribed on Snapdeal, and the company is adding over a million new subscribers per month.
Kunal Bahl: Snapdeal.com started as a local deals site, featuring businesses across categories like Dining, Health & Beauty, Entertainment among others. Various innovations like part payment model, eliminating minimum buyer cap for a deal to go live, mobile vouchers etc. were introduced to customize the platform for Indian audience. Over the course of last 2 years, Snapdeal also introduced Products in addition to the services deals, and has emerged as the largest market place for brands and businesses in India.
The powerful model of local merchant offers along with physical product e-commerce is something which is very unique to Snapdeal.com and it gives the opportunity to provide wider variety of choice to the customers. Through the use of smart recommendation engines, we also cross sell services deals with products which is a very powerful combination. This controlled Products and Services marketplace model, keeps the business lean and also enables rapid expansion of assortment while delivering a great customer experience, given the higher relevance due to greater choice.
Kunal Bahl: Challenges are predominantly in the area of building infrastructure to deliver a superior customer experience. Right from reliable payment gateways to efficient supply chain partners, there is a lot of scope for improvement. More and more customers will start transacting online, as and when these challenges are addressed.
With respect to the rewards, there is a huge potential for the growth of e-commerce in India. Compared to 35% internet transactor penetration out of all Internet users in China, the number is just 5% in India. Also, in spite of accounting for 17% of the world population, only 4% of the Internet users account from India. Given, that innovative models like Snapdeal, within the e-commerce space can scale very fast, it is a great opportunity. In addition to the numerous brands, there are more than 17 million Small and Medium enterprises, providing goods and services to the end consumers, only in the Offline space. E-Commerce as a platform can bridge the gap between these businesses and end consumers.
Dana Stanley: In what ways does data guide your business?
Kunal Bahl: We use technology and strong analytics to drive pretty much every decision in the company. Using analytics, we are able to build and optimize strong recommendation engines that learn and suggest what users want next. We use world class technology and data driven tools to monitor and improve various spends and performance of Marketing, Customer care, Sales force operations and a host of backend operations like Supply chain management and Website performance.
Dana Stanley: How do you see the e-commerce market in India evolving?
Kunal Bahl: The internet industry is currently one of the fastest growing sectors in India and has huge potential given that, there is a rapid increase in not only internet penetration but also people who have access to credit cards, and disposable income to spend online.
Out of the 100 million Internet users currently, a minute percentage buys goods and services online. Within the next 2-3 years, a significant chunk of this audience will transact online. There is a lot of scope in enabling e-commerce through Mobile as well, given the numbers are significantly higher for the same.
Dana Stanley: What’s next for you and for SnapDeal?
Kunal Bahl: We will continue to grow our footprint across India. In addition to geographic expansion, Snapdeal will continue to increase the assortment of products across various categories. Our objective is to build a robust platform which will be the biggest marketplace for products and services. Brands and Small and Medium enterprises alike, who have products and services, targeted towards end users, will be able to reach out to a very targeted audience through our platform. For consumers, it will be a great platform for discovery of goods and services not only within the city, but across the country.