• Flipkart mulls big changes to its flagship sales event ‘Big Billion Day’, loans likely for buyers

    Flipkart is considering major changes to its third annual flagship sales event, including staggering it through October and extending loans for customers.

    India’s largest online marketplace is discussing internally if it should hold its Big Billion Day event on separate days in October so it has greater control over deliveries and customer service, according to people aware of the company’s deliberations.

    Flipkart is also in talks with lenders to arrange pre-approved loans for customers under a ‘buy now-pay-later’ scheme during the all-important festival season, which will also have Amazon India, Snapdeal and, potentially, new entrant Alibaba Group competing for buyers’ wallets.

    “BBD was earlier planned for 15-16 October but Flipkart has preponed it to the first day/week of October,” one of the sources said.

    “What’s being discussed right now is that the first BBD will be the big one, followed by medium and small BBDs,” one of the sources said.

    Such mega online sales events had come under a cloud after the government in March, as part of its guidelines for online marketplaces, barred these companies from “directly or indirectly” influencing the sale price of goods or services.

    But Flipkart, Amazon and Myntra, after a brief pause, have continued running sales arguing that the discounts offered during such promotional events are offered by their sellers and not them.

    The magnitude of this year’s Big Billion Day will depend on how many sellers and brands Flipkart is able to get on board for the event and how much they are willing to discount, the person quoted above said.

    Flipkart’s first Big Billion Day, held on a single day in October 2014, fetched it $100 million (about Rs 650 crore) but was marred by bungled handling of an unanticipated large volume of orders. The company began preparing early for its next flagship sales event, which brought it $300 million over three days in October last year.

    For this year, the company has already ramped up its online marketing budget to entice more people to its mobile application and its desktop website, the sources said, all declining to be identified.

    Flipkart plans to leverage the customer data it can glean through its mobile application to target its marketing and other schemes.

    This includes the loans initiative, for which Flipkart will assess the financial standing of customers through data obtained from its app.

    “Flipkart is in talks with several banks to disburse these loans, which will be underwritten by it,” a second source said. “Flipkart is launching its loans product just to promote repeat purchases during BBD and win back the Metros.”

    Flipkart declined to comment, but an investor, requesting anonymity, said the company’s core focus remains “keeping the lead in mobile, electronics, large appliances and lifestyle categories, winning exclusive deals and ramping up service and delivery standards.”

    Preparations for the flagship sales event this year is being led by Kalyan Krishnamurthy, who rejoined Flipkart as head of category management in June.

    Krishnamurthy, who is also a managing director at Flipkart’s largest shareholder, Tiger Global Management, was the company’s chief financial officer and head of categories during its first Big Billion Day.

    This year’s event is highly critical for Flipkart in light of Amazon’s huge capital allocation towards its India operations, said experts.

    “During the festival season last year, Flipkart was the clear market leader but now Amazon has overtaken Snapdeal and is close behind Flipkart,” said Mrigank Gutgutia, engagement manager at internet consulting firm RedSeer. “This festive season could make it amply clear who is the market leader between Flipkart and Amazon.”

    Putting on a big show in October is important for Flipkart also because Paytm plans to spin off its online retail business by then, which is expected to be Alibaba’s ecommerce launchpad in India following the government’s decision to allow 100% foreign direct investment in online marketplaces.

    The Chinese ecommerce giant and its affiliate Ant Financial already control 40% of Paytm.

    Gutgutia expects that the discounts and overall sales from the event will be more rational this year.

    “With investors becoming cagey about financing e-tailer’s discounts, e-tailers will be more strategic in terms of only certain categories being on heavy sales this year,” he said. Ben Ijalana Womens Jersey

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