Archive | October, 2014

Flipkart Vs Amazon – Who will finally be KING

7 Oct

I have been a loyal Flipkart customer since it started shop selling books. I loved the experience – it worked all the time. they exceeded expectations in delivering , refunding , the call centre picked up the phone in 2 rings – I love them and have strongly endorsed them over the last 7 years. Not only have they helped themselves but the country. As the harbinger of the eTailing revolution in India they have helped the country and the consumer.

Today a person in a remote location has access to products that he could not shop for in the past. Look at how the country has saved with Zillions of products being sold online –  we have saved so much petrol, electricity , traffic congestion in our already crowded markets and malls.

But I worry if Flipkart will survive in the near future. Here are 5 Reasons on why they may struggle.

1. History has not been kind to Indian Companies. Nirulas the pioneer in fast food business collapsed when McDonalds came to India. Thumbs Up succumbed to Coke & Pepsi. Pizza Corner has almost wound up as Pizza Hut and Dominoes continue their mad growth. Mad over Donuts stands no chance against Krispy Creme or Dunkin Donuts. CCD that ruled the length and breath of the country is slowly but surely collapsing in front of Starbucks and Costa Coffee…. the list is long but the ending is similar in every case. The Global Multinational rules and the Indian upstart bites dust from a position of leadership.

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2. Indian companies rarely go Global. When Amazon started within a few years they were in numerous countries – US, Canada, almost all of Europe, Australia , Singapore …….. . Flipkart has been around for 7 years , they currently have a run rate in excess of 3B / year – yet they operate only in India. WHY ? Is this being content with growth in India , lack of global expertise , or the desire to sweat it out till you have a massive IPO and then cash out.

3. Most Indian companies have the IPO syndrome – post the IPO – the quality / service all starts dropping rapidly. The founders and investors make so much money and there is so much joy and glee that the desire for enterprise building starts dropping. We have seen this often – Club Mahindra, Meru, Sobha .. all dropped on the service front after their IPO. Is this a case of Indian new age entrepreneurs being Sprinters Vs Marathon runners!  With the Flipkart IPO around the corner ( Post the success of Alibaba) – I just hope this does not turn out to be true.

4. Obsessed with Competeition. A quote from Jeff Bezos on his recent visit to India said it all – “Usually companies are worrying and obsessing about competition when they should actually be worrying and obsessing about customers. Our first priority has always been customers, and we are not worried about competition,” Bezos said at an event organised by the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in association with Amazon.

The last 6 months Flipkart management has been taking a lot of potshots at Amazon, when their Global CEO was in town they took hoardings all the way from the airport putting up spunky taunting comments. Was this necessary?

5. Oct 6th, Flopkart –  What I experienced, what my fiends told me and what I read on the Social Media all indicated that Oct 6th was indeed a Flopkart. Was this necessary? Did it help the Brand or hurt it.

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The founders claim success

“Our teams and sellers worked days and nights to make this sale a success — and our efforts paid off. We got a billion hits on our site and achieved our 24-hour sales target of $100 mn in gross merchandise value (GMV) in just 10 hours,” the Bansals said in a statement.

Lets do the math – there are about 20M Broad Band HH in India and an additional 25 M 3G users. Even if we assume a 50% overlap between the two – thats about 30 – 35 M people who can access the Internet ( I am excluding Edge customers because the 3G speed on Mobile in India is so slow there is no way you can do online purchase on 2G) . I am not assuming that all of them were waiting to visit Flipkart on Oct 6th – lets take an optimistic number and say 50% were – To get a Billion hits how many times would these 15M people have visited the site – about 60 times each, that doesn’t sound feasible at all.

India is a country with a population of 1.2B – if there are 200M kids below the age of 10 – are we saying that every adult in the country visited the site once OR 500 Mn people visited it twice on Oct 6th – Sounds highly improbable given that we have an installed base of less than 50Mn PC’s and only 28% of the phones in the country are SmartPhones.

Even the figure of $100 M sale in 1 day does sound hyperbolic. I wish there was some mechanism to audit this data.

In Conclusion….

I am proud of Flipkart and the dynamic young founders who have made history – I just hope they beat the odds and history and continue to maintain their fantastic growth trajectory and sustain the revolution they have started in India. Like many I am a strong believer that we are seeing Chapter 1 of the eTailing business in India. In telecom we missed the Land Line bus and jumped to Mobile, similarly on retailing we are all set to move from Mom & Po General Trade to eTailing by skipping the Organised Trade bandwagon.

Lets hope that this time Flipkart leads the pack and not Amazon

Wildwoods – Nature Retreat – Off Mangalore

4 Oct

Always on the lookout for offbeat locations I was lucky to find Wildwood’s Spa on the internet . Most folks in Bangalore wait for long weekends to plan a getaway – and after a few years having covered Coorg, Ooty, Kodai, Bandipur, Chickmagalur, Waynad, Hampi & Badami – I was happy to find another great location in Karnataka. We are lucky that Karnataka has so much to see

Getting There 

Located 130 Km from Mangalore (3 hr Drive) its north of Mangalore on the Mangalore – Goa highway. We took a flight to Mangalore and then drove to the resort – Roads are single track but decent for 90% of the route . There is however a more convenient option of taking a night Train from Bangalore 16523/24 Karwar / Kannur Express that leaves bangalore at 8 PM and reaches Byndoor at 11 AM. Byndoor is a 15 min drive from the Resort. I recommend you take this – don’t get confused by the name – the train that leaves Bangalore splits into two at Mangalore – one half goes to Kannur and the other to Karwar.

About the Resort 

Its a new resort – 18 months old with 9 Cottages and 16 Villas. Spread across two tracts of land 4 Acres & 16 acres separated by a village road. The Cottages are in the 4 Acre property and the Villas in the 16 Acre. The Resort is in the last stage of completion and the Villa section is 90% done. Its a botanical resort with over 7000 species of plants set at the border of the jungle with a nice small river encircling it. The greenery attracts a lot of birds and butterflies – a rarety for city dwellers today.

3 Things that make the Resort appealing

1. Lovely Location – Lots of greenery – Gurgling River less than 50 feet from your room

2. Nice Rooms , Great Service , Homely food

3. Lots to see – Beaches / Temples / Treks

The Rooms 

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The rooms are nice & spacious. We had booked the largest room (Room – 1) that came with 2 Bedrooms – 2 Baths. The Bathrooms are well designed , with all modern amenities. Rooms are designed with Thatched roofs and well covered – so even during day you need the lights on.

A TV in both rooms with Cable connection , AC , Fan and Coffee Machine makes it effective and functional with all the amenities you need. The rooms has a small sit out with a bench that overlooks the river.The Cottage section of the Resort spread across 4 acres is small – the Restaurant and Spa are a stones throw from the room.

We Paid 15 K / Night for the two Bed Room – that included all meals.

Food is homely and tasty , mainly Veg. Spread is decent but not as expansive as a 5 star hotel. The Chef is open to suggestions from guests. One day he even served us “Brahmi Spinach Curry” – thats the leaf that helps with your memory. The morning juice was also exotic – on day 2 we were served a drink that looked like it was full go fish eggs – on enquiry we were told that its a local drink called ” Tampina Beeja” which is supposedly good for keeping the body cool.

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Liquor is not served – but you are welcome to get some from home and have in your room. If you came here thinking of Mangalorean fish – then you may be disappointed (We were happy not to get the Fish smell)

The best activity 

While there are many things to do the best activity we liked was the trek up the Kosalli Falls. Its about 6 Km – and takes 2 hr one way. A tough trek ( by my standards) its thru thick jungles and some parts are on the edge of the hill. I just made it puffing and panting – but the kids had great fun and beat us hollow.

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The other attractions nearby are the beautiful beaches.

We visited 3 beaches of which 2 were outstanding.

The Someshwara beach is the closest – 15 Km , 30 min drive from the Resort. Its also the beach where a river meets the Arabian Sea. Empty , neat and clean its rare to find a beach like this in India. No hawkers, No shanties, Nobody ogling at women – its a great beach. The other beach I would recommend is the Marawanthe beach – a 1 hr drive from the resort its on the way back to Mangalore. The temple town of Murudeshwar also has a beach – but that is very commercial. Water in this part of the country is rough and swimming is not advised. 

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For the religious minded there are some famous temples to visit. Udupi – 85 Km , Kolur Mookambika – 40 Kms, Gokarna – 120 Km , Murudeshwar – 37 Km. And for some more fun Jog Falls is 120 Km ( 3 hrs drive) and Goa is just 4 hrs away.

This is also Cashew land – you can see forests of Cashew trees on both sides of the road as you drive. We visited a cashew factory and saw the laborious process of how Cashew Kernels are boiled/burnt and then the nut is cracked open. Post that they are manually scraped and cleaned and then graded by size. At the end of it you get amazingly tasty cashews at a price thats almost 50% of what you get in Bangalore – Rs 500/- Kg.

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Other activities – Long Walks , TT & Badminton, Non Monsoon season they arrange for River activities, and even Snorkelling. Many of the activities are seasonal. We enjoyed our morning walks along lush green paddy fields every day. But Kids can get bored – so plan to come in a group.

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Weather

Its humid – even in end Sep the Temp was 30 +. The best season as always is Nov to Feb. Summers can be very hot and Monsoon is clearly avoidable.

In Conclusion – we loved the place. Yes getting there was a bit of a challenge and the 5 K for the Innova from Mangalore to the Resort was a bit too expensive. Food was good, service was great and we had enough to do for 3 days. It did help a lot that were two families – I strongly recommend that you go as a group. It takes a lot of passion and energy to run a resort like this – hats off to the owner and his team for doing a super job. I don’t think they make any profit out of this venture.

If I were to make 3 suggestions to the Hotel management – they would be 

1. Decide your positioning – Spa Centric or Nature Centric , The name Wildwoods Spa – gives it a feeling that its Spa Centric , but in reality its a Nature Resort

2. Package your activities – 1/2 day modules , and sell that package , as of now you decide where to go and the hotel helps you with local transport.

3. Create more activities for Kids – if in Monsoon river activities are not possible , create something like Cooking , gardening etc – Kids need activity – The Cashew burring activity we did one day was excellent and well appreciated by the kids.

Yes the place does not have Internet/Wifi – I think thats a blessing in disguise.

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As we wrap up one holiday we are already set for the next one in Dec – as we head to the Himalayas, our bookings are done and we are looking forward to some mountain fun and snow time at Soulitude in the Himalayas. Look out for that Blog in Dec