Business

Betting on 'string of pearls' strategy

Anand Chandrasekaran

Anand Chandrasekaran   | Photo Credit: Ramesh Sharma

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Anand Chandrasekaran, chief product officer, Snapdeal, is running a ‘String of Pearls Strategy’ where each app, a pearl, solves a very important problem for the user.

He made a name as Yahoo search product leader. He recently quit mobile-phone operator Bharti Airtel to join Indian e-commerce start-up Snapdeal. As Chief Product Officer, Anand Chandrasekaran is now helping Snapdeal go beyond e-commerce and build technology products. He is running a ‘String of Pearls Strategy’ where each app, a pearl, solves a very important problem for the user. Edited excerpts:   

On future bets he is going to make at Snapdeal

Snapdeal is not just an e-commerce product. There is a push to go after a set of apps that inside the company I call it ‘String of Pearls Strategy,’ which means each app is a pearl and solves a very important problem for the user. But what makes that more interesting than a bunch of unrelated apps is that there is this horizontal layer that brings them together. One example of that, we are working on a project where a single account blends all these apps together. Whether you are on Snapdeal or some other product of the family, any card or shipping details, any information about you, you can carry along with you. That is the strategy to thread all these pearls together in a nice piece of jewellery.    

On the competition with Flipkart

Snapdeal is now 32 per cent of the country’s overall GMV (gross merchandise volume), compared to Flipkart which is about 40-42 per cent. It is way closer than you might think. This is not even counting Freecharge (acquired by Snapdeal). If you count Freecharge, it makes it neck and neck. But if you zoom back from that, only 1 per cent of commerce is done online.

Challenges for Snapdeal

Today, the biggest challenge for us to overcome is the amount of commerce that is being done online versus the commerce (offline). One trend that helps hugely is that there is going to be 100 million smartphone users with data in next 12 months. One of the challenges in my mind is bringing these users online and ensure that they have a great experience. The other set of challenge is as the scale becomes 10X, it generates problems at the level, whether it is infrastructure, whether it is talent, the back-end.

On profitability goals

The way we look at the sustainability of this business is users transacting. There is lot of attention given to people in terms of their downloads. We measure almost all of our success in terms of GMV.

On mobile driving e-commerce and mobile-only strategy of players such as Myntra   

Over two-thirds to three-fourths, depending on which day, of our transaction happens over mobile. There is clearly a mobile-first approach to user adoption. It certainly helps when there are 110 million smartphone users today, many of whom may not even have a desktop. And 100 million plus new users coming on board, again many of whom may have mobile only as their only computing platform. That said, we feel the other 25 per cent is still consuming on desktop and 25 per cent of $3.5 billion is lot of users and lot of GMV, and we feel we have to follow the users where they are going. Maybe there will be a time in the future, where it would be mobile only. But today 20-30 per cent of our users are still doing on other platforms. We feel like we have to offer them great experiences over that. In reality, our world revolves around these touch points of online and offline. Our sense is Snapdeal experience should also follow that and we are building that.

On tech bubble in India or does it only apply for e-commerce?

If I look at size of Snapdeal, it is probably about a fifth of the largest e-commerce player. The model of having a truly open marketplace has allowed the company in three year to get to $3.5 billion in GMV, and the business model advantage will kick in further. The fact you don’t have cost and inventory and all that is going to be very good thing.

The other thing is — this is attributed to John Doerr (American venture capitalist at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers) when there was a bubble in the (Silicon) Valley — in spaces such as Internet, we tend to overestimate them in short-term and underestimate in the long-term. These companies are going to be substantive companies - there are probably five companies – and the only thing that is holding them back is are they picking up big problems a lot of users want a solution for.

On e-commerce as last man standing game

The market will evolve in India the way it has evolved in China.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2019 9:36:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/business/interview-with-anand-chandrasekaran-of-snapdeal/article7438412.ece

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