So many modern e-commerce sites and marketplaces are really digital forms of their physical counterparts, which makes it easier to figure out how to present and sell products online. But in India, where many small towns do not have “organized” retail — and have fewer big (let alone well-known) brands — mobile and web retail is essentially “leapfrogging” over the physical department store phase to online.
So how do these new companies connect people to products when the logistics infrastructure hasn’t been built out yet? (Imagine if instead of just partnering with carriers, Amazon had had to build not just its services, but delivery, from scratch in the United States!) Similarly, how do payments happen in an ecosystem that still relies more on cash than more “frictionless” credit cards? And how do you solve problems like discovery; design (different web/app versions depending on connectivity); the balance between notifications/ messaging/ and conversational commerce; and controlling vs. owning inventory and infrastructure?
Finally, given the fierce domestic and international competition around e-commerce in India, how do international startups like Snapdeal — one of the largest online marketplaces in India, and interestingly one taking a full-stack approach — compete with other players’ deep (including foreign) capital and existing expertise? Especially in the context of “regulations”? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, we discuss all this and more with Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal, the co-founders of Snapdeal, as well as a16z partner Anu Hariharan.