No Sachin and Bhavish : There is a lot more to ‘Phoren Competition’ than money

So Sachin Bansal (Flipkart) and Bhavish (Ola) want a China like environment, i.e. support from the govt to battle foreign rivals, i.e.Amazon and Uber. companies, with their huge cache of funds, can afford to buy out customers by offering better deals, and added that the battle is not about innovation, but about capital.

“What we need to do is what China did and tell the world we need your capital, but we don’t need your companies [Sachin Bansal]

“..battle is not about innovation, but about capital.”

Really? Maybe, focus on the war then? And for whatever it is worth, Flipkart is a Singapore firm and Ola is a mix of Canada, Russia and Japan!

And they were the one who started the ‘capital battle’ in the country, killing many startups.

Flipkart and Ola’s survival guide : ‘Excessive’ Funding

So one of the ex-Unicorn startup founder’s hiring mantra was to give so much salary to employees that the salary becomes an exit-barrier.

“No one else in the market can afford to hire these smart fellas”, is a mantra that has worked for all excessively-funded startups.

And who are the losers here? Several startups who had to shut shop because they couldn’t afford to bring in great talent, thanks to the talent-hoarding war by the likes of Flipkart and Ola.

Maybe these startups should have asked the government to step in and regulate salaries?

Maybe, these startups should have asked the government to step in and regulate discounts offered by Flipkart and Ola?

The Unicorns Vs. Phoren Competition
Lado, maro and let others win this?

Ola, Flipkart and several unicorn startups are unicorns because of the fact that they were over-funded and had the liberty to sell products / services at discounted rates. It’s a vicious loop – the more funding you raise, the more you can discount and the more you discount, the more you can show off (fancy metrics like GMV).

This is how Ola killed TaxiForSure and Flipkart killed so many *karts.

Nobody cried when this was happening and now that these companies are getting a taste of their medicine, they want govt to jump in?

The Lack of Product Leadership

Flipkart’s major IP (till 2013) was logistics (you can watch this fireside chat with Sachin @UnPluggd) and with logistics becoming a commodity, Flipkart’s lack of product leadership has showed up quite openly.

Hiring a CPO, launching *app-only* product, rolling it back (without any explanation), firing the CPO – these are all signs of the emptiness that the company has in its product ranks.

What about Ola ? Till date, they haven’t managed to fix the service predictability. Look at Uber – they started late, started slow..very slow, experimented a lot, created a playbook and is a much more predictable service than others.

Ola’s lack of product leadership shows in the launch of Ola Play, which I believe is totally driven by founder’s attempt to position Ola as a tech company and has nothing to do with market insights / needs.

Ola needs to position itself as a tech company in order to raise the next round at a better valuation (FYI : Ola is currently raising $600mn at 40% lesser valuation).

Where is the product ? Well, like the last round – we will talk product after we have raise the new round. Let’s focus on gimmicks for now.

If there is one thing Indian startups can learn from phoren competition, it is ‘thinking slow and fast’, and come out of the typical ‘chalta hai’ attitude.

With due credits to Amazon and Ubers of the world, there is a much more calmer execution than just cheap growth hacking that we often see otherwise.

Where do we go from here?

Of course, none of the Indian startups have a role model to look up to and it must be a lonely feeling out there – but the least Flipkart and Ola can do now is to cut the flab* and focus on the product / experience.

Whatever the IP Flipkart and Ola had is now commoditized and it’s time for them to think ahead of the curve (but NOT Ola Play or Myntra’s app-only, please).

As they say, Eat the breakfast or Be the breakfast. But don’t cry when someone moves your cheese.

*flab : For many product managers in Flipkart, ‘working closely with Bansals’ is the biggest highlight of their stint!

Sigh !!

And the radio sings.

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