Decoding the “millions” sold by Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal in the festive season sales

Quartz india
Quartz india

From smartphones to shoes, hing (asafoetida) to churan (digestive powder), Indian e-commerce last week saw a fierce battle to sell more.

Between Oct. 01 and Oct. 06, Flipkart, Amazon, and Snapdeal—the top three players in India’s $23-billion online retail market—hosted their annual festive season sales. The sales events have been deemed a big success by the three companies with each sharing record-breaking numbers of their performance.


Amazon India’s “Great Indian Festival” was bigger than any online shopping event in the country so far, the company said in a statement. Rival Flipkart declared that it had made history by selling goods worth Rs1,400 crore ($210 million) in a single day, its highest-ever single-day sales.

Below are the headline numbers shared by each company, with some context about what all the “millions” mean:

  • Interested Indians: Flipkart, Amazon, and Snapdeal together sold 41.5 million items during their five-day sales. Assuming that each of these items was bought by a different buyer (highly unlikely), only around 10% of India’s 402 million internet users participated in the events.
  • Unit sales and user base: Flipkart said it sold 15.5 million items during its Big Billion Day (BBD) sale, higher than the corresponding figures of its closest rivals, Amazon and Snapdeal. But even if each of these items was purchased by a different consumer (again, highly unlikely), only 15.5% of the company’s 100-million registered users actually participated in BBD. Snapdeal, on its part, sold around 11 million items during its five-day sale. This is only 7% of the company’s last-disclosed registered user base of roughly 80 million. Amazon said it sold 15 million items but hasn’t disclosed its registered user base in India.
  • Smartphones: Flipkart said it sold 2.5 million smartphone handsets during BBD. This means that in less than a week, Flipkart’s customers bought far more smartphones than the total number of mobile phone users in countries like Bhutan and Mauritius.
  • Bigger than the biggest: Flipkart said it sold 500,000 products within the first 30 minutes of its BBD sale. That’s more than three times the number of product units on sale at any point of time at a Walmart supercentre, which is usually spread across 187,000 square feet, equivalent to about three football fields.
  • Shoes: Snapdeal said it sold 100,000 pairs of footwear on day one. That’d be enough for all the passengers visiting the Mumbai airport each day.
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