Robots, celebrities, and TikTok: Inside Flipkart’s preparations for Big Billion Days

Engaging buyers.
Engaging buyers.
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Team Flipkart is busy making last-minute arrangements before its annual mega sales event Big Billion Days (BBD).

To meet the heavy shopper rush on Sept. 29, the day BBD commences, the e-commerce behemoth is on overdrive, testing its technology infrastructure to ensure all systems are in place and running optimally, to deliver a smooth purchase experience to consumers.

“Our shop floor is witnessing hectic work activity with team members from different verticals coming together to run last-minute system checks to ensure we are ready to meet any exigency during sales day,” said Nandita Sinha, vice-president, events, engagement, and merchandising at Flipkart.

Leading this year’s BBD sales, Sinha is not wary about competition and brushes aside any talk of festive season sales being a stressful time, since rivals like Amazon are competing for customers’ wallet share.

In an interview with Quartz, Sinha talks about the need to target and engage tier-2 and tier-3 consumers and how Flipkart is leveraging video-led content and celebrity influence to get shoppers to its platform. Edited excerpts:

What is the focus of this year’s BBD?

The focus is to make Flipkart the destination of choice for shoppers.

We want to reach out to “Bharat,” or consumers from tier-2 and tier-3 cities. They will perhaps experience e-commerce for the first time. To reach out to these buyers, we have strengthened our supply chain and extended our reach by adding more sellers, and cities. We have been able to strengthen our last-mile delivery as well. During the upcoming sales, we are also working to offer credit, easy loans, and EMIs to the maximum number of shoppers.

Your rivals, including Amazon, have also said they’re chasing customers in smaller Indian towns and cities. How tough do you think this year’s festive season fight will be?

The festive season, understandably, is big for everyone. It’s not the first time that we are after consumers’ wallet share with others, too, being in the fray. What we know is that during festive sales, buyers look for wider product choice, accessibility (easy product discovery), and timely delivery. We are focused on offering all of this to our customers.

How is Flipkart reaching out and creating a buzz around its big sales day?

For any sales event to be a success, one needs to create a compelling story for customers. For this, it’s important to build excitement and curiosity among consumers. Flipkart is using influencers, including Bollywood and cricket celebrities, to talk about BBD. We have celebrities such as Amitabh Bachchan and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who are asking consumers to come and discover new products on our platform.

To reach out to young people, we are using popular video platforms such as TikTok. Then we have roped in popular singer Badshah, who has done a special video song for BBD.

How are you using technology to power BBD?

The entire team, including technology people, are working to increase productivity on the shop floor.

Functions like pickup of parcels, sorting, and despatch are all technology-led processes. For example, we have developed a mapping platform covering the remotest parts of the country to ensure the addresses that customers give are accurate and can be tracked easily.

Through technology and automation, the focus is to match up to the huge scale that BBD offers. Sometime back, we introduced a robot-based sorting of parcels. We started with 100 robots and in the run-up to the festive sales, Flipkart now has 450 robots engaged in sorting, which helps us add speed and efficiency.

On the supply chain side, we are creating a personalised e-commerce experience going by individual shoppers’ buying history. Real-time analytics provide insights that help us offer the right kind of selection to customers.

How much additional human resource has Flipkart deployed to handle the festive sales rush?

New job opportunities have been created across our logistics arm, supply chain, and customer support teams. Over 50,000 new jobs have been added for the sales event.

How prepared is your technology and infrastructure to handle the sales rush?

During the festive season, in the first two days when large offers open up, there is a high possibility of disruptions. But we have our systems tested thoroughly to tackle and meet any such eventuality. As we near the launch date of BBD, technology infrastructure and related-systems are checked and tested continuously.

What are the last-minute preparations for BBD sales and what are the kind of work hours that go into these efforts?

The week leading to the BBD sales day is hectic for the team. There is a lot of activity and energy on the shop floor. The different teams are busy testing all the internal processes and systems to ensure our technology-infrastructure is ready and robust enough to handle heavy traffic during festive sales.

People spend long hours in office a week before the actual sales day. Food is on the house. We also do lot of fun things to keep the energy and momentum going. For example, last year we had live music station, and karoke. This year, too, the fun quotient is high with music and entertainment activities in place. And then, festive sales is the time when the iconic BBD mattresses come out. People spend long hours and sleep in office preparing for the big sales day.