On Tuesday, with $1 billion in his pockets to burn, and a price tag of $7 billion on his seven-year-old enterprise, Sachin Bansal looked ahead and talked multiples. “We wish to be the first $100 billion internet company from India,” said the co-founder and chief executive of Flipkart, the country’s largest shopping website. “Globally, there are only five—three from US and two from China. This funding gears us up to achieve that.”
Bansal did not take names. But valuations of listed Internet companies show that he was possibly referring to Google, Facebook and Amazon from the US; and Alibaba and Tencent from China. So, how does Flipkart stack up today against these Internet giants? The first step to answer that question is to level the comparison field. The Internet is a vast space, and Google, Facebook and Tencent have little to do with Flipkart’s business of selling all kinds of things, largely to individuals, through its website. Amazon and Alibaba do, and they make for relevant comparisons with Flipkart. Here’s how the number one online retailers of the US, China and India stack up:
Flipkart is dwarfed by the market capitalization of Alibaba and Amazon. But the seven-year-old Bangalore-headquartered company has the advantage of scorching revenue growth compared with its more entrenched global rivals, who are operating in markets that have largely been penetrated.
In terms of employees and active buyers, Flipkart is very small compared with its counterparts, highlighting how much room it has to grow. Alibaba has fewer employees because its operations don’t involve owning its own inventory and shipping it to addresses. It connects buyers and sellers and acts as a virtual marketplace.
Alibaba has much lower revenues compared with Amazon, but makes a profit, which still eludes Amazon in many quarters. Flipkart is set to hit a billion dollars in revenue this year, but the cost of that revenue is high and it will be a while before it turns a profit.
This is the chart that makes the strongest case for Flipkart in particular and the ecommerce sector in India in general. If consumer behaviour tends towards what it is in the US and in China, as faster internet speeds become commonplace, then e-commerce will witness stupendous growth.
Flipkart might be small today. But it is clear that the $149 billion Amazon is not taking the Indian rival lightly. A day after the Bansals announced a $1 billion funding for Flipkart, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced an investment of $2 billion for its Indian operations, without specifying a time frame. In Flipkart’s race to $100 billion, it will doubtless come across many such challenges to its supremacy.