An evening with Kunal Bahl of SnapDeal.com

Kunal Bahl, CEO Snapdeal.com, spoke enthusiastically to the members of EO New Delhi, sharing details of his fascinating journey of founding and growing the very successful Snapdeal.com. It seems like it all started back in 2006 in Kunal’s bedroom when he and his friend, Rohit Bansal, an IIT Delhi graduate came up with an idea for a business that provided discount coupons.

Though they lacked market research and business analysis, their enthusiasm, determination and simply put, their guts allowed them to forge forward and start their business. Their initial months of effort were disappointing. Even though they experimented with different products, nothing they proposed struck a chord with either retailers or consumers!

Somewhere amidst their struggles, Kunal realized the tremendous potential of digital commerce and decided to jump into the online realm. They began working on their online platform and it wasn’t until February 2010 that they named themselves snapdeal.com! With no clue how to run this internet company, the team faced many hurdles! Not only were retailers unwilling to try something new, they were still running the company from their homes, were unable to hire competent staff and were still spending most of their seed capital on salaries!

Cut to 2013 when snapdeal.com has proved itself as one of the largest online marketplaces in India. It has over 2 crore registered users, more than 40 lakh listed products, more than 500 categories and a sales force that exceeds 1000 employees.

This session was graced with the presence of members from EO Kolkata, EO Pune and EO Japan.

Some excerpts from the Q&A session with Kunal Bahl

EO: How do you handle supply chain issues?

KB: In other business models, sellers ship directly to the consumers of their choice. At Snapdeal.com we have created a technology to integrate all courier companies. We select these courier companies on the basis of their service and performance. So we have 100% track-ability and full control over shipping of the product. Our 20% – 80% of orders are shipped within 24 hours.

EO: How do you select your vendor? What role did an IITian play in company?

KB: We look at sellers’ financial statements, product samples and their willingness to sell. Also there is a seller score on the website. IIT helped us on the technology side.

EO: Amazon is entering our country, what’s your strategy?

KB: Most well established companies foray into Indian market with a set framework but fail, as the industry is highly unpredictable. Our philosophy is that if a person is rich he will not shop online. We target the middle-class that forms 80% of online shoppers in India. No one who matters to this ecosystem knows about Amazon. Amazon has to start at zero with them.

Kunal Bahl: Experiences & Learnings

1. Don’t do it alone: Finding the right partner and being persistent is the key to success.

2. Need for speed: It’s best not to over think your idea. Start small and learn quickly!

3. Know whom to hire, when to hire: Place great emphasis on your hiring policy. At SnapDeal, candidates have to clear 4 rounds of interview and present their own business plan in order to get selected. Kunal explained that he prefers candidates who can market themselves, have good communication skills and who put their hearts into their work.

4. Your culture will define your success: Place great emphasis on the work culture in your office. Kunal described the work culture at SnapDeal as positive and informal. Its employees are called team members and are all provided the same office space. In fact, the office is like an extended living room, has a balanced gender ratio and much emphasis is given to motivating employees.

5. Be a missionary company: Always set goals and missions that seem beyond your reach. Kunal explained how goals are defined for each quarter at SnapDeal and employees are motivated to achieve them. He said that goals that had seemed impossible were achieved many times!

6. Step out of your comfort zone: Push yourself and be shameless in competition! Kunal elaborated by mentioning a successful campaign by SnapDeal wherein they sold Durex condoms for only Re. 1 on Valentine’s Day. Even though all the marketing gurus disapproved of their idea, they were able to sell 1.5 lakh condoms.

7. Investment in brand is good: It is always good to invest in your brand. Brand building exercises can often bear interesting fruits! Kunal shared his experience of how a village in North India named Shivnagar changed its name to Snapdeal.com Nagar after the company provided them fresh water!

8. Make your company stand for something and live it, breathe it: Streamline your activities to suit your target market. Kunal explained that SnapDeal doesn’t want to cater to everything and everyone. It specifically targets people who want to save money. All their activities and even their taglines (‘Bachatey Raho’ and ‘Helping India, Save Money’) have made this crystal clear.

9. Phenomenal growth: SnapDeal has surely experienced a phenomenal growth. It sells a saree and mobile every 2 minutes. It adds a new product every 30 seconds and has a strong network of sellers. Kunal then showed a moving video of how SnapDeal has changed the lives of small town retailers.

10. Be positive, content and happy: Above all, Kunal said that he believes that to be successful a person needs to be happy and optimistic.