India is at the cusp of an economic revolution. If it makes the right choices, it can enter an upward growth spiral that will make it one of the world’s economic powerhouses. It has a lot going for it — the size of its middle class, the high quality of its talent, its democratic political system. All of these bode well for business and entrepreneurship.
We have already seen remarkable success stories in retail, healthcare and education. Many more sunrise industries will flourish over the next few years. The internet economy, in which Flipkart operates, has been growing in leaps and bounds, and will continue to do so. As the sunrise sectors mature, larger players will emerge and help expand and strengthen these areas. India has many things going for it.
First, India is seeing a new wave of entrepreneurship, led by young, dynamic individuals eager to make a mark in the world economy. This growing tribe of thinkers-turned-doers are setting out to put India on the world map, and succeeding. They are developing solutions at the grassroots level for socioeconomic problems, making huge strides in scientific development and changing the face of global business.
Second, we are no longer witnessing a brain drain to the US. The current generation of talent is choosing to work in India’s rapidly growing economy, and some people are even moving back from the West. Finally, professionals, industry bodies and the government are coming together to create ecosystems and forums that encourage entrepreneurship.
But we do need to address many issues if the economy is to grow at its full potential. A 2011 World Bank report ranked India 132 among nations for the ease of doing business. This has to improve dramatically. For entrepreneurship to thrive, we need to
drastically cut red tape and build a top-notch education system from the bottom up. Indian companies also need to start delighting the customer. Most of them do not stretch themselves to provide customers a world-class experience. Entrepreneurs who walk that extra mile are the ones who will succeed in this hyper-competitive environment.
We need to create conditions to spur growth beyond the metros, right up to the smallest village. This is where our true potential and next wave of change lies.At Flipkart, we have tried to own the entire customer experience in the online shopping cycle. We ended up setting up our own delivery network in 27 cities, via Flipkart Logistics, in order to solve last-mile delivery problems. Because we were a technology-driven company, this was not our focus area when we started out; today it is one of our biggest strengths. Similarly, we introduced cash-on-delivery based on customer feedback. We also introduced a 30-day replacement guarantee to assuage the fears of those who were not comfortable placing big-ticket orders online. Everything we undertook was to provide greater customer satisfaction. The only way for entrepreneurs to build a large, loyal customer base is to listen to them intently and act on what they say.
2012 will see a lot of landmark achievements for India. I hope to see a lot of innovation in products and services aimed at the Indian customer, not just in e-commerce but overall. It is a huge challenge for entrepreneurs to operate in a country with such immense cultural, social and economic diversity, but we have the talent to meet it.
Sachin Bansal is the co-founder and CEO of Bangalore-based Flipkart.com, India’s largest online retailer.