Review: Click by Jagmohan Bhanver and Komal Bhanver
A well-researched book on the E-commerce boom in India contains a wealth of useful information and indicates a path to success for aspiring entrepreneursbooks Updated: Sep 16, 2017 16:16 IST
Good, better, best. Here goes. A good attribute of this book is the exceptionally astute title. It comprises a single eye-catching word embellished with exclamation mark, followed by eleven words that tell the world, clear as crystal, what the whole thing is about.
A better trait is that its co-authors know their onions. Curiously, though, credentials for this knowledge aren’t quite explained. We’re told Jagmohan Bhanver, inter alia, “handles national and international roles in three of the largest banks in India”. Komal Bhanver worked “in the IT industry for almost a decade” and quit to raise her children. Yours truly, an author, is intrigued about how Komal Bhanver “accidentally” discovered that “she immensely enjoyed the process of weaving stories”.
The book’s best quality, though, lies in being utterly contemporary. Datelined 2017, it is so very up to date that most recent Indian e-commerce shenanigans are covered, players like Amazon, Snapdeal and Flipkart are cited by name and hot shot multibillion dollar buyouts, takeovers, poaching dramatics are given ringside coverage.
The Bhanver duo deserve credit for painstaking research. To pick an example at random, detailed information is given about how Snapdeal bought Grabbon (2010), Sportsbuy (2012), Shopo (2013), Doozton (2014), Wishpicker (2014), Smartprix (2014), Exclusively.com (2015). The mind-boggling sequence of expanding traction doesn’t end here.
“Finally, the deal that dwarfed all previous deals came about in April 2015. In an acquisition that literally shook the world of Indian e-commerce, Snapdeal bought FreeCharge for an incredible US$ 400 million.” The enlarged company’s platform, aver the authors, now counted 40 million customers.
The E-commerce boom in India brought about crash and collapse too, but served to irretrievably alter the country’s entrepreneurial mind space. Models kept changing both style and substance: the inventory-led model, the market place model, the strong online presence model, to name three. Each has its own rewritten “native” grammar. The wry story goes that modern business school pundits in India are running helter skelter to learn fast-changing new rules of the game of taking huge risks to earn sums that seemed crazy three years ago. If they can’t relearn, what will they credibly teach next semester?
The learning curve is complex beyond brief description. Business in India has its peccadilloes. Population is skewed toward countless small towns and villages. Tier 1, tier 2, tier 3 market concepts are obsolete. In this milieu, both road and internet connectivities are dismal. Therefore consumers prefer cash payments instead of online fund transfers. At one time, government tweaked FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) rigours and didn’t allow non-Indian multi-brand retailers to directly sell online to customers.
Apparently, not being able to hold inventory in India’s large, fast growing market was such a big blow for a major player like Amazon that Jeff Bezos led the in-house crisis control team personally. Amazon decided to reinvent itself to tackle Incredible India. Amongst other steps, Amazon Transportation Services was set up in 2015 to augment efficient delivery.
All these and more are covered in great detail. In my opinion, the story is one of exceptional acumen on the part of Indian e-commerce big game initiators. These gifted individuals, many from IITs, have exhibited a knack for coming up with ideas and the tenacity to follow through on them. The Bhanver duo have capably added value to the book by providing insights into strategies that have worked and analysing those that haven’t.
Collectively, e-commerge has produced a slew of game changers. The authors explain: “Most of the businesses that have been included here weren’t built for success from day one. The majority of them faltered initially and it was only after the founders pivoted or otherwise persevered that they tasted success.” They carry on to ring the alarm bell: “Imagine people staring blankly at you when you say you’ve sent them a Facebook request. Sounds ridiculous? Perhaps it isn’t. The history of the business world is replete with instances of the most legendary of companies disappearing into a black hole because they failed to read the future clearly.”
All told, Jagmohan Bhanver and Komal Bhanver have rendered valuable service by indicating a “thought path” along which tomorrow’s ambitious aspirants can trudge towards stardom.
Sujoy Gupta is a corporate historian and business biographer.