Understanding local nuance is our key competitive edge: Indian Internet firms

Understanding nuances of the local market and focusing on segments which matter are helping Indian internet companies such as Flipkart and Ola to pull away from their deep-pocketed global competitors like Amazon and Uber, respectively.
 
But even as these internet companies successfully take on the biggest players in the world, India’s top startups urged the government to take steps to create an enabling environment for these companies to become the next Infosys.
 
The stage is set for revisiting the demands of a level playing field for Indian startups vis-a-vis global competitors.
 
“I do think we are in a very critical phase where we are going to shape the future of this new-age industry. We have the Indian know-how and we will win, but policymakers need to create an enabling environment,” said Deep Kalra, founder & group CEO of online travel agency MakeMyTrip.
 
Taking a cue from the Chinese entrepreneurial ecosystem, he said, “They have really helped build local entrepreneurs build monster companies. These are platform companies, enabling many more companies. If Indian companies win, where does the money go? It goes back into the Indian ecosystem.”
 
Read: India should never be a digital colony like Europe: Naspers CEO Bob van Dijk
 
Kalra was speaking at The Economic Times Global Business Summit 2018 on Saturday along with Flipkart CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy, Ola’s founder & CEO Bhavish Aggarwal and Info Edge founder & vice chairman Sanjeev Bikhchandani.
 
Panelists touched upon multiple facets of surviving in a hyper-competitive environment wherein survival challenges are only escalating in the midst of competition from global majors which continue to pump in big dollars in their India business.
 
However, Indian startup stalwarts said understanding the local business dynamics is going to be the key strength and differentiation vis-a-vis international competitors, going forward.
 
“The Indian context is very different from other countries which global players don’t understand. Most global companies think Indians are price conscious, but Indians are actually value conscious. Indian startups have the opportunity to deliver value at low prices, reduce cost structures and make our margins. Our biggest advantage is local knowledge,” said Aggarwal who has recently expanded Ola’s operations overseas to Australia to now take on Uber in more profitable markets.
 
Flipkart CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy said the company’s competitive strategy is to segregate areas where the company would do anything to win the number one spot, and other areas where it is content with being number two.
 
Flipkart has done this by focusing on two of the largest categories in online retail — smartphones and fashion — by building a significant leadership against Amazon India.
 
“Some global players come with a template and are thinly spread. The biggest learning we have had is to put a huge amount of might and resources in customer segments where we need to win at any cost. Then we have identified areas where it is okay to be number two,” said Krishnamurthy.
 
But at the same time, Krishnamurthy said the company needs to do better in recruiting and building on futuristic talent. He also stressed on the importance of artificial intelligence in the company’s path towards profitability.
 
While Info Edge, which owns job portal Naukri, and MakeMyTrip CEOs said the battle is not over yet and the competitive dynamics continues to evolve for them, all players unanimously acknowledged the importance of making innovation mainstream and recognising it as a key competitive advantage.Understanding nuances of the local market and focusing on segments which matter are helping Indian internet companies such as Flipkart and Ola to pull away from their deep-pocketed global competitors like Amazon and Uber, respectively.
 
But even as these internet companies successfully take on the biggest players in the world, India’s top startups urged the government to take steps to create an enabling environment for these companies to become the next Infosys.
 
The stage is set for revisiting the demands of a level playing field for Indian startups vis-a-vis global competitors.
 
“I do think we are in a very critical phase where we are going to shape the future of this new-age industry. We have the Indian know-how and we will win, but policymakers need to create an enabling environment,” said Deep Kalra, founder & group CEO of online travel agency MakeMyTrip.
 
Taking a cue from the Chinese entrepreneurial ecosystem, he said, “They have really helped build local entrepreneurs build monster companies. These are platform companies, enabling many more companies. If Indian companies win, where does the money go? It goes back into the Indian ecosystem.”
 
Read: India should never be a digital colony like Europe: Naspers CEO Bob van Dijk
 
Kalra was speaking at The Economic Times Global Business Summit 2018 on Saturday along with Flipkart CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy, Ola’s founder & CEO Bhavish Aggarwal and Info Edge founder & vice chairman Sanjeev Bikhchandani.
 
Panelists touched upon multiple facets of surviving in a hyper-competitive environment wherein survival challenges are only escalating in the midst of competition from global majors which continue to pump in big dollars in their India business.
 
However, Indian startup stalwarts said understanding the local business dynamics is going to be the key strength and differentiation vis-a-vis international competitors, going forward.
 
“The Indian context is very different from other countries which global players don’t understand. Most global companies think Indians are price conscious, but Indians are actually value conscious. Indian startups have the opportunity to deliver value at low prices, reduce cost structures and make our margins. Our biggest advantage is local knowledge,” said Aggarwal who has recently expanded Ola’s operations overseas to Australia to now take on Uber in more profitable markets.
 
Flipkart CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy said the company’s competitive strategy is to segregate areas where the company would do anything to win the number one spot, and other areas where it is content with being number two.
 
Flipkart has done this by focusing on two of the largest categories in online retail — smartphones and fashion — by building a significant leadership against Amazon India.
 
“Some global players come with a template and are thinly spread. The biggest learning we have had is to put a huge amount of might and resources in customer segments where we need to win at any cost. Then we have identified areas where it is okay to be number two,” said Krishnamurthy.
 
But at the same time, Krishnamurthy said the company needs to do better in recruiting and building on futuristic talent. He also stressed on the importance of artificial intelligence in the company’s path towards profitability.
 
While Info Edge, which owns job portal Naukri, and MakeMyTrip CEOs said the battle is not over yet and the competitive dynamics continues to evolve for them, all players unanimously acknowledged the importance of making innovation mainstream and recognising it as a key competitive advantage.
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