A few years ago, say beginning of 2011, I became a Flipkart fan. Not the Facebook one, but one who bought something every month at least. 2011 was when I bought from them extensively. Especially after an order that was worth Rs 101 and was sent to a relatively remote town in UP via two registered posts, without any delivery charges then.
Then times changes and they upped their minimum free orders to Rs 200 and soon 300.
One day soon after that, I told my then girlfriend (and now wife) while passing a Flipkart office that FK had just moved their Rs 30 delivery charges to a minimum order of 300 and I thought they’d make it 50 and 500 in some time.
In 2012, I was checking indiabookstore.net regularly for who gave the books cheapest, and most of my books began to come from Homeshop18. Though most of the big things are still coming from Flipkart. Except my Galaxy Note, where I saved a bit by buying from Infibeam.
[I believe that’s what they wanted. To give small orders to small websites and keep selling the big ones. But once people got good with other websites, they bought from them as well. Not with as high expectations as from Flipkart, but expecting two days extra for a delivery.]
A couple weeks ago I got an email. Flipkart flyte music store was closing, and I should download the songs before a certain date.
Around the same time, I found there was a 66-67% off sale on a lot of books on Amazon.in. After much haggling with myself, I ordered only five of them. The bug that bit me – Amazon was ready to deliver even a single book for no delivery charges. As of now.
Next day, I found out Amazon was selling 66 Kindle books for rs 66 each. I bought 2 of them. Then after three days 2 more, and finally 2 more. Total 6.
Recently, I read an article about how people were not getting deliveries in time, Flipkart becoming a marketplace and all. But I never faced the issue, probably because I NEVER buy anything that is not sold by WS retail, which was Flipkart’s own company until the foreign investment issues.
Also, recently, I was telling my wife, again passing a FK office, that Flyte store was closed, and I was wondering how long the eBook store would survive.
Today, I saw Flipkart promoting their eBook store.
Let’s talk about their eBook store today, because that’s the one I see in the biggest trouble right now.
I believe ebooks is one market which, to an extent, gives scope for competition, because end of the day there is very little production cost involved, and the more you sell, the lower price you can provide, since at a point of time, the production cost is almost zero. That’s why Amazon could for some time give books worth 500 and 600 for rs 66. Of course there are publishers and authors waiting for their money, but you get the point. No paper, no delivery issues.
First thing first. Every time I bought an ebook, I searched Google Play Books, Amazon, and Flipkart, and never did I have to download Flipkart app. I had Kindle on my phone, and of the few books I bought, none was the cheapest on Flipkart. Not by a rupee. Though, many times they were equal, so why not read of tried and tested Kindle.
Secondly, they didn’t even give me a reason to download their app. I mean, I am pretty sure a few people would have downloaded Kindle on their phones when they knew there were Rs 400 books available for Rs 66.
And frankly, their app is a confusing thing too. The web reader is pretty bad compared to read.amazon.com, the free books I tried going kind of haywire. Though with determination one could sit down and read too. At one time I was wondering why I couldn’t simply read their books on Kindle. But then I realized it was because of the user issue, as they wouldn’t want to give you the book to download.
Wait, doesn’t that give me another issue? The way they closed down the Flyte music store, what’s the guarantee they won’t close the eBook store soon too? And if they do, there would be a bigger issue because you downloaded the songs and heard them where you liked, but you can’t do that with the books. Even if books can be downloaded and saved on phones and laptops, how would it be to read books on an app that has no support? Am I just getting cynical here? Because I don’t really see amazon going anywhere, but I can’t be so sure of Flipkart. Not anymore..
And yes, I wouldn’t say we should compare the two as Amazon is a giant compared to Flipkart’s ant on a global scale here, but still, when I see just 568 reviews on their ebook app, it does make me wonder, because Amazon has almost as many reviews as Flipkart’s ebook reader’s total downloads. More than a lac. Even an unadvertised Aldiko reader has an extra zero in its number of downloads when compared to FK.
So I guess, they really need to speed things up if they want to save their ebook store as of now. And just adding an extra banner on the homepage won’t do. They’ll have to give people better user experience, on the apps and on the web, and better prices, and give something to get people to download the app and frequent their ebook stores, maybe sell Chetan Bhagat’s books for Rs 1 for a day or something. As an old FK supporter, he could help them do such a thing. They’ll need some such gimmicks to beat the big daddy of online retail.