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Why Flipkart, Snapdeal, and Ola are hiring 'Kenyans' to run their race

In the marathon that the Indian e-commerce sites hope to coast along, the disruptors or 'Kenyans' are turning out to be Ola and Amazon

Malavika Velayanikal / Tech in Asia 

Image courtesy: Tech in Asia

Say you’re running the Bangalore marathon, and you start winning it year after year. Soon the marathon becomes popular, so the Kenyans arrive to participate in it. Suddenly, it’s 10 times tougher to win the marathon: you may be the best among the locals, but it’s different when Kenyans join the race.

Sharad Sharma, angel investor and co-founder of think tank iSPIRT (Indian Software Product Industry Round-Table), likes to explain things with analogies. We were talking about the spate of high-level appointments at Flipkart, Snapdeal, and Ola in recent months. To Sharma, the Indian ecommerce marketplaces and taxi app are like those Bangalore marathoners who were winning the local race comfortably – until the Kenyans arrived on the scene. The Kenyans, in this context, are American firms Amazon and Uber, of course.

Consider Ola, which got a head start in India, but now looks fearfully over its shoulder at late entrant Uber catching up fast. Ola still has the lead in number of rides, thanks to a presence in 100 cities compared to Uber’s 18, but its global rival appears way more efficient. Uber is running the show with less than 1,000 people globally, compared to Ola’s headcount of over 5,000 in its Bangalore HQ alone.

Flipkart and Snapdeal, similarly, have to raise their game with Amazon breathing down their necks.

The position Flipkart, Snapdeal, and Ola find themselves in is very different from that of a company like Freshdesk, a customer support software maker from Chennai which is among the top three in its class globally. Freshdesk set out from the beginning to compete in the global market, so they know how to run with the Kenyans.

This is sourced from Tech in Asia. You can access the article here.

First Published: Tue, August 18 2015. 13:35 IST