The curious case of single order and multiple delivery consignments @ Flipkart

This just happened to me again in a short span of time. I ordered 4/5 books from Flipkart and the ordered was split into multiple consignments and the two consignments were delivered within one day of each other.

Initially I thought this was because the books might have been shipped from different warehouses or even merchant-locations. And maybe the second consignment’s availability and delivery- date wasn’t estimated before the first gets shipped out. But then again, both were delivered within 24 hrs of each other.

Flipkart Deliveries

Interestingly, since Flipkart does its own delivery, the same guy comes to deliver all Flikpart stuff at my place. He knows me pretty well by now and I asked him if why the same order was being split into multiple consignments. Even he was finding it funny that he delivers two days in a row to my house. He only knew that he has a certain area allocated to him and all his delivery packets come from one holding warehouse in NCR.

Maybe thats where this is coming from. That Flipkart has a beat allocated to each guy, and the delivery guy has to work that beat each day. Hence it doesnt make much of a difference in splitting the delivery into two parts – he would be around in the neighborhood anyways.

Also, I figured out that many of these deliveries were COD and maybe this was a way to put a cap on how much cash the delivery guy handles. Or maybe the risk of not shipping a big consignment to someone who turns it away or acts funny.

But I still feel, they might find an opporutnity to further trim down their logistics cost and maybe even enhance the customer experience if they could find a way to re-aggregate consignments at the last-mile. Or will that put pressure on the mini-warehouse ? What do you think?

Who owns the customer experience

I have been a regular and very loyal customer of Flipkart. They have a neat UI, collection is great, prices are good and they manage deliveries very well.

Chariots of the GodsWhile shopping for books last week I was shown a recommendation for “The Chariots of the Gods” a book whose introduction/teaser looked exciting. Needless to say I added it to my shopping cart (proof that recommendation engines are maturing fast).

I got my consignment of books right on time, neatly packed with bookmarks etc. I finished the first book and then it happened. When I opened this book – The Chariots of the Gods- the print quality was shocking. It was so bad that it would have made the pirated road-side versions look like hard-bound editions :-).

I tried reading the book a couple of times but just couldn’t get beyond the first few pages. So I wrote to Flipkart. I told them my angst and they promptly agreed to replace the book. I reminded them that they should do so only if the print quality was different from what I had got. So I got my revised copy and it was the exact same quality (or lack of it). Guess its just a badly printed book. Can’t really blame Flipkart ! Or can I?

I guess as the leader in its space, Flipkart is viewed as the entity that promises to deliver a superior customer experience. Though their customer service was prompt and empowered to quickly respond to my case, they failed to investigate if they could really solve my problem.

Also the promise of a good online experience also includes a guarantee that sub-standard products would not be stocked. The book might be awesome, but if the print quality is bad, someone at Flipkart should decide against stocking it.

And I feel this is amongst other factors would determine which of the two models – marketplace vs inventory-driven models would emerge. Would marketplace managers be able to deliver a better experience, esp in categories where the product quality can vary?

I for one would bet my money on those who know how to control and deliver a great experience, marketplace or otherwise.

The real eCommerce revolution

Indian ecommerce

Had an interesting conversation with an investor friend yesterday, who is really active in the start-up/seed stage. We were talking about the many niche plays that are coming up with the well funded steep growth we are witnessing in the ecommerce industry.

While there is no doubt, that Indians have started buying/shopping/ordering online and in a big way, what can also not be debated is the uniqueness of the Indian model, which throws up its own set of challenges. Lets look at a few of them:

  • Almost 70% of our ecommerce transactions areCash-on-Delivery (COD)
  • Many big portals have seen return-rates upwards of 30%
  • Current ecommerce growth is happening predominantly from tier 2 and tier 3 towns

What all of this translates into, is some serious logistics issues namely, collecting payments from COD customers, inbound logistics for returned goods and finally having an efficient distribution network, which is spread out really far and wide.

A few interesting plays are being introduced in the Indian economy

  • Players like who are focusing only on ecommerce logistics including cash collection. This company has a simple pitch that it will help reduce the return rates and also ensure higher efficiency on the COD segment.
  • Niche players who are focusing only on the cash management for COD piece. One such player is riding on the positioning that it will enable ecommerce players to get sales proceeds into their accounts within x days. A payment guarantee that allows the ecommerce player to do what it does best- focus on demand generation and driving transactions.

If these challenges are very unique to our economy, it could mean the difference between the success of a local experienced player vs the success of a global ecommerce giant like