Flipkart co-founder and executive chairman Sachin Bansal says that former Housing.com CEO Rahul Yadav is chasing an audacious goal with his new venture, Intelligent Interfaces.
And that is perhaps why Bansal has invested in Yadav’s startup. For, as Bansal says, at the broader level, it is about making organisations more productive and nimble. “I look at ideas and the space and ask ‘is that so big that it starts feeling scary’. It’s an audacious goal, to make the government productive,” he added.
Yadav’s new startup’s stated objective is to enable governments to leverage technology and internet to bring about greater efficiency in functioning, which will also save costs.
“Fundamental things in the country are broken. Infrastructure is broken, there’s pollution, too much population. I had the option to leave the country or fix it, so I’m trying to fix it,” says Yadav.
The opportunity that Yadav sees is in the inefficiently run government sectors, which is a huge business opportunity in itself. Yadav says each business in the government can be worth $10 billion.
Bansal and Yadav were talking at a fireside chat at the Entrepreneurship Summit 2016 at IIT-Bombay last week.
Revealing very little about his venture, Yadav only says that he is putting together a data team.
“Railways lost three per cent of their customers and they don’t know why,” he says, adding that the Railways have data but no one is looking at that. “I think simple presentation can bring impact and the second step is to make it more intelligent and efficient,” he adds.
Lessons learned at Housing.com
Yadav has come a long way since his time at Housing.com. After scaling to 10 cities, the real estate portal started burning cash to bring in the customers. At hindsight, Yadav says the focus should have been on growing the business in a single city.
Another takeaway is the investors he is willing to work with. Individual investors, according to the entrepreneur, are more supportive than venture capitalists. “Most fund managers do not have a tech background in India, and startups are tech based. There’s a gap here.”
Culture and innovation at Flipkart
Yadav isn’t the only one Bansal is hoping will help solve the big problems of the country. At Flipkart, too, Bansal encourages people to invest in ideas that can tackle the big problems. “There are very big problems to be solved out there. Don’t go after the small problems” is his advice.
As he says, a culture that is customer-centric is where great ideas are generated not only for the organisation but also at the product level.
The next set of innovations at Flipkart will be seen in general logistics and payments. “I am keen on these areas because they are big. General logistics in India is broken, partly due to infrastructure and partly due to lack of organised players. We will leverage technology to solve this problem. We will solve parts of this problem and take it outside e-commerce as well. Similarly, payments has many regulatory challenges,” said Bansal.
Slowdown and small businesses
In the near term, the next six months to one year, there will be an overall slowdown, not just in India but across the world, according to Bansal. “It seems like there is a downturn and that percolates to early stage investment, because from top to bottom people are more cautious about how they are investing,” he adds. However, he said that the upside of the downturn, particularly for small companies, is that assets such as rent will become cheaper, and hiring employees will become easier.
Flipkart has been investing in several startups recently. In January, Flipkart invested an undisclosed amount of seed funding in parenting social network TinyStep.
Visual AI startup Snapshopr raised an undisclosed amount of angel funding led by former Flipkart CTO Amod Malviya and others.