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The K(art) Phenomenon In Indian E-com Space

This Kart, that Kart, Kart Kart hey!

Does adding a 'Kart' make you a Flipkart, nay?

To better understand the 'Kart' phenomenon that has gripped the imagination of budding entrepreneurs in the country, we will have to first tell you a small story. It all started when one fine day Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal (not related), decided to quit their jobs and instead launched their own company. The end result was 'Flipkart', an e-commerce company launched in 2007 that has now become one of India's largest online retailers and certainly the one with most brand recall.

But that is not where the story ends. What followed was the launch of a number of companies that have used the suffix 'Kart' at the end of their names, hence the Kart phenomenon. Lenskart.com, Watchkart.com, Bagskart.com, Healthkart.com, Familykart.com, Ezeekart.com, and Mybabycart.com (although not a true Kart, but you understand the connection right), Edukart.com, Collegekart.com..... the list goes on. And these are all serious businesses too; last year Valyoo Technologies Pvt Ltd (the company behind Lenskart.com, Watchkart.com and Bagskart.com) had raised $4 million in first round of funding from IDG Ventures India.

In this article we try and find out whether this was a simple coincidence (as if such a thing exists), an honest mistake (now who would admit that!) or a marketing decision by the companies to gain from the 'Kart' association.

According to angel investor Mukund Mohan, one of the reasons for these companies to use the 'Kart' suffix can be for the name recognition that comes with it. "This is not something new; the same practice has been applied several times in the past too. In the 90's, a number of companies like GBM (Gulf Business Machines) tried to benefit from the instant recognition that came by naming their companies similar to the largely popular IBM (International Business Machines Corporation)."

"Another reason can be for brand association. Many first time buyers can be fooled into believing that these companies are actually a sister company of or somehow related to Flipkart, hence gaining from the positive association with the brand," added Mohan.

So what does exactly Mohan think of such companies? "I think they are like leeches," he says. Dang!

But it is always better to hear from the horse's mouth, so we asked Ishan Gupta, founder of EduKart, the reason behind naming his venture EduKart with a 'Kart' in the end.

"EduKart is a self paced online learning portal and we wanted a name that had a blend of online education as well as an e-commerce feel, hence we looked out for 'EduCart' with a 'Cart'. But we couldn't get that, so we tried various other names but since nothing of our liking was available, we finally went with 'EduKart'."

Gupta believes that if it was actually so easy to ride on the Flipkart name, all the companies with 'Kart' in the end would be billion dollar ventures (we would assume he is referring to the story that Techcircle.in first broke in July. Read more about that here. He adds that the reason behind so many companies actually going for 'Kart' is because it is sort of synonymous to the shopping cart and since 'Cart' was not available in most of the cases; the companies instead opted for Kart.

To get another opinion on the matter, we contacted Deepak Srinath, MD, Viedea Capital Advisors, an investment bank that specializes in doing early stage deals, who had this to say, "I don't think that people intentionally name their companies similar to Flipkart. Having said that I also cannot deny the fact that these companies do benefit from the positive brand association they get from it. Many consumers can fall under the impression that the new companies are in some way connected to Flipkart."

But if that is true, why doesn't Flipkart do something about it. Mohan has a view on that, "In the US, people would get really offended that you ripped-off their name. One of the reasons Flipkart doesn't care, could be because these companies are not generating significant revenues yet, but I don't think they will care much even if/when these companies become big."

Mohan also believes that whenever the 'Kart' name is discussed among consumers, it's mostly about Flipkart, which basically reinforces the fact that the company is the clear market leader.

"My personal opinion is that most of these companies must be hoping that they are eventually bought by Flipkart. And as far as the average consumer is concerned, if he/she is getting a good deal, they wouldn't really care which 'Kart' is it that they are getting it from," concluded Mohan.

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