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Flipkart enters baby care products; How does it compare to specialists BabyOye, FirstCry?

India's largest e-tailer Flipkart has just expanded its catalogue by adding baby care products. Although a few horizontal e-commerce firms also offer baby care items, this latest move will pitch Flipkart bang against the vertical specialists – BabyOye and FirstCry (more on that later).

Flipkart's baby care section is split into nine sub-categories including diapering & potty training, feeding & nursing, bath care, grooming, maternity care, health & safety, baby gear, baby bedding and baby care combo. Products are also tiled by several brands, such as Chicco, Farlin, Graco, Johnson & Johnson, MeeMee, Pampers, Philips Avents and Pigeon.

A quick browse further suggests that Flipkart is offering some 2,500-plus SKUs in the baby care segment, including the combos. However, many products are now out of stock (but why list them, to begin with, when they are not available during launch).

What excites us most about the new move by Flipkart is the fast-paced category expansion by the most heavily funded e-commerce venture in India. The firm has almost doubled its category basket by adding some seven new ones in the past few months, including pens & stationery; belts, bag & luggage; watches; beauty & healthcare; online music store Flyte and toys (it came up just last month).

In a previous interaction with Techcircle.in, Flipkart's vice-president (marketing) Ravi Vora said that everything except groceries and automobiles are fair game for the e-tailer. The latest move perhaps only leaves out apparels (one of the biggest categories one would find across all generic e-com sites) where Flipkart has not dipped its feet yet.

Vora had recently shared some insights on what's driving the business of Flipkart, but no brownie points for guessing which categories are most popular. "Some of the older categories like books, mobiles, cameras, computers, etc. happen to be top performers, given the time they have had on the site and hence, the adoption by a large customer base," he said.

According to Vora, lifestyle is a large segment and looking at the initial numbers, the company feels it can become a large contributor to Flipkart's business.

Competition in baby care space

With Flipkart entering the baby care segment, the move is bound to impact e-businesses in the same space – namely, e-commerce sites like FirstCry,Hushbabies and BabyOye (interestingly, BabyOye and Flipkart have common VC investors – namely, Accel Partners and Tiger Global) and also other horizontal sites like Fashionandyou, Pepperfry and Indiaplaza.

One key difference we have found is that Flipkart has stayed away from baby apparel, which happens to be a large sub-category for the vertical baby product sites (BabyOye lists it among the top sellers). Moreover, Flipkart has not cross-pollinated other product categories with a baby link (say books). On the other hand, you won't find a link to the 'books' section under baby care (unlike some other horizontal e-tailers). Even though baby care books are available on Flipkart, those are listed under the broader books section.

What do you think of Flipkart's category expansion at a breakneck speed and whether it poses a real challenge to vertical e-tailers?

(Edited by Sanghamitra Mandal)

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