Flipkart Image Search: E-commerce takes its Next Step!

Punit Soni: Profile Check - MBA (University of
Pennsylvania), MS (Wyoming University),
made headlines in March when he left Google
 after 10 years to join Flipkart at a fixed salary of
 whooping 6.2 cr! In other terms - BIG SHOT
I was recently invited to attend a blogger meet organized by Flipkart. Headed by Flipkart's Chief Product Officer Punit Soni, I was one of the 120 odd bloggers who were given a demo of what Flipkart seems to be riding high on these days - Image Search.

Image search is a pretty simple concept, think of it like the 'Shazam' for shopping. I don't really want to share a demo or bore you with a summary of what happened at the event. However, do note that image search works only for fashion products and its as simple as - You go to a party and you see this guy wearing red shoes (it's likely that this guy is me!). So you want a pair of those red colored shoes but what are they called? Loafers? Moccasins? Boat Shoes? Slip Ons? Chukkas? I am trying to stick to Flipkart so don't want to get into the difference (a good topic for a future blog though!) but they are definitely not chukkas. So when you come back you either search for "Red Loafers" or "Red Slip Ons". But what if you have no clue about their name or brand? In that case, you simply search for "Red Shoes". An easier way to do this is to get a pic with the guy wearing those shoes and upload it on Flipkart Image Search, crop it for the shoes and see the magic happen! It's fairly simple and I say you install/update the Flipkart app on your mobile phone and try it for yourself.

Is Flipkart the first company in the World to introduce something like this? Probably yes. Does Flipkart handle more customers than any other e-commerce website in the World? It's reaching there. Has Flipkart truly put India on the World map in terms of e-commerce? You bet! Am I paid for all this Flipkart promotion? I wish! 😉

Two things here -

1. Why is this an app only feature?
2. What about the privacy of the guy wearing red shoes? His pic is unnecessarily in the Flipkart database now!

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First thing's first. I'll be honest, I hate the fact that Myntra has gone app only and I have not made a single purchase from Myntra since the day its website closed. Also, I super hate the fact that they don't care about website users anymore. But let's face some more facts. Myntra reports 70% of their sales was through mobile devices when they went app only. Flipkart quotes similar figures today. The fact of the matter is, the next wave of 200-300 million users that would come online for the first time won't be through a computer but through a mobile phone. The number of users accessing the internet on mobile phone via some app (probably WhatsApp or facebook) is already far more than the computer.

Consider Bhuvan from Champaner (if you are wondering, that's a reference from Lagaan), his first android phone is a Lava Iris priced at Rs 2500. Thanks to all the rain after the British left, he has saved some money to buy a Television so that he, Gauri and the rest of Champaner can watch Satyamev Jayate every Sunday. Alas! Champaner doesn't have any electronics showroom but Bhuvan does have an android phone with the Flipkart app so that he can place an order online. Thanks to the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna, he has a debit card too. Let's not forget the World class app developers that have made sure your transactions go through even on 2G networks. What's next? Bhuvan gets his television delivery, wastes a lot of time watching TV and puts on 10 KGs 😀

With the focus on app, Flipkart is not just targeting the bottom of the pyramid, not just the maximum number of internet users, not just the tech and fashion savvy but is truly trying to become the 'WhatsApp' of e-commerce. It wants to be among the first 10 apps someone installs. By the way, with the recent release of Windows 10, its continuum feature, desktop apps, app development environment changes and other hype and hoopla around, Microsoft has given a strong indication about computers moving towards more 'mobile' environment. It may be smoke and mirrors for now but I am sure we'll have more clarity in the coming future.

Secondly, privacy issues. By the way, who are we dealing with here? A generation that frequently posts 50 pictures of every outing, tweeting every small detail of the day and not stepping out of any place unless they have shared a check in. While privacy in this age may not be our number 1 concern, Flipkart does mention saving the uploaded pictures 'for a limited amount of time'. How long is that time? I don't know. But I suspect long enough to make sure its search engine has extracted all juices possible off of it.

Finally, I await the day when Flipkart has sufficient images in their database and an intelligent enough search algorithm so that when I upload a pic of my light blue living room, it suggests the perfect vase I can place beside the sofa or show better matching curtains with the latest designs 😊
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