Flipkart pioneers ‘app-as-a-service’ (published for Linkedin)

Flipkart recently ‘relaunched’ its mobile site and received immediate vindictive commentary.

As you’d recall, after Myntra went app-only in May this year, there has been a raging debate on whether India’s consumer Internet firms should ditch websites (both desktop and mobile) in favor of mobile apps.

Industry observers in favor of the move highlighted statistics such as:

  1. 75% of traffic comes from mobile applications

  2. Conversion rates per visit in a mobile application are 3 times than that of a website due to customization and notifications

  3. Significant cost savings in payments to affiliate partners

  4. Morgan Stanley’s reports that online shopping penetration in India would increase to 36% by 2020 from 9% in 2013, and be primarily led by mobile users.

Despite these compelling numbers, many prominent voices were against the move. Snapdeal CEO and co-founder Kunal Bahl went to the extent of calling Myntra’s move to app-only as the “dumbest and most consumer unfriendly idea ever.”

Amid this debate, Flipkart, which had acquired Myntra in May last year for $300 million, killed its mobile website in favor of a standalone mobile app in September. However, within two months of going app-only, Flipkart launched a new mobile site called Flipkart Lite – giving an opportunity for critics to claim: ‘I told you so!’

I would encourage those flagging Flipkart to look at their new product closely. It is a truly innovative product. They’ve essentially pioneered ‘app-as-a-service.’The new mobile optimized website enables users to shop online without the support of an application. Without getting into too much technicalities, the new mobile web site relatively consumes less wireless data, makes the payment gateway more reliable, and supports 60 frames-per-second for better browsing.

As a purveyor of design thinking, I am convinced that it is great move. Snapdeal followed Flipkart by launching its own version – SnapLite. Others will follow too by iterating around the customer.


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