Flipkart was founded in October 2007 by Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, who were both alumni of the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi and formerly worked for Amazon. The company initially focused on online book sales with country-wide shipping. Following its launch, Flipkart slowly grew in prominence; by 2008, it was receiving 100 orders per day. In 2010, Flipkart acquired the Bangalore-based social book discovery service weRead from Lulu.com.
In late 2011, Flipkart made several acquisitions relating to digital distribution, including Mime360.com and the digital content library of Bollywood portal Chakpak.
In February 2012, the company unveiled its DRM-free online music store Flyte. However, the service was unsuccessful due to competition from free streaming sites, and shut down in June 2013.
In May 2012, Flipkart acquired Letsbuy, an online electronics retailer. In May 2014, Flipkart acquired Myntra, an online fashion retailer, for ₹20 billion (US$280 million). Myntra continues to operate alongside Flipkart as a standalone subsidiary; the site focuses on an upscale, "fashion-conscious" market, while Flipkart itself focuses on the mainstream market and major international brands.
In February 2014, Flipkart partnered with Motorola Mobility to be the exclusive Indian retailer of its Moto G smartphone. Motorola also partnered with Flipkart on the Moto E—a phone targeted primarily towards emerging markets such as India. High demand for the phone caused the Flipkart website to crash following its midnight launch on 14 May. Flipkart subsequently held exclusive Indian launches for other smartphones, including the Xiaomi Mi3 in July 2014 (whose initial release of 10,000 devices sold out in around 5 seconds), the Redmi 1S and Redmi Note in late-2014 (which saw similarly accelerated sellouts), and Micromax's Yu Yunique 2 in 2017.
On 6 October 2014, in honour of the company's anniversary and the Diwali season, Flipkart held a major sale across the service that it promoted as "Big Billion Day". The event generated a surge of traffic, selling US$100 million worth of goods in 10 hours. The event received criticism via social media over technical issues the site experienced during the event, as well as stock shortages.
In March 2015, Flipkart blocked access to its website on mobile devices, and began requiring that users download the site's mobile app instead. The following month, Myntra went further and discontinued its website on all platforms, in favour of operating exclusively through its app. The "app-only" model, however, proved to be unsuccessful for Myntra (reducing sales by 10%), and its main website was reinstated in February 2016. The experiment with Myntra led to suggestions that Flipkart itself would perform a similar move, but this did not occur. In November 2015, Flipkart launched a new mobile website branded as "Flipkart Lite", which provides an experience inspired by Flipkart's app that runs within smartphone web browsers.
In April 2015, Flipkart acquired Appiterate, a Delhi-based mobile marketing automation firm. Flipkart stated that it would use its technology to enhance its mobile services. In October 2015, Flipkart reprised its Big Billion Day event, except as a multi-day event that would be exclusive to the Flipkart app. Flipkart also stated that it had bolstered its supply chain and introduced more fulfilment centres in order to meet customer demand. Flipkart achieved a gross merchandise volume of US$300 million during the event, with the largest volumes coming from fashion sales, and the largest value coming from mobiles.
In December 2015, Flipkart purchased a minority stake in the digital mapping provider MapmyIndia. The company stated that it would licence its data to help improve delivery logistics. In 2016, Flipkart acquired the online fashion retailer Jabong.com from Rocket Internet for US$70 million, as well as the UPImobile payments startup PhonePe. In January 2017, Flipkart made a US$2 million investment in Tinystep, a parenting information startup.
In April 2017, eBay announced that it would sell its Indian subsidiary eBay.in to Flipkart and make a US$500 million cash investment in the company. eBay promoted that the partnership would eventually allow Flipkart to access eBay's network of international vendors, and vice versa, but these plans never actually came to fruition. In July 2017, Flipkart made an offer to acquire its main domestic competitor, Snapdeal, for around US$700–800 million. It was rejected by the company, which was seeking at least US$1 billion.
Flipkart held a 51% share of all Indian smartphone shipments in 2017, overtaking Amazon India (33%). Flipkart sold 1.3 million phones in 20 hours on 21 September alone for its Big Billion Days promotion, doubling the number sold on the first day of the event in 2016 (where it sold a total of 2.5 million phones in five days).
Acquisition by Walmart
On 4 May 2018, it was reported that the US retail chain Walmart had won a bidding war with Amazon to acquire a majority stake in Flipkart for US$15 billion. On 9 May 2018, Walmart officially announced its intent to acquire a 77% controlling stake in Flipkart for US$16 billion, subject to regulatory approval. Following the proposed purchase, Flipkart co-founder Sachin Bansal left the company, while the remaining management now report to Marc Lore, CEO of Walmart eCommerce US. Walmart president Doug McMillon cited the "attractiveness" of the market, explaining that their purchase "is an opportunity to partner with the company that is leading transformation of eCommerce in the market". Indian traders protested against the deal, considering the deal a threat to domestic business.
In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on 11 May 2018, Walmart stated that a condition of the deal prescribed the possibility that Flipkart's current minority shareholders "may require Flipkart to effect an initial public offering following the fourth anniversary of closing of the Transactions at a valuation no less than that paid by Walmart".
Following the announcement of Walmart's deal, eBay announced that it would sell its stake in Flipkart back to the company for approximately US$1.1 billion, and re-launch its own Indian operations. The company stated that "there is huge growth potential for e-commerce in India and significant opportunity for multiple players to succeed in India's diverse, domestic market."Softbank Group also sold its entire 20% stake to Walmart, without disclosing terms of the sale.
The acquisition was completed on 18 August 2018. Walmart also provided US$2 billion in equity funding to the company.
On 13 November 2018, Flipkart CEO Binny Bansal resigned, after facing an allegation of "serious personal misconduct". Walmart stated that "while the investigation did not find evidence to corroborate the complainant's assertions against Binny, it did reveal other lapses in judgment, particularly a lack of transparency, related to how Binny responded to the situation."
In a report dated 25 November 2014, a leading media outlet reported that Flipkart were operating through a complex business structure which included nine firms, some registered in Singapore and some in India. In 2012, Flipkart co-founders sold WS Retail to a consortium of investors led by Rajeev Kuchhal.
Initially, the Bansals spent ₹400,000 (US$5,600) on developing the site. Flipkart later raised funding from venture capital funds Accel India (US$1 million in 2009) and Tiger Global (US$10 million in 2010 and US$20 million in June 2011). On 24 August 2012, Flipkart announced the completion of its 4th round of US$150 million funding from MIH (part of Naspers Group) and ICONIQ Capital. The company announced, on 10 July 2013, that it has raised an additional US$200 million from existing investors including Tiger Global, Naspers, Accel Partners and Iconiq Capital.
Flipkart's reported sales were ₹40 million (US$560,000) in FY 2008–2009,₹200 million (US$2.8 million) in FY 2009–2010 and ₹750 million (US$10 million) for FY 2010–2011.
Flipkart reported a loss of ₹2.81 billion (US$39 million) for the FY 2012–13. In July 2013, Flipkart raised $160 million from private equity investors.
On 26 May 2014, Flipkart announced that it had raised US$210 million from Yuri Milner's DST Global and its existing investors Tiger Global, Naspers and Iconiq Capital.
In early July 2014, it was also highly speculated that Flipkart was in negotiations to raise at least $500 million, for a likely listing in the US for 2016.
On 29 July 2014, Flipkart announced that it raised US$1 billion from Tiger Global Management LLC, Accel Partners, and Morgan Stanley Investment Management, and a new investor, Singapore sovereign-wealth fund GIC.
In December 2014, after it received $700 million from another funding, Flipkart had a market cap of $11 billion.
On 20 December 2014, Flipkart announced filing application with Singapore-based companies' regulator ACRA to become a public company after raising $700 million for long term strategic investments in India following which its number of investors exceeded 50. The $700 million fund raised by Flipkart added new investors—Baillie Gifford, Greenoaks Capital, Steadview Capital, T. Rowe Price Associates and Qatar Investment Authority—on company's board. Its existing investors DST Global, GIC, ICONIQ Capital and Tiger Global also participated in this latest financing round. As of May 2015[update], Flipkart had raised $550 million from some of its existing investors, in a deal that raised its total valuation to $15 billion.
By August 2015, after raising another US$700 million, Flipkart had raised a total of $3 billion, after over 12 rounds and 16 investors. In April 2017, Flipkart underwent another round of funding, with $1.4 billion at a valuation of $11.6 billion, including eBay, Microsoft, and Tencent. On 10 August 2017, Softbank Vision Fund invested another US$2.5 billion in Flipkart.
On 19 September 2018, Flipkart Marketplace Singapore infused INR 3,463 crore into the Indian entity Flipkart Internet. The transaction was done in two tranches according to the regulatory filings.
In August 2014, the Enforcement Directorate claimed that it had found Flipkart to be in violation of the Foreign Exchange Management Act.
The Delhi High Court observed violation of foreign investment regulations by E-Commerce firms including Flipkart.
In January 2016, a public interest litigation came up for hearing which accused Flipkart of contravention of foreign investment norms. The court asked the Reserve Bank of India to provide the latest circular on foreign investment policy.
In January 2016, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) clarified that it does not recognise the marketplace model of online retail.
In February 2016, Health Minister, J P Nadda, informed that the Maharashtra FDA had taken action against Flipkart, among others, for selling drugs without valid license.
Flipkart maintains several house brands, including Citron (home appliances) and Digiflip (formerly for electronics and accessories). In 2017, Flipkart launched additional brands, including Billion (smartphones), Smartbuy (electronics accessories, effectively replacing Digiflip), and MarQ (for large appliances, although its launch was faced with a trademark dispute with an existing company, Marc Enterprises).
On 13 September 2014, a Flipkart delivery boy allegedly molested a housemaid in Hyderabad. The house maid's employer has been fighting against Flipkart for justice on this issue, and also for making offline delivery services safe.
In April 2015, Flipkart faced criticism for being a launch partner in the Airtel Zero program, alleging that the zero-rating scheme violated the principles of net neutrality. Flipkart later pulled out.
In 2015, around 400 delivery executives working with eKart, the logistics arm of Flipkart, went on strike to protest poor working conditions. Complaints included seven-day workweeks, extended hours, lack of clean toilets and medical assistance for bike riders involved in accidents. In 2016, delivery executive Nanjunda Swamy was murdered by a customer who did not have money to pay for a product. In response, Flipkart launched a safety initiative -'Project Nanjunda', named after the deceased executive. This included an SOS button in the mobile app (called the Nanjunda button) that could be used by field executives in cases of emergencies.
Sellers on Flipkart have been facing several challenges while doing business on its marketplace, to the extent that some of them have had to quit the portal. Some of these challenges include Flipkarts unfair policies towards sellers, lack of a competent logistics service, and customer returns that are purely as a result of consumer fraud.
Awards and recognition
Sachin Bansal was awarded Entrepreneur of the Year 2012–2013 from The Economic Times, a leading Indian economic daily newspaper.
In September 2015, the two founders entered Forbes India Rich List debuting at the 86th position with a net worth of $1.3 billion each.
In April 2016, Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal were named to Time magazine's list of The 100 Most Influential People.