Flipkart and Snapdeal are undoubtedly India’s biggest ecommerce rivals.
Flipkart with a valuation of over US$15 billion and Snapdeal with a valuation of US$5 billion have been bitter competitors on and off the field. Snapdeal co-founder Kunal Bahl and Flipkart co-founder Sachin Bansal have exchanged pot shots over Twitter many a time.
But the recent political controversy, which was triggered by Snapdeal’s brand ambassador Aamir Khan has brought together the Federer-Nadal of India’s ecommerce industry. Sachin came forward in solidarity with Kunal as Snapdeal was facing customer backlash after actor Aamir Khan spoke about his wife’s concerns over growing violence and intolerance in some parts of India.
At a journalism awards event, Aamir reportedly said:
When I sit at home and talk to Kiran [his wife], Kiran and I have lived all our lives in India. For the first time, she said, should we move out of India? That’s a disastrous and big statement for Kiran to make to me. She fears for her child. She fears about what the atmosphere around us will be. She feels scared to open the newspapers every day. That does indicate that there is a sense of growing disquiet… growing sense of despondency. You feel depressed, you feel low… why is it happening? This feeling exists in me too.
These remarks prompted a number of people to protest online. Many Indians flocked to Facebook, Twitter, and even the Google Play Store with comments against Snapdeal and Aamir. Media reports claim that the Snapdeal app has been uninstalled by thousands of Indian consumers as a form of boycott, though there is no official data from the company yet. Hundreds of consumers gave Snapdeal’s app a one-star rating on Google Play. More than 33,000 tweets were trending with the hashtag #bootoutsnapdeal in the country.
Seeing the fierce reactions online, Snapdeal stepped into fire-fighting mode. The company issued a statement: “Snapdeal is neither connected nor plays a role in comments made by Aamir Khan in his personal capacity. Snapdeal is a proud Indian company built by passionate young Indians focused on building an inclusive digital India. Every day we are positively impacting thousands of small businesses and millions of consumers in India. We will continue towards our mission of creating one million successful online entrepreneurs in India.”
But the backlash continued on social media.
That is when Flipkart’s Sachin tweeted:
— Sachin Bansal (@_sachinbansal) November 25, 2015
Present tense, past imperfect
This kind of solidarity is very unusual for the online commerce industry in the country. The leading entrepreneurs in this space have spent the early years of India’s ecommerce boom hurling barbs at each other – be it Amazon, Flipkart, or Snapdeal.
During this year’s Big Billion Day, Flipkart and Snapdeal’s employees were breathing down each others’ throats:
@anandc Anand, my friend we were testing our servers to prep for BBD. Sorry you had issues. Best of luck for the festival season!
— punitsoni (@punitsoni) October 11, 2015
Snapdeal’s Kunal had earlier taken a direct stab at Flipkart’s subsidiary Myntra, saying that Myntra going app only was a “consumer- unfriendly idea.”
When Snapdeal’s cofounder Rohit Bansal commented that it is hard to find good talent, Sachin tweeted:
Don't blame India for your failure to hire great engineers. They join for culture and challenge https://t.co/Fqku8Xi58X
— Sachin Bansal (@_sachinbansal) May 29, 2015
A controversy rages on…
Aamir and his wife were presumably referring to the recent climate of religious intolerance in India. Actor Shah Rukh Khan too had spoken about it.
After Bharatiya Janata Party’s leader Narendra Modi came to power in India, many Indian states banned beef consumption. According to Hindu mythology, cow is a sacred animal and in many Indian states, a ban on cow slaughter was on for years. But after BJP came to power with an absolute majority in May last year – the first such single party majority in the country in 30 years – the ban got muscle.
Several leaders of the ruling party made vitriolic anti-Muslim statements recently, fueling an air of unrest.
Many writers and intellectuals protested against the government by returning awards. Two writers were allegedly murdered by right-wing fundamentalists.
Following the inital backlash to his comments, Aamir issued a statement clarifying his remarks. “We never did, and nor would we like to [leave India] in the future. Anyone implying the opposite has either not seen my interview or is deliberately trying to distort what I have said. India is my country, I love it, I feel fortunate for being born here, and this is where I am staying.”
That’s when a new hashtag in support of the Delhi-based startup sprang up: #SnapdealForIndia.
The happy takeaway for Snapdeal from this crisis is that it can affirmatively conclude its association with Aamir has hit bull’s eye. The Indian consumer’s brand recall of Snapdeal is so strong that it identifies Aamir Khan with Snapdeal. Snapdeal’s marketing team can grab some beer over the weekend after this storm in a teacup calms down.
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