Flipkart intends to launch new fintech business categories, hires Silicon Valley execs

10 Jun

By Ashvita Anand, The Tech Portal

Flipkart, which already has plans to enter categories like furniture and groceries is now looking to tap the fintech sector as well. Currently, India’s largest online marketplace, the e-commerce company is looking to hire executives from Silicon Valley to assist them in entering areas of AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning) while moving away from previous initiatives like assisted commerce.

In a recent interview, the chief technology officer Ravi Garikipati said that plans to launch the fintech business are still in the early stage and the reason the company wants to enter this sector is to cater to customers who are in smaller cities and towns. Additionally, in order to build and launch this new aspect of the company’s business, Flipkart will hire a senior executive.

The idea is that as we take on Middle India and expand our reach, we want to focus on affordability. Today, there’s a reason why offline (retail) is really thriving in certain categories, especially the big-ticket items. Fundamentally, offline entities are getting a better handle on consumers in terms of their risk profile and being able to opt for low-cost EMIs (equated monthly instalments) and things of that nature. The idea here is to mimic that pattern online in high-ticket categories, but do it a whole lot better

He also said that Flipkart had resources such as access to rich commerce data along with access to some third party financial data and would be able to carry this out better. Additionally, Flipkart can build proprietary credit scoring models and in this manner expand their customer base and offer the new customers, commerce.

The company also intends to hire aggressively for its tech team and increase headcount by at least 10% from its present 1,200 engineers. Garikpati added,

We’ll hire talent in areas such as computer vision, image sciences, folks with deep experience in natural language processing (NLP)… and also speech technology. We believe that the next wave of discovery is multi-modal in nature, so it could be a speech. So, we’re investing into that—so, speech is a big piece of our future innovation

While Flipkart is entering these new aspects of business and looking to hire amid an intense market share battle with Amazon India, the company is moving back in areas where it does not see a viable business opportunity.

One of these ventures is assisted commerce and its online-to-offline (o2o) strategy which presently targets remote parts of the country where there is little or no awareness about e-commerce and users have inconsistent or limited access to the internet.

This move to scale back is in tandem with CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy’s plan to focus on the basics and not repeat mistakes that were made by the company in 2015. Krishnamurthy has been known to prefer quick fixes over long term bets, unlike entrepreneurs.

Flipkart has a technology centre in Silicon Valley known as the F7 Labs and is planning to bring some members from here to the Bengaluru headquarters in order to cut costs in hiring. To conclude on this matter, Garikpati has said,

The F7 Labs has been a centre of excellence for core competencies around AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning), but over time, we’re making it mainstream and folks in the Bangalore team are already taking on some of those challenges and problems

We seeded F7 in (the US), but it’s not like there will be a handful who will take on these problems and make a serious impact. We’re building the same competencies over here as well. The breadth and depth of the challenges are such that we need to have those competencies here as well. We will continue to grow to a decent enough critical mass in Palo Alto, but we’re investing here as well