All Eyes on Flipkart

Several weeks ago Flipkart was the cover story in the July 6, 2012 issue of Forbes India and it was a fairly controversial piece as the sub-title declared “India’s e-commerce darling is headed for a fall.” It was one of the most commented pieces on the Forbes India site and links were flying all over the interwebs.

I think it’s easy to lose sight of what Sachin and Binay Bansal have created in such a short period of time. has been around since 1996 and has not reached the scale of what Flipkart has done in 5 years. Flipkart has created many new online shoppers that would have never dreamed of buying anything online in India. The Bansal’s are true entrepreneurs who essentially re-shaped a market out of thin air with nothing more than a website, books and desire.

I first used Flipkart in January 2011 when I was trying to buy a friends book (The SaaS Edge) which was not available at Crosswords at the time. Since then I’ve used them for countless purchases and delighted with their rock bottom prices and their under promising (estimated delivery in 4-5 days) and over delivering (actual delivery in 1 day). How could you not love that? Having used in the US for over 10 years, I was skeptical of online shopping in India because of online credit card fraud or e-tailers not processing a refund. Flipkart single handedly turned me from a skeptical shopper into an online shopper.

However, since the Forbes India story was published my usage at Flipkart is zero. The simple reason is price, they are no longer the low-cost option when buying books. Recently, when I was about to order some books I checked HomeShop18 and Indiatimes Shopping and found them lower. Even though Flipkart has spoiled me with their delivery excellence I really don’t mind if my books come 4-5 days later…they are books not perishable items. And that’s the issue when you compete on price, someone else can come in and drop their prices and take the hit on the balance sheet if they have bigger pockets. Flipkart spends a lot of money on print and TV advertising which is something that HomeShop18 and Indiatimes Shopping can get at reduced rates since they are part of larger media conglomerates. HomeShop18 is part of the Network18 group which recently sold a stake to Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries. Indiatimes Shopping is part of the Bennett, Coleman and Co. a media powerhouse which owns many media outlets including the Times of India newspapers.

Can Flipkart survive? In truth no one knows, all this talk is pure speculation. The question is – Is my personal Flipkart experience just my experience or part of a bigger trend where online shoppers will always default to the lowest price option in India? With price aggregation services like it takes a couple extra steps to find the lowest price. I’m guessing for many shoppers like it me it will ALWAYS come down to price, it’s part of our DNA – Do Negotiate Always.


Amazon Cloud Tutorial 101

Hiring the right person is one of those challenges that can turn any sane person insane. What is even more frustrating is interviewing technical people who have no idea about the latest technology or  don’t really seem to care. I recently interviewed someone and they had never heard about Amazon Web Services (AWS), I almost fell out of my chair. Being an information technology professional and having zero knowledge about AWS is sacrilegious. It’s the equivalent of the Pope not knowing anything about Catholicism.

I could talk about other interview disasters or I can be more proactive and give back to the community. I’ve decided to go with the latter, not only is AWS the biggest technology platform to emerge in the past 5 years they also provide a free trial for the first year.

The beauty of this tutorial is that everything I use is completely FREE and hence there is no excuse for not trying, hacking and playing around with the technology for the next 365 days. Before the 1 year expires, you can cancel your account and at least you would have learned something in the process. So next time, when someone asks you about AWS you can not only talk about it intelligently you will have gained some real world hands on experience.

You can view or download the entire tutorial from SlideShare. It’s broken up into 5 parts:

Part 1 – Create an EC2 instance
Part 2 – Configure your EC2 instance
Part 3 – Create an RDS instance
Part 4 – Install WordPress
Part 5 – Configure S3

Goal: Setup a blog using WordPress on AWS.

Requirements: Computer, internet connection and credit card. Your credit card will not be charged unless you exceed your Free Tier limits, for this tutorial you will be well within your limits unless your blog turns into the Huffington Post overnight.

What is AWS?
AWS is the name of the platform offering from Amazon which encompasses over 20+ services. You might have heard acronyms such as EC2, RDS, EBS or S3…these are the acronyms for the individual services that collectively makeup AWS. Before AWS, most people would rent a server from a web hosting company and if they ran out of space or needed more computing power they would just add more servers. Imagine if you had a car and wanted a bigger gas tank, traditionally you would have to buy another car. AWS breaks all the various computing pieces into distinct services which you can add or subtract on an hourly basis. Need a bigger gas tank for the weekend? AWS to the rescue. Below are some of the core components of AWS:

1. Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) – the central microprocessor that does the raw computing
2. Elastic Block Store (EBS) – location of your system and application files, think of it as network attached storage for EC2
3. Relational Database Service (RDS) – database function
4. Simple Storage Service (S3) – online file storage (Have you used Dropbox? Then you’ve used S3)

The reason why technical people love AWS is because of its scalability, no wonder startups like Dropbox, Instagram and Pinterest rely so heavily on the AWS platform.

For a simple install like WordPress there are many ways to implement it and they all have pros and cons. In the end it’s the age old debate of ease of maintenance vs. scalability. Below is a breakout of the various AWS services we will use to facilitate the install of WordPress:

1. EC2 – raw computing power
2. EBS – system files and core WordPress files
3. RDS – WordPress MySQL database
4. S3 – media assets for the blog

You can view or download the entire tutorial from SlideShare.