Flipkart resumes sale of large appliances in Kerala, ahead of Big Billion Day

Regulatory issues related to transporting large appliances in Kerala resolved; Flipkart starts with sales of BPL TV, washing machines, refrigerators

BPL has become a key brand for Flipkart in the large appliances category. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
BPL has become a key brand for Flipkart in the large appliances category. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Bengaluru: Online marketplace Flipkart has resumed selling large appliances in Kerala starting with sales of BPL Ltd’s televisions, washing machines and refrigerators, after resolving regulatory issues related to transporting large appliances.

As the e-commerce firm gears up for its annual Big Billion Day next month, Flipkart is hoping that the festive season will help boost sales of large appliances, a high-value category, in new markets such as Kerala.

As part of its broader turnaround strategy, Flipkart is betting big on sales of large appliances, such as televisions and refrigerators, apart from mobile phones, to shore up overall sales which have largely stayed stagnant over the past six-nine months.

“If you look at Kerala as a market, the demography and everything, it starts with the literacy rates—so it’s a very important e-commerce market. We see similar trends with markets like Goa and Pondicherry. What we’ve been trying to do is figure things out and work it out with the government to ensure that stuff now reaches customers,” said Sandeep Karwa, head, large appliances at Flipkart.

Flipkart and other online retailers were earlier banned from delivering large goods via road transport in the state. Kerala has now allowed these firms to transport products by road.

BPL’s partnership with Flipkart echoes a broader trend of traditional brick-and-mortar retailers embracing new-age online retail, as they face ever-increasing disruption from internet rivals such as Amazon.

BPL has become a key brand for Flipkart in the large appliances category. The electronics brand relaunched last year on Flipkart and it still sells exclusively on the online marketplace.

“We’ve set a target of achieving 10% of Flipkart’s sales (in large appliances) and we’re hopeful of crossing that. The numbers have been quite encouraging; we’ll really know after the festive season how much we’ve achieved. Typically 50% of the sale of TVs happens during this period,” said Manmohan Ganesh, general manager at BPL. “We’ve been strong all over the south. Kerala should be a strong market for us. And Kerala is all about Onam sales.”

Both Flipkart and BPL declined to provide exact sales numbers.

While BPL gets to leverage Flipkart’s vast marketplace platform, the e-commerce giant also gains exclusive rights to BPL, which still enjoys strong brand recall across Indian households.

In the 1990s, BPL became synonymous across households with large appliances such as TVs, before it was driven out of the TV business in the 2000s by international competitors such as Samsung Electronics Co. and Sony Corp.

Now, BPL is attempting to recapture past glory by inking a deal with Flipkart and is betting on the e-commerce firm’s vast reach with new-age, tech-savvy online consumers.

BPL also plans to go big with advertising and marketing efforts with Flipkart around the Big Billion Day sale -- Flipkart’s flagship annual sales event. BPL’s Ganesh said that significant efforts are being directed towards online advertising, as BPL plans to appeal more to new-age shoppers who prefer shopping online.

“Right now everything we’ve done has been around online. For the season, we will have offline. We have an only online strategy right now -- the only challenge is that people can’t experience the product,” said Ganesh.

Experts tracking the e-commerce market said that companies that are currently dominating in specific categories are appealing more to consumers and players like Flipkart and Amazon will have to increase focus on key metrics like customer experience if they want to gain further market share.

“There are a lot of large players in Indian e-commerce right now and nobody is dominating every single category. Today what you largely see is category level competition, and not domination all across. For example, while Flipkart and Myntra might be leading in fashion, the battle might be much more even in a category like appliances. Customers also largely have category specific loyalty towards e-commerce brands, and they are going with players who are leaders in some segments. What matters most in category-led domination are factors like quality and fulfilment. Pricing is not a big issue -- players who take care of quality and fulfilment will end up gaining market share,” said Sreedhar Prasad, partner, management consulting, at KPMG India.