Bengaluru: India’s largest online retailer Flipkart Ltd has launched a new brand called Billion—across categories such as home appliances and fashion—the first initiative of the company’s co-founder and executive chairman Sachin Bansal since he stepped aside as CEO in January 2016.

Flipkart has already launched mixer grinders, cookware, backpacks and irons under the brand and will expand to other categories later this year, Bansal said in an interview. The central idea behind the brand is to offer products designed specifically for Indian shoppers, who Bansal thinks aren’t served satisfactorily by most of the existing brands across product categories.

“The brand is positioned as made-in-India and made-for-India both. The made-for-India positioning is that these products are made for Indians’ needs only, not just high-income or low-income Indians, but for all. The made-in-India positioning and constraint is also a conscious choice. We believe that Indian engineering and manufacturing is becoming very efficient and reaching a point where high-quality products can be produced in India. Also, we need manufacturers who can partner closely with us and co-create the products. And we found that Indian manufacturers are a lot more flexible and open to changes and innovations as compared to others, and Indian manufacturers also have a better understanding of the market," Bansal said.

Mint had reported Bansal’s new initiative on 15 June.

Flipkart is positioning the brand as a value-for-money offering, indicating that it will be a budget brand. The name Billion is a favourite of Bansal’s — the company’s flagship sale event goes as Big Billion Days.

“The name (Billion) is pretty interesting because among all the other options that we had, this one stands for basically a billion aspirations for a billion people, which is exactly what we’re trying to do. We’re basically trying to understand the aspirations and needs of every Indian and we’re going to create products that meet those needs in the best possible manner. That’s the objective and the name kind of resonated," Bansal said.

Bansal’s new initiative is ambitious. Typically, brands are launched exclusively for certain categories—the iPhone for smartphones, Nike for sportswear and so on. They are also aimed at customers in specific income categories.

Billion, however, aims to be a brand for all, across categories as diverse as fashion and home appliances, and newer categories that will be launched later. And Flipkart doesn’t plan to spend on mass advertising to promote the brand, relying instead on digital marketing.

“(Such an initiative) has not been tried at this scale. There are brands that are master brands and which span across many categories. But nobody has tried it at such a breadth in the past. We believe there are two things that are different. One, people haven’t used data at the scale that we’re starting to use. Because in the absence of data, you’re basically limited by human intelligence. What we are experts at is our ability to use data and make sense of it from a customer’s point of view and co-create products with our manufacturing partners for India. That’s the expertise we’re building, which can be applied in multiple areas. One of the reasons why such a brand has not come up is because it’s really hard to do that manually," Bansal said.

Bansal’s attempt at building the Billion brand is one of Flipkart’s supplementary bets. Bansal has a 40-member team for Billion that includes sourcing executives, marketing managers, engineers and product experts. The initiative is also part of Flipkart’s efforts to increase sales of private label products, which offer higher margins to online retailers than those sold by third-party brands.

Bansal, one of India’s best-known entrepreneurs, has held the role of executive chairman since January 2016 when he made way for Flipkart co-founder Binny Bansal as CEO. Binny, now CEO of Flipkart Group, which includes fashion retailers Myntra and Jabong, and the mobile payments app PhonePe, was replaced as Flipkart CEO this January by Kalyan Krishnamurthy, a representative of Flipkart’s largest investor Tiger Global Management.

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