Students Corner: Interview with Kanchan Mishra, PGP 2011

What are your learnings from IIM Bangalore? Some lessons, exciting experiences and things you remember about campus

Ans: My two years at IIM Bangalore were life-changing for me in many ways. First of all, it was an incredibly humbling experience as you were no more the smartest kid in class. Besides, the stint geared me up for the challenges of work-life ahead – prioritization, multi-tasking, time management, EQ – life in the campus sets you up for all the life essentials.

I remember CV review sessions with seniors at 2 am in the night, and seniors being extremely diligent about mentoring us even at that odd hour! Consecutive night-outs for projects, followed by exams, followed by sitcom marathon, followed by campus events and surviving through all – thanks to midnight coffee at cafeteria, 4 am Maggi at Adigas and some amazing friends 🙂

I cherish the time and the bonds we made in the batch and especially in the section. I was part of Section-C, and we had an extremely lively and brilliant bunch of folks in the class.

I enjoyed strategy classes by Prof. J Ramachandran. Working with Prof. Seema Gupta on the Harvard Business Review case study was also an amazing experience – it made me realize the depth and extent of work that goes into every case study to make it insightful and relevant. I was part of the exchange program with HEC Paris, and the kind of exposure we got as part of that was incredible, getting to understand each other’s culture, economy, and industries.

What are your exciting and challenging experiences in Work, some of the interesting assignments or deliverables you handled?

Ans: My first job out of college was with Avendus Capital. I was one of the founding members of their Digital Media and Technology advisory practice. This gave me exposure to building a practice from scratch. I closed my first advisory deal from pitch to ideation in 4 months which gave me a fantastic perspective into end to end deal cycle. This role also gave me the right perspective on various internet and mobile businesses. I gained insight into business models, customer insights, unit economics, scale-up challenges of different internet and mobile companies. The learning set me up well for my subsequent role at Flipkart.

At Flipkart, I have had the chance to look at the business from multiple perspectives. I have been part of finance, strategy, and now business functions at Flipkart. I have had the honor to work closely with visionaries like Kalyan Krishnamurthy and Sachin Bansal. Working as Kalyan’s Chief of Staff gave me perspective into some of the most challenging decisions in the organization, prioritization, capital allocation, people development, and organization design. As students, we undermine the importance of a healthy and motivated organization in the success of a business. But I realized the importance of people in the success of businesses.

Your experience in Flipkart, current role?

Ans: I am currently building the furniture category for Flipkart, and it is incredibly challenging yet exciting. Furniture is a USD 18bn market opportunity in India and sees presently 2-3% online penetration while the comparable penetration in other geographies like the US and China is upwards of 15%. Hence, the opportunity is enormous.

To push online penetration further means that you have to think customers day-in and day-out and think of what can bring those step jumps to drive customer adoption and hence online penetration for the category. For example, we realized that one of the healthy customer cohorts for us is the new nesters, i.e., young couples who are just setting up their homes and usually live in moderate to small-sized apartments. This insight led us to create a range of space-saving furniture, which is one of the best selling ranges for us now.

Furniture is an extremely unorganized and non-standardized category, so solving for customer trust, and ease of buying is of paramount importance. We at Flipkart are trying to solve for this through rich cataloging, parametrized rating, lab-tested durability certified markers, and setting up offline experience centers to also give customer confidence on quality through opportunities of touch and feel.

Further, the supply chain for furniture is extremely complicated as the product is bulky and fragile. At the same time, since customers beyond metro do not have access to a wide variety of quality and affordable furniture, providing access to the more significant part of India is a great opportunity. We have been partnering with our logistics team to continuously expand reach and service quality across the country. We recently delivered a 400kg sofa at an altitude of 5200 ft in Kurseong (West Bengal). Moments like these make all the hard work worth it.

Your experience of seeing e-commerce landscape over the years and some exciting patterns you observed over these years.

Ans: For a country like India, where mobile is the first internet device for most of the country, mobile-first businesses will continue to see adoption and scale. The beauty of internet businesses lies in its ability to organize enterprises where the supply is extremely fragmented. Ecommerce players like Flipkart, bus ticketing platforms like RedBus, movie ticketing apps like BookMyShow, and online cab-hailing apps like Olacabs are all such examples. Internet businesses live by ‘Customer is King’, as by consolidating supply and providing customer transparency into fair price and selection, internet businesses transfer the power back to consumers.

Role of a mentor in your life and your take on networking. What is meant by good networking for you?

Ans: I have been fortunate to have some amazing mentors in my journey so far. They have guided me in the right direction, highlighted the competencies I should be investing in, but, most importantly, believed in me. Their trust has continuously nudged me to give my best.

I feel that networking has become an over-abused term. It gives a very transactional connotation to the act of staying connected. Good networking is built on trust. If your counterparts trust that you vouch for mutual well-being rather than one-sided wins, your job is half done. I like to over-invest in building that trust.