Anirban Roy Choudhury
Interviews

"Barriers between shopping, entertainment will cease to exist": Flipkart's Prakash Sikaria

The vice president - growth and monetisation says Flipkart has strategically identified video as a key platform to onboard the next 200 million consumers into the e-commerce fold.

When Flipkart announced the launch of its video streaming platform, Flipkart Video, in 2018, many tipped it to rival the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ Hotstar. A Walmart entity, Flipkart has deep pockets to create 'Sacred Games' or 'Forgotten Army' type of shows, or any other Rs 100 crore-plus projects.

However, as Prakash Sikaria, vice president - growth and monetisation at Flipkart, puts it, "Our focus today is on interactivity and gamification." Credited with launches like Flipkart Travel, Flipkart Plus, Flipkart Ads, Flipkart SuperCoins, and the mind behind Flipkart Video, Sikaria has been with the Bengaluru-based e-commerce platform since 2014.

Flipkart Video streams movies and shows acquired, or licensed, and also commissions ‘Originals’. Viewers watch videos on Flipkart to earn rewards, which they can later redeem while shopping. Says Sikaria, "As users evolve in their digital journey, the barriers between shopping and entertainment will cease to exist."

At a time when Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ Hotstar are making headlines by acquiring movies before they’re released in theatres, Flipkart Video has chosen to focus on bridging the gap between content and commerce through entertainment.

In an interview with afaqs!, Sikaria speaks about consumer behaviour on the platform, among other things.

Flipkart has been streaming videos for quite a while. What is your observation on the viewers, who they are, and where they come from?

With data prices becoming more affordable over the last few years, there has been a significant increase in the use of mobile screens for personalised entertainment. Hence, in 2018, Flipkart strategically identified video as a key platform to onboard the next 200 million consumers into the e-commerce fold. This led to the launch of our video offering on the app in 2019, and over the past year, we’ve seen a very positive response from viewers across the country.

Over the last six months, we have invested in building a first-of-its-kind interactive video platform (with shows like ‘Kya Bolti Public?’ and ‘Super Fan’). The current Flipkart Video audience is a mix of users from metros and Tier II-plus cities, for whom we have truly democratised entertainment. Over 40 per cent of our current users are from metros, and the rest are from Tier II-plus cities.

How can the video content be a tool for Flipkart to acquire e-commerce customers?

We believe that video can play a key role in onboarding new consumers into the e-commerce fold. Our technology expertise has helped build unique content experiences that are designed for the mobile screen.

A key differentiator for Flipkart Video today is that users can engage with the content and win tangible prizes. This elevates their journey on the platform and gives them stronger reasons to increase the time spent on the app, on a daily basis.

Is there an overlap between people watching content and buying products? Or, is it that only e-commerce customers are watching the content and spending more time?

Our user base has two kinds of audiences today. One that is new to e-commerce and explores our offerings after spending time on (Flipkart) Video. And two, users that are regular Flipkart shoppers, who’re keen to explore our wider offerings. We’re seeing a healthy mix of both types of users on our platform today.

Over the past few months, we’ve seen a rise in the time spent by users on the app, where they’re seamlessly switching between watching videos, participating in shows, playing games, and shopping (all facilitated on a single app).

Why is the time spent on Flipkart so critical? You have rolled out an expensive proposition, like video streaming…

As users evolve in their digital journey, the barriers between shopping and entertainment will cease to exist. Ours is an in-app video streaming service that is reimagining entertainment for the mobile-first consumer.

The success of our video offering lies in the fact that we have designed it, keeping the Indian consumer - what they’re seeking and what they truly care about - at the centre stage.

"With the introduction of our interactive shows, Flipkart Video clocked a 2.5x jump in viewership in March and April"
Prakash Sikaria

Can I touch on the shirt Maniesh Paul (host) is wearing while hosting the show (Kya Bolti Public?), and get a similar product offering?

That is an opportunity that definitely exists. This need is currently addressed by our ‘Flipkart Ideas’ platform, which bridges the gap between content and commerce seamlessly. Launched in 2019, it has a feed of engaging content, across videos, images, GIFs, stories, polls and quizzes, along with tips and tutorials from top brands and influencers.

The Ideas feed is customised according to the user’s taste and interests, with a wide range of categories to choose from, including fashion, parenting, reading, food and nutrition, travel, arts and crafts, photography, and more. The curated selection of content makes shopping easier for customers and guides them through their purchases.

Having said that, with the evolving nature of our Flipkart Video content, we’re always evaluating refreshing formats to drive engagement on our platform. So when such an interaction makes a case for engaging entertainment, you will see us making a transition.

"For the foreseeable future, interactive content will be a focus for us"
Prakash Sikaria

It is stated that Flipkart Video streams 5,000 TV shows, movies, and short films in various languages. Then, you have ‘Originals’, too. Doesn't that make you a direct competitor in the OTT space?

While we began our journey by building a content library through great partnerships, our focus today is on interactivity and gamification - which we believe sets us apart from other OTT platforms. With the introduction of our interactive shows, Flipkart Video clocked a 2.5x jump in viewership in March and April.

The second season of our successful interactive show ‘Kya Bolti Public?’ witnessed a 3x surge in users, as compared to the first season, which is another testament to the growing popularity of this entertainment format.

Every now and then, we hear that Flipkart is in talks with the producers, and they’re commissioning a big-budget show. What will be your content strategy? Will you have 'Sacred Games' or 'Forgotten Army' of your own?

We will continue to evaluate opportunities that will bring forth first-of-its-kind content across genres and formats. For the foreseeable future, interactive content will be a focus for us, given the positive response we’ve received so far.

We give users the joy of new interactive entertainment every day with tangible rewards. We’re thrilled to give them new reasons to come back (to us) on a daily basis.