Six reasons why Myntra’s ‘mobile-app-only’ strategy can flop.

Illustration of a woman rolling the dice

Online* fashion retailer Myntra is making a bold bet –  it has stopped selling through its website and is instead asking customers to download the mobile app.

Here are six reasons why ditching the web and being “mobile-app-only” in India is a very risky gamble.

1. Is the underlying mobile infrastructure ready? 

Let’s face it — even in big cities in India, you don’t get proper cell phone signal. Forget about mobile data, call-drops are so frequent, you find it tough to complete a conversation.  Why do you think more than 100 million cellphone subscribers wanted to change their cellphone carrier when the government introduced mobile number portability?

In the prevailing low-bandwidth environment, are you going to rely on patchy mobile data infrastructure or would you prefer to transact using a more reliable Internet connection on your computer?

Agreed things may change when 4G mobile services become more widespread but realistically speaking isn’t that many years away from now? Despite the mobile phone ubiquity and rising smartphone penetration in India, the underlying infrastructure may simply be not geared to support Myntra’s daring leap of faith.

2. Will sales stop when discounts stop? 

Myntra says 90% of their traffic and 70% of current sales come via consumers on mobile devices. However, many consumers may be buying through the mobile apps only because of the available offers and discounts.

When there are no discounts offered for using the mobile app, will the sales falter?

Not just Myntra, but almost all internet-based companies in India (e.g. OLA, Meru, Flipkart, Amazon) want you to download their apps – so they are offering discounts to promote usage. But this can’t be sustainable in the long term.

3. What, I can’t compare prices?

Consumers love to compare prices before shopping.

Can you think of an occasion when you did not check prices on competing sites before buying? A ‘mobile-app-only’ strategy prevents easy price comparisons and is betting against this thoroughly ingrained consumer behavior.

The path-to-purchase often starts with a Google search on the web or on the smartphone. A mobile-app-only Myntra would be missing on out in the consumers’ first steps of discovery, including the all-important price comparisons?

BTW, even when shopping using mobile-apps, the desktop is not completely out of the picture. Here is what shoppers frequently do:

Desktop computer: do the research and read reviews, compare prices and add the chosen product to your wish list

Mobile app: Then as a last step, make the payment and complete the transaction. They would have closed the deal on the desktop itself but for the discount available for using the app.

4. Mobile shopping  is not always convenient?

Mobile-first or Mobile-apps work best for social media (Facebook, Twitter), communication (Whatsapp, Snapchat) and media and entertainment (YouTube) categories where you compose a quick update on the fly or consume content on the go. Not surprisingly social and chat apps are most popular category of apps. A mobile app can also be handy when your location is important – think Google maps, Ola, or Uber.

But when it comes to shopping, smartphones – with their smaller screens and slow internet speeds – are not always very convenient.

5. Smartphones are not senior friendly? 

Agreed – the millennial generation loves mobile devices. But what about others, particularly senior citizens – a currently under-served but still a sizeable segment with considerable spending power?

I know many senior citizens who are enthusiastic shoppers on Myntra and other sites but they only use their desktop computers.

Shopping on their smartphones? In fact, many don’t have smartphones (though they can easily afford them). Even those senior citizens who have smartphones struggle  with the dexterity demanded when navigating a mobile app.

6. Competition offers far more choice?

In their current phase of their evolution, eCommerce sites in India face a fierce battle to gain and retain customers. Myntra rivals like Amazon and Snapdeal offer you a choice of using their apps or going to their websites and do not appear to be in any hurry to embrace a mobile-app-only strategy.

Unless there are compelling reasons to buy from Myntra (e.g. best price or exclusive merchandise) won’t this drive away consumers who prefer to have the choice of how they want to buy ? From a shopper perspective, the “what’s-in-it-for-me” is not very clear.

There is a bit of a paradox here: an eCommerce company like Myntra brings a virtually unlimited choice of goodies to your doorstep but there is only one (mobile) key to unlock this consumer paradise.

PS: BTW, early evidence suggests that Myntra’s sales already dropped by 10% within a week into the mobile-app-only experiment. Don’t be surprised if a year or two down the road, Myntra brings back the web site.

* Can you even call a mobile-app-only company as an “online company”?

We, the People Like Us

Ivory Tower

Rudyard Kipling, We and They

All good people agree,
And all good people say,
All nice people, like Us, are We
And every one else is They:
But if you cross over the sea,
Instead of over the way,
You may end by (think of it!) looking on We
As only a sort of They !

People-Like-Us, we tell ourselves that we are the common men and women of Pax Indica or the Republic of India.

But let’s face it. Readers of English newspapers and blogs cannot really be commoners. They belong to the upper echelons of Indian society (and use highfalutin words like ‘echelon’).

This is not meant in any  self-congratulatory way. It is just a plain observation of the socio-economic state.

People-Like-Us are relatively and reasonably well-off. We don’t worry about  making ends meet. Unless we are in a Yoga class.

We are mostly urban-dwellers and professional-class swellers. Despite some recent flirting with the Aam Admi Party, we are mostly apolitical.

People-Like-Us, often don’t vote in the elections. But if we do, we’ll be sure to flood Facebook with those selfies.

Our main contribution to the Nation building project is paying taxes. This may not sound like much. But it is, because less than 3% of Indians file income taxes.

That, and we’ll sign numerous online petitions.  Occasionally, we’ll also donate to some charities. Provided they give a tax deduction certificate.

We understand the difference between equality and equity. Not automatically and not always.   We nod our heads in agreement and hit the “like” button when we see pictures like this.

Equality and Equity

When it comes to taking care of the poor and the needy, we acknowledge that our country has miles to go (many more than the distance to Mars).

We grudgingly accept the fact that our government will should work only for the poor. Nay, we actually want the government to dedicate itself to improving the lot of the poor people and we hope (against hope) that they succeed.

People-like-Us, we are prepared (or left) to fend for ourselves. Private schools, private hospitals, private water tankers, private …. We pay private organizations to fill in the vacuum in the public sphere.

Call us greedy or rapacious, but we will find workarounds when the system comes up short.  It costs us hard-earned money.  Gladly or grudgingly we bear that cross.

Our real demands of the government are very few. We mostly want to be left alone.

We,  The People Like Us.


Microsoft’s midlife crisis in 3 words – Mobile mojo missing

The two founders of MicrosoftMicrosoft turns forty this April but the celebrations will be muted because the company is staring at a serious mid-life crisis. Of course, Microsoft is still the third-most valuable company on the planet and has a $90 billion cash pile.

But there’s no denying that some serious clouds hang over Redmond’s future. Is it on a slow but steady path to irrelevance in a “consumer-first, cloud-first, mobile-first” world?

A couple of charts illustrate how the ground is shifting for Microsoft. Continue reading Microsoft’s midlife crisis in 3 words – Mobile mojo missing

ABCs of Machine Learning as a Service

Formula for Baye's TheoremMarc Andreessen famously said that “software is eating the world.” The three horsemen of that march – Analytics, Big Data and Cloud are converging to create a new and exciting cloud marketplace – Machine Learning in the Cloud.

Here is a quick primer on:

  1. Machine Learning and Use Cases
  2. A snapshot of the leading vendors in this very nascent space and
  3. Action items for  your enterprise

Continue reading ABCs of Machine Learning as a Service

The Blind Men and the Internet of Things

Blind men trying to figure out what an elephant is but each of them is touching a different part.

And so these men of Hindustan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right
And all were in the wrong.

-The Blind Men and the Elephant, John Godfrey Saxe

‘The blind men failing to grasp the real picture of the elephant’ is such an ancient parable – even the Buddha used it. The above rendition of the parable is itself from 1872. But it is an apt metaphor to explain Technology’s new, new thing – the Internet of Things. Continue reading The Blind Men and the Internet of Things