Our 3rd Flipkart star is from MDI Gurgaon. Ravi Singla is a Marketing Gold Medal holder who graduated from being a starry-eyed customer to being a high potential manager in the company. He gives great insight on his job, the work culture at Flipkart and what it takes to bag the coveted role. He also reflects briefly on his background and his career.
To read stories of the previously covered stars from NMIMS and IIFT click here
Tell us about your career - from engineering to a job in Nokia, to MBA and finally Flipkart
It’s been a wonderful and defining journey. I had fun-filled 4 years at NIT Allahabad. I loved technology and got particularly interested in communication subjects. Therefore, I started my professional career with Nokia Siemens Networks (Now Nokia Solutions Networks - what’s left of mighty Nokia!) as an engineer. There, I had a chance to work with multiple teams and customers like Airtel, Docomo and Uninor. It taught me a great deal about customer obsession, resource optimization and process excellence. I got fascinated by consumer internet based enterprise stories and how social, mobile and cloud technologies were disrupting product and service industries alike. I read about these extensively and business problems these enterprises were trying to solve were more interesting than the ones I was trying to solve. I decided to take my skill set to next level by learning management fundamentals. This decision turned out to be simply awesome as I figured out my true calling during PGDM at MDI Gurgoan. I simply loved solving good B2C problems and fortunately managed to do well at preparing case solutions. I majored in marketing and operations and cracked an entry level position at Flipkart which is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable consumer internet based organizations in India today. Here I got an opportunity to work with some of the smartest people in industry, solve for interesting user problems and collaborate with cross-functional teams. At present I am focused at building the skill set of an excellent product manager as I enjoy my work and I think there is a lot of growth potential for me in this role.
How was your journey during MBA? What were some of the high moments?
My MBA journey was full of fun, rigour and fortunate moments. Thinking through the minute details while solving business cases, deriving consumer insights and coming up with innovative solutions gave me a kick. I loved a few courses like Product Management, Marketing in Virtual World and Consumer Behaviour. I held positions of responsibility with marketing club, consulting club and a student run mutual fund to have varied subject matter exposure and understand my interests. I had the most fun while managing social media content for the marketing club. I spent a lot of time in solving business cases for events/competitions sponsored by corporates and campuses. Fortunately I managed to crack some of these with the help of few sincere teammates. Winning the wild card round of CNBC HUL LIME 4 and LIME 5 in first and second year and scoring the marketing gold medal were the key high moments of my MBA life..
Tell us about your summer internship
I interned with Perfetti Van Melle and it was quite an adventurous experience near the hinterland of east U.P. My project was to explore the scope of enhancing rural distribution coverage, delivering solutions for enhancing last mile sales personnel efficiency and gaining consumer insights for company’s newly established snack business. I travelled to more than 50 rural towns shadowing last mile sales personnel for sales calls as well as distribution expansion. I learned that the great Indian retail story is grappling with some very complex issues and innovation supported by scalable technology is the only economical way forward. I think during sales internships, it’s very important to interact with the mentor on a frequent basis, to back the recommendations with pilot data and to call out the potential ROI impact of the suggestions made for business.
What attracted you to Flipkart?
My first interaction with Flipkart was as a customer. I felt it created a great deal of value for its customers. I started following it on social media, online blogs and media features. I liked company’s philosophy of putting customer first and not outsourcing the core competencies like supply chain that directly impact customer experience. I was even more impressed with relevant innovations like cash on delivery in Indian context. Later when I talked to my friends and seniors who worked in Flipkart I got to know that it offers a dynamic and fast paced environment. I learned that it employs the best of the lot, gives complete ownership and possesses an open culture where people are free to try out new ideas. During some in-depth discussions with some of folks I knew at Flipkart, I learned about the exciting problems they were trying to solve and how fun the work environment was. Personal life had some synergies too, so, Flipkart became sort of a dream workplace for me.
What do you do at Flipkart - how has your profile evolved over the last few months?
In Flipkart, I work with promotions and merchandising team in a product management role. I joined as a management trainee and chose a project with the most interesting topic. My charter was to build a model around showing relevant and desirable offers to the customer. I had the opportunity to define the real problem statement, success metrics and the future road map like an experienced professional. My mentors, who are in fact among the best in industry, had many in-depth discussions with me on my approach - sometimes multiple times a day. They asked me the right set of questions to correct my path whenever necessary. Post this I was entrusted with the responsibility of building a view for retail teams into customer’s reaction to offers through a dashboard. I proactively sought to work with cost functions such as supply chain to broaden my perspective and I was given the ownership of a joint project with fulfillment team. Soon, I started feeling like a permanent member of the team and I was entrusted with handling quite a few critical projects such as taking existing offer formats to next level. I believe over the period of last few months I evolved from just a trainee to a high potential product professional.
What are the qualities needed to do well at Flipkart in general and your role in particular, at Flipkart?
It occurred to me during a recent discussion with an awesome senior guy in Flipkart. More than anything, Flipkart values a go-getter attitude. In a fast paced business environment it happens more than often that problems seem ambiguous and multi-faceted, data feels unattainable, mentor looks busy and dependencies, well, count far too many. In such situations, one has to be persistent. She has to think of alternatives, bring relevant questions and insights rather than excuses and demonstrate her true fighter spirit.
A product manager manages complex problems in collaboration with multiple stakeholders. So first and foremost, one should have the passion about building new things from scratch and solving customer problems. Secondly, one should have a structured thought process so that she can break down the problems into smaller parts and simulate the domino effect of a decision as things are very much connected in the value chain. Thirdly, one should be data oriented so that she can hypothesize, test, fail and iterate recursively till she succeeds. Lastly, one should be able to effectively work with multiple stakeholders so that she can resolve conflicts, build consensus and help folks prioritize high impact action items as a coherent group.
How was your interview, what is your advice to students preparing for an interview with Flipkart?
I had two interviews with Flipkart. Both the interviews felt fun yet intellectually stimulating. First interview went on till 45-50 minutes. I was asked about my background and summer project. Then I was asked if a me-too product co. enters in competition of Perfetti (my summer co.), what should be its market entry strategy. I tried to structure my answer like a professional and sought interviewer's inputs from time to time to keep the overall atmosphere like a discussion. Then I was asked if Flipkart were to tap tier-2, tier-3 customers for a specific category, what should be its approach. I voiced my opinion about key pain points an Indian customer may face in the category context and what are the possible barriers for Flipkart. Based on these assumptions, I recommended the value proposition and communication focus for Flipkart. Then I was asked to design merchandising strategy and product page for this category. I kept my focus on creating maximum value for the customer and solved it like a normal case study. In my second interview, I was asked to calculate the ROI of a deal run by Flipkart in Google online shopping festival where it forgoes its entire contribution margin but doubles the orders. I was thorough with concepts like customer acquisition cost and customer lifetime value so I didn’t face much of an issue. Apart from this, I had a lot of generic questions on my CGPA (which was not very high) and interest in e-commerce and Flipkart. In GD the topic was, if and how should Flipkart target tier-2, tier-3 cities of India.
I think a candidate should be structured in approach, analytically strong, passionate about work and confident while tackling a new problem. Be thorough with your CV, particularly projects and POR work, and try to gain enough clarity on basic concepts so that you can apply them while structuring your answers. Observe navigation flow for the user and try to understand the pain-points and benefits from the customer standpoint. A candidate should think from the perspective that if you were in Flipkart, how you would approach various pain-points of customer and how more benefits can be added.
Overall personality of candidate, her thought process and the ability to communicate her opinion clearly matters more than the right answers in an interview.
What do you think about the culture and atmosphere at Flipkart?
Flipkart has a fun, quirky and informal culture. People are open to discussions and new ideas. Most verbal communications start with “Hey dude or what’s up” and people usually come in casual-wear (unless one has to represent Flipkart in front of its business partners). Flipkart employs some of the smartest rockstars of industry, yet, majority of people (even at senior positions) would focus on your content and perspective instead of number of years of experience. Most decisions are taken in favour of employees when it comes to infrastructure and facilities. People are valued for ideas, knowledge and hard work. One myth that I would like to bust is that people think Flipkart is a start-up. Well, it’s not anymore and it is transitioning to a corporate while trying to retain some of the good tenets of a start-up. In spite of this, one can see fresh graduates handling sell side of categories worth crores of monthly GMV. Innovation is fostered in Flipkart at every step. We have in-house hackdays where engineers team up and pull all-nighters doing coding to implement a mix of cool and weird ideas. Overall, Flipkart is an ideal workplace for folks who are energetic, outgoing and dynamic in nature.
What is your suggestion for people wanting to make a career in Flipkart?
I would advise candidates to have a perspective about e-tail industry’s opportunities and threats, Flipkart’s initiatives and attention-grabbers (e.g. exclusive launches, mobile focus, the big billion day, Flipkart First, student club, fulfillment by Flipkart, private label strategy, recent category launches and future category expansion opportunities) and competitive scenario. Read recent case studies about successes and failures of customer focused brands. Follow bloggers with subject matter expertise and tech world news on social media.
For people who are starting with or are half-way through their B-School journey, I would advise that they try to shed the “cool laidback engineer” attitude for some time and get involved in student activities, extracurricular events/competitions and classroom discussions. It will condition your thought process, groom your leadership abilities, make you a team player and most importantly, it will give you the confidence to communicate your perspective across the table. In my opinion, nothing is more important to the professional world, and particularly to Flipkart, than a go-getter attitude in a candidate. For this you should have the flair and personality which has to come out during the interview as well as work. Having a track record of a fighter that backs this flavour of yours should definitely help.
We are doing a series on top-notch MBA alumni from elite B schools working at Flipkart. It would give our readers an idea of what business roles at Flipkart are all about – from Online Marketing, to Product Management and Strategic Alliances etc. Thus was born the Flipkart Stars series, in collaboration with Flipkart. In the Flipkart Stars series, we would be doing a series of interviews with B School alumni with stellar profiles, to find out what kind of careers are possible, and what kind of work people can look forward to when they join Flipkart.