30 April 2024

Snapdeal: From Hero to Niche Player – Why?


Snapdeal’s story is a cautionary tale of missed opportunities and fierce competition in the ever-evolving world of Indian e-commerce. Once a blazing star, it rose from a college dorm room idea to a billion-dollar company, only to be eclipsed by its rivals. Let’s delve into the fascinating rise and fall of Snapdeal, exploring what made them soar and the missteps that led to their decline.

A Promising Start

Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal (Snapdeal)

In 2010, fueled by a shared ambition and a keen eye for opportunity, childhood friends Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal launched Snapdeal. The Indian e-commerce landscape was still nascent, but Bahl and Bansal saw the potential for a major disruption. They didn’t just jump on a bandwagon; they identified a specific trend within the market – daily deals. Daily deals were a hot concept at the time, offering deep discounts on various products for a limited time. Snapdeal capitalized on this by providing a platform for sellers to offer these deals and for budget-conscious consumers to snag bargains.

However, their vision wasn’t limited to just flash sales. They saw a future where Indians across the country could conveniently shop for a wide variety of products online. This required a more comprehensive approach. Snapdeal transitioned from a daily deals platform to a full-fledged online marketplace. They onboarded sellers offering a diverse range of products, from electronics and apparel to homeware and groceries. This strategic move allowed them to capture a wider customer base and establish themselves as a one-stop shop for online shopping needs.

Funding and Expansion


Snapdeal’s timing was impeccable. India’s internet penetration was on a sharp upward trajectory, fueled by increasing smartphone adoption and affordable data plans. This surge in internet users translated into a growing demand for online shopping. Snapdeal positioned itself perfectly to meet this demand, and their marketplace model resonated with the evolving consumer behavior.

Their success story wasn’t built solely on a good idea and perfect timing. They actively sought the resources needed to fuel their expansion. Snapdeal secured massive funding rounds from some of the most renowned investors globally. Softbank, a Japanese multinational conglomerate, Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, and Foxconn, a Taiwanese electronics manufacturer, all saw the potential in Snapdeal and invested heavily. This financial muscle allowed Snapdeal to aggressively expand its online presence, improve its user experience, and invest in robust logistics networks – all crucial factors for success in the e-commerce space.

This period of rapid growth and expansion solidified Snapdeal’s position as a major player in the Indian e-commerce landscape. They became a household name, synonymous with online shopping convenience for millions of Indian consumers.

Why Snapdeal’s E-commerce Dream Shifted



Snapdeal’s story is a cautionary tale of missed opportunities and fierce competition in the ever-evolving world of e-commerce. While they had a promising start, several factors contributed to their decline from a potential leader to a niche player.

The Price War Trap:

  • As competition intensified, particularly with the entry of Amazon in 2013, Snapdeal got caught in the vicious cycle of price wars. Each company vied for the lowest price tag, leading to unsustainable margins and profitability issues.

Focus on Acquisitions Over Innovation:

  • In an attempt to gain an edge, Snapdeal acquired smaller players like Freecharge and Fashionara. However, these ventures proved less successful than anticipated. Integrating new businesses can be challenging, and these acquisitions may have diverted resources from core competencies.

Logistical Challenges:

  • Building a robust logistics network is crucial for e-commerce success. Snapdeal may have struggled to keep pace with the rapid growth in orders, leading to delays and impacting customer satisfaction.

Shifting Gears Too Late:

  • While Snapdeal eventually recognized the growing market for value-conscious consumers, their response might have been too slow. Flipkart and Amazon had already established themselves in this segment.

Lack of a Differentiator:

  • In the fierce competition, Snapdeal may not have carved out a unique selling proposition (USP). Both Flipkart and Amazon offered similar product ranges and aggressive marketing strategies, making it difficult for Snapdeal to stand out.

Financial Strain:

  • The continuous price wars, coupled with potentially unsuccessful acquisitions, likely led to mounting losses. This financial strain hampered their ability to invest in further innovation and marketing.

Controversies Faced By Snapdeal


While Snapdeal’s fall from grace can be attributed to strategic decisions, they also faced a few controversies that may have dented their reputation:

  • Mistaken Identity with Snapchat (2017): During a boycott of messaging app Snapchat due to perceived anti-India comments by its CEO, some users mistakenly targeted Snapdeal with negative reviews and uninstalled the app. This social media confusion likely caused temporary disruption.
  • Labor Issues (unverified): There have been unverified reports of labor issues at Snapdeal, such as employee dissatisfaction or challenging work conditions. However, the specifics and extent of these issues are unclear.
  • Focus on Discounts Over Quality (perception): As Snapdeal entered the price war with competitors, some customers might have perceived a decline in product quality or focus on cheaper goods over brand reputation.

It’s important to note that the weight of these controversies on Snapdeal’s decline is likely less significant compared to the strategic challenges they faced.

Lessons Learned:


Snapdeal’s story highlights the importance of:

Adaptability: E-commerce is a dynamic landscape, and companies need to be flexible and adapt to changing market trends and consumer behavior.

Strategic Acquisitions: Acquisitions can be valuable tools for growth, but careful evaluation is crucial to ensure successful integration and a clear strategic benefit.

Building a Strong USP: Identifying a unique selling proposition helps a company stand out from the competition and attract a loyal customer base.

Focus on Profitability: While customer acquisition is important, maintaining healthy margins is essential for long-term sustainability.

By examining Snapdeal’s trajectory, aspiring e-commerce giants can learn valuable lessons and navigate the challenges of this competitive marketplace.

Adaptability and Finding Your Niche

Snapdeal-Flipkart deal falls apart in win for founders Kunal Bahl, Rohit  Bansal | Mint

Snapdeal’s story offers valuable lessons for startups navigating the dynamic world of e-commerce. It highlights the crucial role of adaptability and strategic decision-making. In a fiercely competitive landscape, finding a sustainable market niche and staying ahead of the curve are key factors for survival.

Snapdeal’s fall from grace serves as a reminder that even the brightest stars can fade. While they remain a player in the e-commerce space, their story serves as a cautionary tale for aspiring e-commerce giants and a testament to the relentless pace of innovation and competition in the digital age.

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