Amit Bhawani wanted to solve a $100 billion problem that had been vexing business insiders, industry watchers and casual consumers alike. He wanted to get a handle on the e-commerce space in India and understand which of the two stalwarts, Amazon and Flipkart, was doing better. He chose a rather unconventional way to go about this. Instead of poring over balance sheets and decoding graphs with GMV figures, he went straight to the consumer – he set up www.FlipkartVsAmazon.com.
The site’s mission was simple. With an easy user interface, it would allow end consumers to rate rivals Flipkart and Amazon on a host of parameters, such as Overall Service, Website Interface and Products Portfolio, and displayed results side-by-side in real time. It also asked users the simple question, “Where would you shop next?”, and let them vote for the two e-commerce giants.
Soon results started pouring in. As per a screenshot tweeted by Amit 2 days ago, Amazon and Flipkart were neck and neck on user ratings, with Amazon scoring higher on customer service, and Flipkart doing better on the website interface. Flipkart was also leading on the main user poll, with 62% of consumers saying that they would shop next there, as opposed to 38% at Amazon.
But that’s where this experiment ended. Bhawani soon received a legal notice from Flipkart, who said that setting up the site amounted to a “copyright infringement” as he’d used the Flipkart logo and artwork, and the site caused “an enormous likelihood of confusion amongst the relevant section of public connected.”
Not having the stomach for a protracted legal battle with billion-dollar company, Bhawani took the site down.
Flipkart’s reluctance to have itself rated by a user poll has the potential to set a dangerous precent in the Indian legal arena. User polls are common in the digital space, with users rating movies, phones, and even politicians. Any poll or rating must necessarily involve the use of the relevant logo or a mention of the brand, and this move could have ripple effects into other spheres too.
It might be noted that no such takedown request came from Amazon. Flipkart has been battling it out with Amazon for a slice of India’s ecommerce pie. From being the undisputed market leader in the market around a year ago, 2015 has seen Amazon raise its web traffic three times and is currently snapping at Flipkart’s heels.