“Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” – Donald Rumsfeld, former US Secretary of Defense

Let’s call this the Donald Rumsfeld framework for analyzing Indian e-commerce statistics.

  • Known unknown = 15.5 million “units” sold by Flipkart during its flagship The Big Billion Days sale.
  • Known unknown = 15 million units sold by Amazon during its ambush event, Great Indian Festival
  • Unknown unknown = 5 million Amazon Prime subscriptions sold during the same sale.

Most of you would’ve read that Amazon sold an incredible 5 million Prime subscriptions during a five-day sale. Well, we don’t think it did. Why?

Because if it indeed had managed to achieve the stupendous task of selling a loyalty program at Rs 499 to anywhere between one in five or one in four Indian e-commerce shoppers, you can be sure it would tout it from high heavens. It even put out an official press release when it launched a free trial for Prime in India.

Instead, Amazon has categorically disassociated itself from the “5 million Prime subscriptions sold” statistic.

From the Factor Daily:

Updated at 10.45 pm on October 7: Two changes have been made in the copy. A reporting error on Amazon Prime has been corrected in the copy. An earlier version of the story said 1/3rd of the total units sold, or one out of every 3 units, was a Prime membership, but in a later communication, Amazon did not confirm this and said that “paid Prime membership was the highest selling product in Amazon.in’s history during Great Indian Festival.”

Suffice it to say, if Amazon made Factor Daily rescind the claim of 5 million Prime subscriptions, then 5 million Prime subscriptions weren’t sold.

Well then how many were sold, you ask?

We do not know. It could be 500,000. Or 2 million. But it doesn’t matter right now, because it’s time to change the subject.

The Flipkart Spit n’ Polish machine

In its third edition now, Flipkart’s The Big Billion Days sale is arguably the only annual sale that comes close to being a pan-India e-commerce event and best-placed to become the Indian equivalent of China’s Single’s Day or the US’ Cyber Monday.


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