India isn’t an easy place to build an e-commerce company. The vast, multilingual nation suffers from creaky infrastructure, a sometimes myopic bureaucracy and an ingrained distrust of the merchant class. Yet homegrown Flipkart Ltd. has managed the impossible with a blend of Silicon Valley smarts—its founders worked for Amazon.com Inc.; key hires were lured from the Bay Area—and a canny understanding of local verities. Because few Indians use credit cards, Flipkart offered cash on delivery. In Mumbai, it deployed dabbawallas, the famed lunch delivery corps, to get packages to customers. Since its founding eight years ago, Flipkart has become the nation’s most valuable startup and introduced online shopping to the Indian masses.
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