Binny Bansal and Sachin Bansal (no relation) started Flipkart in 2007 as an online bookstore. For seed money, they pooled their savings: around $10,000. Their data center was their apartment in Bangalore. So it could have been the height of arrogance when the two Bansals, who had worked together at Amazon, told investors Flipkart could be worth $100 million in a decade.
It turned out to be modesty: Flipkart now has 75 million users and a $13 billion valuation. And Binny and Sachin do have modest lifestyles, by billionaire standards, but they’re also nimble tacticians and hardheaded realists, and they dream big. India’s vast marketplace—nearly four times as populous as the U.S., more open than China, with a wondrous dearth of entrenched brick-and-mortar superstores—is the biggest prize left in the e-commerce universe. They’ll have to fight it out with foreign heavyweights like Amazon and Alibaba, but it’s safe to say that no one is going to underestimate Binny and Sachin again.
Grossman is a senior writer for TIME covering culture and technology