Flipkart, India’s top e-commerce company, is taking a leaf out of the Amazon playbook after it announced Flipkart First, a paid-for subscription service that gives customers VIP benefits much like the Amazon Prime service.

Update (June 11 2014): The service is now live and costs 500 INR, around US$8.50, per year.

The company isn’t revealing how much that First membership will cost at this point, nor is it saying when the service will launch. Nonetheless, the fact that it is introducing it is an interesting move to engage its local community, particularly since global giants Amazon and eBay are increasing their focus on India.

Screenshot 2014 06 11 14.31.06 730x365 Indias Flipkart is launching an Amazon Prime like subscription service called Flipkart First

To get the ball rolling, Flipkart is running a competition to give 75,000 randomly selected customers a three-month subscription to First completely free of charge. Those who are interested can enter at flipkart.com/flipkart-first.

Flipkart launched in October 2007 and the company says that it has 18 million registered users and 3.5 million visits to its site per day. The company claims that its e-commerce marketplace offers over 10 million products from more than 70 categories and 3,000-plus sellers, with over 5 million shipments processed each month.

Despite that strong position in the market, Amazon is developing into a dangerous competitor. The US firm quietly stepped into the Indian market last June. After starting out selling only books, Amazon India today offers music, movies, electronics, baby products, fashion, shoes and more. eBay is also playing close attention to India — it has invested in domestic player Snapdeal with a view to a future acquisition.

No wonder then that Flipkart has been in talks with close rival Myntra over a merger, although the latest reports suggest that a deal may not be forthcoming.

Update 2: Flipkart has since acquired Myntra

Headline image via Samrat Mazumdar / Flickr