Crazy decisions — Joining & leaving Flipkart!
A little over six years back, I took a crazy decision and to convince myself about it — I wrote a post:
“When making an important decision, I think it is better to go with gut-feel than with logical reasoning, especially when the choice is a close call.
If you go by logical reasoning, there is always the chance of you not considering & working out a scenario, which then leaves you with a wrong decision and to top it all - you feel terrible because you screwed up at something logical!
On the other hand, if you go by your gut-feel, in a lot of ways you are taking ownership of the decision and it becomes a part of you.
Once you have taken ownership, you will make most decisions work well for you. Logic keeps the decision a stranger.
An old friend added: your gut has already factored in a LOT more than the superficial stuff you work out logically.”
That was the decision to join Flipkart and I haven’t since written in long form.
As I now take an even crazier decision — that of moving on from Flipkart with the intention of working in the non-profit space and focus on education, I feel there’s a lot to share about my Flipkart journey. Learnings, memories, friends, experiments, growth, culture, technology, people, team, customers, impact … there’s tons to write — but I’ll keep those for later.
This post is about the two crazy decisions:
Back in 2009 — e-commerce wasn’t hot. There were hardly any online transactions happening, the VC money — the little that there was then — was going into Search & Social networking startups.
In my previous stint at Ugenie->WeRead->Lulu — a startup where I was the first hire, I got to see the startup up close. Building a product, building a team, trying to market, course corrections, experiments, a successful pivot, getting acquired, integrating with the acquirer, and running their India Dev Centre — I thought I had seen it all and was very keen on starting up myself. However, I did stay open to meeting and exploring some interesting startups — that my network suggested, mostly for learnings.
When I met Sachin & Binny and explored Flipkart — I quickly arrived at the conclusion that Flipkart could be massive — IF we executed right. That gut feel conclusion was based on a few things in my two interactions at the 447/C office-
- Flipkart was deeply focused on customers & speed. Here’s a small nuance I saw — when the pickup guy arrived with books from suppliers, there was a check right at the door step — to see which of the books had existing orders that could get fulfilled — and were picked, packed shipped — literally from the door! More than the nuance itself — for me, it was the thought behind it. The result of this thought was visible — the twitter stream for Flipkart, though a trickle compared to now, was filled with customers raving about the service.
- Sachin & Binny were both very grounded & hands-on but also had a LOT of hunger. They were both doing anything & everything that needed to be done — no qualms & no fuss. When we sat and discussed what could Flipkart be doing — there was a no-fear (I later termed this audacity) approach to thinking really big.
Before making the decision, I sought advise from a bunch of folks (Mentors, VCs) & 75% advised me against it. Somehow, this only made me more convinced. It took me a while to explain to my parents, and then finally on 20th September 2009, I joined Flipkart to head engineering.
It has been a ride — that's hard to explain in words — yet I will make attempts at doing that in future posts.
This is a far crazier and difficult decision than joining was. Having built Flipkart over the last six years, playing a variety of roles, and helping get Flipkart to a point where the potential is truly massive — now to extricate myself from it, and follow a different purpose — is going to be very hard for me.
So why leave?
Over the last couple of years, I have been dabbling with the question — What's my purpose? Mid-life crisis — is what some of my close friends termed it. :)
The clarity that — I would like to measure my life in terms of positive impact created on people — has been increasing. As part of Flipkart — we’ve made this happen to a massive extent — for our customers, sellers & employees. But, as I think ahead — I realise that there are more critical problems for people in India that stay unsolved, some of which cannot be solved with a for-proft mindset.
I believe education is one such area — where there are a dozen odd massive challenges — that are worth attempting to solve. Education also has a long term & far-reaching impact — something that's important to me, as I sit & worry about how the world today is mostly working for short term & selfish economic maximization.
I am able to take such a crazy decision thanks to three things that Flipkart gave me:
- Highly condensed learnings over the last six years — challenges, growth, situations, responsibilities that people generally take two-three decades to go through.
- Confidence — of having built something like Flipkart — making me believe that everything is possible!
- Financial independence — my family will be fine.
While the decision is made, I continue to play my role of Chief People Officer at Flipkart, while I hire my successor. Post which — I will move into an advisory role at Flipkart.
(This post first appeared here)