Online marketplace Flipkart has seen a handful of its top leadership bidding good bye in 2016. But what do you do after you leave one of the country's most coveted internet companies? Read on to find out.
Anything happening in Flipkart is news in India. The country’s largest online marketplace is closely watched for its sales, valuations, markdowns, hires, layoffs – you name it. When Binny Bansal took over as CEO replacing Sachin Bansal, who became executive chairman at the beginning of 2016, the media was on fire for weeks – decoding the possible repercussions of the move.
And it’s a no-brainer why. Out of all Internet companies in India, only Flipkart has reached such a large scale. A lot of its leadership team come from Silicon Valley and Ivy League universities. Other unicorns have also seen their share of exits– but unless those are mass layoffs, Flipkart still takes the soggy cake, with stories on office politics, poor performance, unmatched interests etc., spreading like wild fire, at least on Twitter.
In 2016, Flipkart saw quite a few of its top brass members leaving the team for good, moving onto different things - in other jobs, in entrepreneurship, or just chilling. (Of course, they have no trouble finding a better job, but some have to face compromises - as Flipkart pay packages are renowned to be the industry’s highest.) Find out what happened, and is happening, to them.
Mukesh Bansal (exited in February)
The co-founder of Myntra became Head of Commerce at Flipkart after its acquisition in 2014. Having worked with four startups in Silicon Valley earlier, his desire for entrepreneurship surfaced hardly two months after he left Flipkart. Mukesh and ex-colleague Ankit Nagori have announced ‘Curefit’, a health tech startup, to be launched in 2017. Curefit has bought a major stake in Bengaluru-based fitness startup CULT, which Mukesh had invested in. He is also an advisory board member at food delivery startup Swiggy and logistics startup Rivigo. His title in LinkedIn profile is ‘Work In Progress’ - whatever progress he has achieved, we will find out in 2017.
Ankit Nagori (exited in February)After six years in Flipkart, this engineer from IIT-Guwahati was Chief Business Officer at the time of his exit. As mentioned above, Ankit left to start up in health tech with Mukesh Bansal, and is also one of the directors at photography-focussed online marketplace Picsdream. At Flipkart, where he joined when he was 24, he played a key role in building new categories, including fashion (in 2012) and electronics, both of which went on to become the largest revenue makers for Flipkart. Ankit and Mukesh raised $15 million from Accel Partners, Kalaari Capital and IDG Ventures for Curefit recently.
Punit Soni (exited in April)Flipkart’s most high profile hire from Silicon Valley, Punit joined as Chief Product Officer in March 2015, leaving Motorola where he was Vice President. The former Google executive is an engineering graduate from NIT-Kurukshetra, and has MBA from Wharton Business School. He was behind Flipkart’s app-only move, which never materialised. His exit came after months of speculation that he was not working with the system. Punit had stated that he is launching a startup along with Anshu Sharma (of Storm Ventures), who has invested in Razor Pay along with him. Another Google hire, Surojit Chatterjee, who came in after Punit, had taken over even before his exit.
Manish Maheshwari (exited in April)After 13 months as Head of Seller Business, Manish left Flipkart to become the CEO of Web18, which controls FirstPost, BookMyShow, MoneyControl, and Burrp among others. An MBA graduate from the prestigious Wharton Business School, Manish is also an investor with Ivy League Alumni Angel Network. He had also co-founded txtWeb, an open platform for web-based applications. But most interestingly, according to his LinkedIn profile, he was the only person to score a perfect 100 in Class X and XII in Mathematics in CBSE. (Nerds do make it big in life after all!)
Rajinder Sharma (exited in July)
As General Counsel at Flipkart for 10 months, Rajinder was responsible for leading the legal team, which has won 'Best Asian & South Pacific Legal Department' under Global GCS. He had succeeded Srivals Kumar at Flipkart at a time when e-commerce in India was under pressure due to complex regulations and restrictions. Having worked in corporates including Coca-Cola, Tata Steel, and Bharti Airtel before Flipkart, it looks like Rajinder is keen for a break. His LinkedIn profile says he is ‘relaxing and rejuvenating’ and is now doing farming in Himachal Pradesh.
Mausam Bhatt (exited in November)
Since joining Flipkart in 2013, Mausam was in charge of mobile commerce and online marketing before becoming the head of Private label earlier this year. Mausam will take charge as Senior Vice President of Product at US-based deals and coupons website RetailMeNot from January 2017. He is also an advisor at Bengaluru-based game maker startup Moonfrog Labs. He has been replaced by Adarsh Menon, who is in now in charge of ‘Flipkart Smartbuy’ the umbrella brand for their private label in electronics and home categories.
Sanjay Baweja (exited in October)
Sanjay joined as CFO immediately after Flipkart raised $1 billion in July 2014. He had three decades of experience from Tata Communications, Medicorp and Bharti Airtel, all of which were complex, heavy-transaction sectors, as is e-commerce. At Flipkart, he had succeeded Kalyan Krishnamoorthy who was interim CFO. Although there were rumours of him being ousted following a PwC forensic report, Flipkart CEO Binny Bansal has denied such allegations. Sanjay is also a seed investor in Lucideus, a cyber-security startup based in New Delhi, and has joined Suzlon Energy in the same designation. Flipkart is still looking for his replacement.
8. Peeyush Ranjan (exited in December)
The last to be axed in 2016 was Peeyush Ranjan. He had worked with HP, Microsoft, Google and Motorola among others, before he joined Flipkart in May 2015 as Head of Engineering. In June 2016, he was promoted as Chief Technology Officer. The 42-year-old is reportedly leaving Flipkart towards the end of this month, to join homestay network Airbnb and will move to San Francisco. He had told ET that he needed to move to the US for personal reasons and hence the shift. Flipkart’s current Head of Engineering Ravi Garikipati will be in charge of Flipkart Labs, which was opened in Palo Alto in August under Peeyush’s leadership.
But it is not just Flipkart that has seen exits this year. Their competitor Snapdeal bid goodbye to Badal Malick, who was Vice President and Head of Omnichannel, and CPO Anand Charasekharan who is now with Facebook. But Flipkart surely has a higher number of big names in their top leadership, and a proportionally high attrition rate too. In fact, according to a person in the know, attrition rate is high at Flipkart now because the focus has shifted from growth to profitability. There won’t be much expansion now on. “For some individuals, the pace of growth has not been as expected. So the wealth that they would have made from ESOPs would have come down. They would rather go to larger companies,” the source added.
Way forward for Flipkart
E-commerce in India has a long way to go. If you want to hire some proven talent in those areas, you have to look outside India, and Silicon Valley tops the list. Investors also evaluate the top leadership before putting in money. (Before IPO, Makemytrip got Mukesh Singh from Amazon—who later co-founded online grocery store Zopnow—as CTO, and Amit Somani from Google (now with Prime Ventures) as CPO.)
However, some of these hires result in cultural clashes, unaffordable pay packages, and sometimes unhealthy decisions. Flipkart has spent much of this year undoing its missteps of 2015, and returning its focus on improving customer experience. The Big Billion Days sale was somewhat a result of those efforts. In fact, Flipkart has benefited from hiring those who are used to the scale, if not experience, of the sector. For instance, their marketing head Samardeep Subandh comes with work experience in HUL and Marico. What matters is the platform they have built, what kind of ads/campaigns they have created etc.
At the end of this year, Flipkart has a different team than the one they began 2016 with. Among the top hires this year are Ashish Agarwal, who was Micromax CTO, now heading Flipkart’s tech team; and Nitin Seth from NASCCOM who is now Chief Administrative Officer. Kalyan Krishnamoorthy, Flipkart’s former (interim) CFO who was working with its largest investor Tiger Global Management, also joined the team in June, and is now Head of E-commerce. With the recent valuation markdowns, it is no surprise that Flipkart is picky about its performers. Survival of the fittest is the mantra.