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Meet Flipkart's new CEO (for a day)!

Radhika P Nair
posted on 25th April 2017
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No, Flipkart hasn't had yet another top-level change in management. The Bengaluru-headquartered company ran a contest for employees, in which the winner would become its CEO for a day. Thirty four-year-old Padmini Pagadala is the lucky person who got to shadow Fipkart's actual CEO, Kalyan Krishnamurthy, on Tuesday.

"It has been an exhilarating day," said Padmini, when she took out time between meetings to speak to YourStory on the phone. Padmini is an Associate Director at Flipkart on regular days.

Flipkart Kalyan Padmini
Flipkart CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy with Padmini Pagadala, winner of the company's CEO-for-a-day contest

The contest is part of Flipkart's 10 year anniversary celebrations, which started in March. The company has planned events through the year for everyone from customers to sellers and employees. April has been earmarked for talent.

The idea behind the Big10 CEO for a day competition (Flipkart has a penchant for the word 'Big' - it called its most important sales event 'Big Billion Days', and its tenth birthday bash has been christened Big10) is to allow the winner take stock of the business, attend key stakeholder meetings, and hand out action points, with Kalyan accompanying her. The applicants had to write a statement of purpose stating why they should be selected to be the CEO for a day.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for our talented Flipsters (Flipkart employees) to get a taste of what it means to be the CEO of a large, innovative company like Flipkart. We have a talented pool of people leading high intensity teams, who are helping us disrupt and innovate. Through the Big10 CEO for a day competition, we intend to gain some fresh perspective and insights, as well as make it a fun, engaging initiative for our people,” says Kalyan.

Padmini hails from Chennai (she prefers Madras) and is an industrial engineer from Georgia Institute of Technology. A supply chain expert, she has been with Flipkart for four years, and has designed most of the fulfilment centres of the company.

Padmini says that the idea of shadowing Kalyan for a day was enough motivation to take part in the contest. "My day started with breakfast with Kalyan in the office, during which he gave me a snapshot of what his day looks like. He then introduced me to people he works with, and I took part in meetings, some of which were new to me. Kalyan even asked for my opinion many times during the day," says Padmini, who, like any good Chennaiite, is a filter coffee aficionado.

What was her biggest learning? "We supply chain people sometimes look out only for ourselves in that we look at what's the cost of fulfilling a particular product and whether it make sense to sell that. Today, I understood that, sometimes, there might be a reason to sell a product that has a high cost of fulfilment. I got a bigger picture outlook," says Padmini. "It was not just a learning experience. It has also been a lot of fun."

She also realised how tough Kalyan is, how he holds people to task and how holistic his view is. "I was very happy when Kalyan said, 'This was meant for Padmini, but I have learnt too', when someone asked him how his day was going," says Padmini.

On being asked whether she would like to become the actual CEO of a company someday, Padmini says without hesitation: "Of course. I would love to be CEO. That's where I see myself."

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