Despite eBay failing to make a mark in India, the ‘eBay mafia’ is prospering


Former employees of the ecommerce pioneer have gone on to successfully start startups that have gained both market share and investor confidence.

When Pierre Omidyar founded eBay, an online auction site, in 1995, ecommerce was new not just to the US, but to the world itself. Both consumers and businesses, however, grew eBay into a multi-billion-dollar company in a few years.

In 2002, the company launched its IPO, and bought online payment company PayPal – which went on to scale so well that they split in 2014.

In fact, PayPal’s early employees, who left the company after eBay acquired the former, went on to start up on their own, and most have become billionaires, coining the term ‘Paypal mafia’. Youtube co-founders Jawed Karim, Steve Chan, and Chad Hurley, and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and Tesla co-founder Elon Musk are among them.

In India, unicorn startups like Inmobi and Flipkart take credit for their own ‘mafia’, having inspired many employees to start up themselves. However, there is another such group in India that has not been talked about a lot – the eBay mafia. EBay entered India in 2004 with the acquisition of online marketplace Baazee. It later went on to invest in Snapdeal, but did not find gold there either.

Despite its success in over 30 countries, eBay, whose India arm was bought out by Flipkart a year ago, has shut down its India operations. The company, though, has inspired a bunch of employees to start up – and a few of them have become prominent names in the Indian startup ecosystem. These former eBay employees (inside and outside India) went on to build companies that changed the course of internet businesses in the country. YourStory takes a look at a few prominent ones.

Sanjay Sethi, Co-founder and CEO, ShopClues

Sanjay Sethi: ShopClues Co-founder and CEO Sanjay Sethi was Senior Director (Products) at eBay in California for seven years (from 2004). He was instrumental in setting up eBay’s India office too. An Alumnus of IIT-Delhi and Varanasi, Sanjay co-founded online commerce platform ShopClues with Sandeep Aggarwal and Radhika Ghai in 2011. Backed by Tiger Global Management, Nexus Venture Partners, and Helion Venture Partners, among others, ShopClues became a unicorn in early 2016.

Ambareesh Murty and Ashish Shah: Pepperfry co-founders Ambareesh Murty (CEO) and Ashish Shah (COO) met at eBay. Ashish was heading sales and operations when he joined eBay in 2002 (as part of Baazee) and went on to become the business head of eBay Motors in India and the Philippines. Ambareesh was his boss, as the country manager for India, the Philippines, and Malaysia.

The duo’s eBay connection does not end there. Niren Shah, who was earlier in charge of eBay’s worldwide strategy, was Norwest Venture Partners’ India MD when it invested in Pepperfry in the startup’s initial days.

Ashish Shah (L) and Ambareesh Murty

The Mumbai-based online marketplace for home and furnishing has raised around $200 million.

Jyotsna Pattabiraman: Founder and CEO of healthtech and wellness startup Grow Fit, this Bengaluru-based entrepreneur is a Stanford University graduate. Jyotsna Pattabiraman has worked in not just eBay (as product manager), but also Oracle and Yahoo in the US. Grow Fit, founded in 2015, uses data science, medical science and behavioural insights to help you achieve wellness. It has raised $4.5 million so far from investors, including Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan, and Ranjan Pai, Chairman of Manipal Education & Medical Group.

Suchi Mukherjee, Co-founder, Limeroad

 Suchi Mukherjee: The co-founder of online fashion commerce portal Limeroad, Suchi Mukherjee is an alumnus of top educational institutions like St Stephen’s College, University of Cambridge, and London School of Economics. She was heading business seller programmes for a year at eBay UK for a year, after which she led eBay-owned companies Skype and Gumtree in the UK. In 2011, she founded Limeroad, which has raised $50 million from investors Tiger Global Management, Matrix Partners and Lightspeed Ventures.

Upasana Taku: Mobikwik co-founder Upasana Taku has donned multiple hats before she started up in 2010. The NIT Jalandhar graduate, who has an MBA from Stanford University, was a senior product manager at eBay-owned PayPal in San Francisco for around three years. She was also the director of online payment services company Zaakpay in India, before launching Mobikwik, backed by Sequoia Capital and Mediatek, among others. Today, the Gurugram-based startup that she founded with Bipin Singh has raised more than $160 million, and remains one of the top fintech companies in the country.


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