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Flipkart CEO Binny Bansal brings back old hands in turnaround efforts

Binny Bansal’s approach to former Flipkart employees is part of his efforts to revitalize Flipkart’s brand and customer service and re-energize the organisation after a year in which it lost the initiative. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Binny Bansal’s approach to former Flipkart employees is part of his efforts to revitalize Flipkart’s brand and customer service and re-energize the organisation after a year in which it lost the initiative. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

New Delhi/Bengaluru: As part of his efforts to turn around Flipkart, which has been losing market share to Amazon India over the past 15 months, chief executive Binny Bansal is trying to bring old Flipkart hands back to India’s largest e-commerce company.

At least three former senior Flipkart executives are back at the company under Binny Bansal, who replaced Sachin Bansal—now executive chairman—as chief executive officer in January.

Kalyan Krishnamurthy has joined Flipkart in his earlier role as head of categories.

Krishnamurthy, an executive at Flipkart’s largest investor Tiger Global Management, was at first interim chief financial officer and then categories head, before leaving the company in November 2014.

Flipkart bought PhonePe, a mobile payments start-up, earlier this year.

One of the main reasons for doing the PhonePe deal was to get its founders and former Flipkart executives, Sameer Nigam and Rahul Chari, back to the company, said two people familiar with the matter, requesting not to be identified.

Nigam was senior vice-president, engineering, until he left Flipkart in July 2015, while Chari held the role of vice-president, supply chain, before quitting in November last year.

Nigam also hired Pradeep Dodle, a former mid-level manager at Flipkart who left the company last year, at PhonePe.

Bansal also tried to bring back Vaibhav Gupta, a former senior finance executive, the two people cited above said.

But Gupta isn’t joining Flipkart and has, instead, started his own venture with two other former Flipkart executives, they said.

A Flipkart spokesperson confirmed Krishnamurthy’s appointment, which was earlier reported by the Business Standard newspaper.

In 2015, Flipkart cleared out its entire senior management team and replaced it with leaders from established companies such as Google Inc., McKinsey and Amazon.

But these changes ended up disrupting the organization and contributed to Flipkart’s poor performance, which cost three of Flipkart’s senior-most executives their jobs.

Commerce platform head Mukesh Bansal, chief business officer Ankit Nagori and product head Punit Soni have left the company since Binny Bansal was named CEO in January.

Now, Bansal’s approach to former Flipkart employees is part of his efforts to revitalize Flipkart’s brand and customer service and re-energize the organisation after a year in which it lost the initiative.

Bansal doesn’t have too much time though.

According to analysts, Flipkart is in danger of being overtaken by Amazon this year unless it significantly improves its product selection, delivery times and consistency, and other parts of its business.

Earlier this month, Amazon indicated that it was going for the kill, saying it will invest another $3 billion in its India operations, after exhausting its earlier investment of $2 billion.

On the other hand, Flipkart’s valuation has been marked down by four of its mutual fund investors, and the company is struggling to raise funds at its preferred valuation partly because of fears around Amazon’s rapid expansion.

To turn around Flipkart, Bansal is looking for inspiration from Amazon, his old employer.

In an interview with Mint on 23 May, Bansal stressed the importance of a wide product selection, low prices and fast product delivery— keys to Amazon’s success elsewhere and in India.

In an email in March to all employees, Bansal wrote, “…we are at an inflection point and need some fundamental improvement to our business approach. Going forward, we will follow a clear set of priorities—first and always delivery product quality and service quality to our customers as a non-negotiable starting point—we cannot scale without this. Only after we deliver this should we pursue growth—this is what made Flipkart different when we started and we have to go back to these fundamentals.”

The mail largely pointed at the high-quality customer service the company had built when it established itself as India’s most popular e-commerce brands, but which faltered over the past year.

[“source-ndtv”]

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