Mukesh Bansal, the head of Flipkart’s commerce platform, will leave by April. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
Bengaluru: Mukesh Bansal and Ankit Nagori, who are among the most powerful executives at Flipkart Ltd, have resigned to start their own ventures, leaving co-founder Binny Bansal firmly in control of the country’s largest e-commerce company. Mukesh, the head of Flipkart’s commerce platform and its fledgling advertising business, will leave by April, while chief business officer Nagori will exit by May.
Both plan to start new ventures. Nagori said he will launch a sports talent development company that will be funded initially by Flipkart co-founders Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, while Mukesh said he will start a new venture after taking a break for 3-6 months. Flipkart is looking for a replacement for Nagori while the company said it may replace Mukesh over time.
The surprising departures of Mukesh Bansal and Nagori follow a restructuring undertaken by Flipkart in January when the company named Binny as its new chief executive, replacing Sachin.
The company claimed that the move would strengthen its management bandwidth as it seeks to combat arch rival Amazon India and kick off preparations for an expected initial public offering (IPO) over the next few years.
Sachin is now executive chairman, handling discussions with investors and regulators.
After naming Binny as CEO, Flipkart restructured the company’s core retail and marketplace business, called the commerce platform, into three large product-oriented groups and an engineering division. The three product groups within the commerce platform are marketplace product group, consumer product group and service product group.
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With Mukesh Bansal’s resignation, Binny now has total control at Flipkart. The onus is on him to keep Amazon India at bay and maintain Flipkart’s position at the top of India’s e-commerce business.
Amazon (Amazon Seller Services Pvt. Ltd) has been gaining market share from Flipkart and Snapdeal.com (Jasper Infotech Pvt. Ltd) over the past year and analysts and investors say that the US-based online retailer may overtake its local rivals within the next two years.
“We have 60% market share of m-commerce in India—four times bigger than our closest rival,” Binny said in an interview on Wednesday.
Mukesh, who joined Flipkart when it bought his online fashion retail business Myntra for more than $330 million in May 2014, said he discussed leaving the company first in October.
“I wanted to give Binny some time to come in and settle as new CEO. We also restructured the commerce platform into product groups. So, I wanted to give some time to Binny to understand the commerce platform and build relationships with the leaders there. We have some great leaders coming in, and this was the right time to leave. I really did want to take a break,” Mukesh said.
“The past two years or so, I’ve been like a co-founder here. I’ve worked very closely with Sachin and Binny on all aspects including strategy and organization. I got financially and emotionally vested in the success of the group. For me, it was about setting up the company for long-term success. And we are in that space today,” he added.
Both Binny and Mukesh said Flipkart’s leadership team is now strong enough to take Mukesh’s departure in its stride.
Over the past year, Flipkart, which is currently valued at $15 billion, hired a new leadership team as it sought to bring in experienced executives from established companies.
Last March, the Bengaluru-based company hired Punit Soni as chief product officer (CPO) from Google (now Alphabet Inc.) and Saikiran Krishnamurthy as chief operating officer of its commerce platform from McKinsey & Co.
The next month it hired Peeyush Ranjan as chief technology officer, again from Google. They were joined by Surojit Chatterjee as customer experience head and several other senior leaders.
These executives came in as several Flipkart old-timers left. Over a period of four months in the middle of last year, seven senior Flipkart leaders quit the company. These included Ravi Vora, CEO of Flipkart’s strategic brands group; chief technology officer Amod Malviya; engineering head Sameer Nigam; logistics head Sujeet Kumar and chief people officer Mekin Maheshwari.
After their depatures, Nagori, who joined Flipkart in 2008 at the junior-most level before rising to CBO early last year, was the only old timer left.
While some analysts said Flipkart made these changes too abruptly, the e-commerce firm justified the strategy as a necessary replacement of the old guard with a new set of leaders who can take the company to greater heights and, eventually, to an IPO.
“Today, we have the best leadership team in the country, by far,” Binny said.
“If you look at the likes of Ankit, Mekin and Sameer, they’re all entrepreneurs at heart. And they’ve left to do their own thing. So we’ll keep grooming people, we’ll keep hiring externally and some of the people we groom will leave to be entrepreneurs. Why is that a bad thing? I see it as a natural evolution,” added Binny.