Flipkart exit harder than Myntra sale
Mukesh Bansal’s journey at Flipkart began after his fashion e-commerce venture Myntra was acquired in May 2014 for $330 million by its crosstown rival. That was an emotional moment for Bansal, but leaving Flipkart and saying goodbyes now is even more difficult, he says.
“I always acted like it (Flipkart) was my own company, I had the mindset of a founder and an entrepreneur here,” he said.
The 40-year-old’s ascension at the e-commerce major was very rapid, stirring talks of his elevation to the CEO position, not too long ago. From heading fashion at the combined entity to being responsible for the entire commerce platform at Flipkart, all of it happened in under a year.
But things took a different turn earlier this year. In a sudden change of guard, Binny Bansal, the company’s co-founder & COO, was made the CEO of Flipkart, as Sachin Bansal stepped down from that role. While Mukesh never admitted to being unhappy about the top-level changes, many sources close to the company said it wasn’t a move that went down well with him.
“There was room for only one,” says an investor, who did not want to be named, indicating that between Binny and Mukesh only one would have stayed on at Flipkart.
Known for his clarity of thought and ability to stay focused through rough times, Mukesh came into the Flipkart fold when Amazon was only just beginning to make its presence felt in India.
The idea of Myntra being acquired by Flipkart was one which he resisted for a long while, only to come to terms with it after he realized a fashion e-tailer could not fight a gargantuan opponent like Amazon alone. Combining forces with a larger player was the right way to move forward.
“Initially, it was very challenging when I came to Flipkart, its scale and size was so much bigger and the company was growing at a frenetic pace,” Mukesh told TOI.
Mukesh was right at the centre of all the major developments at Flipkart in his two-year stint. Whether it was leading the effort of making big hires from Silicon Valley or building an army of ex-McKinsey professionals, he looked like a man in control. He won scores of backers, employees and investors alike, who welcomed the calm and in-control leader.
Says Rahul Choudhary, co-founder of budget hotel startup Treebo, who worked as VP-strategy at Myntra, “His clarity of thought and ability to articulate his vision to a larger set of people is phenomenal. He can think of the big picture along with problem solving at the very micro level, which is very rare to find.”
After a year into Flipkart, Mukesh’s involvement grew manifold at the e-tailer even as competition from Amazon heated up. Finally, he got on board a new CEO, Ananth Narayanan, at Myntra to only focus on Flipkart. But inside Flipkart, not all was okay with chatter around a chasm building up between the old and the new guard and a senior-level management exodus playing out. Mukesh says he’s not leaving Flipkart at a crucial juncture when Amazon is weaning away market share from the leader.
Subrata Mitra, partner at Accel Partners, an early investor in Myntra and Flipkart, told TOI last year, when Mukesh became the head of commerce, “Right from the start, Mukesh was a very mature entrepreneur. Whether the going was tough or easy, a pivot or a straight path, he seemed to have things under control. As an investor, it always left me feeling that I was in good hands. Post the merger, these traits have made him a very sought-after person; someone who can look at scale issues objectively and find the right answers.”