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Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
The wealth factory.
SILVER LINING

Flipkart founders are among the world’s richest again, thanks to Walmart

By Itika Sharma Punit

Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, the celebrated co-founders of India’s most valuable internet firm, are back on the Forbes list of global billionaires. They had dropped out in 2016 after their firm Flipkart’s valuation nosedived amid a global funding crunch.

In 2019, the duo is ranked 2,057th with a net worth of $1 billion each.

Their return proves that, unlike the dire predictions that followed their Flipkart exit, Walmart’s takeover of their firm in 2018 for $16 billion has been a good thing, both for them and the Indian startup ecosystem.

Following the deal, Sachin Bansal quit and sold all his shares in Flipkart, while Binny was moved out of an active role at the company. Binny Bansal continues to hold just 4% stake in Flipkart and is on the company’s board. The Bansals’ gradual detachment didn’t go well with the Indian startup community.

In 2017, when Flipkart had appointed Kalyan Krishnamurthy, a former employee of the company’s then largest investor Tiger Global, as its first non-founding CEO, Indian entrepreneurs were rattled.

“Is it a sad day for the Indian startup ecosystem…Personally disheartened with this news. Entrepreneurs, who were role models are today in question. A critical moment in the Indian startup space,” Shradha Sharma, founder of news portal YourStory, wrote in a Facebook post.

The grief was mainly because the Bansals are seen as the flagbearers of new-age entrepreneurship in India. The two friends, alumni of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, co-founded Flipkart as an online book store in 2007. The company, which began operating out of an apartment in Bengaluru, went on to become a unicorn (startup valued at over $1 billion) in July 2013. Today, it is among India’s top two online retailers. And despite being 13 years younger, Flipkart has been giving global e-commerce champion Amazon a run for its money in India.

The duo led Flipkart for almost a decade from its inception, with Sachin Bansal as CEO from 2007 to 2016 followed by Binny Bansal till 2017.

When Binny Bansal resigned from Flipkart last year, more heartbreaks followed. Some said Walmart had used the allegations of personal misconduct against Binny Bansal as “a ruse to edge the last of the founders out.”

But it turns out, the Walmart deal is proving to be pretty beneficial for the Indian startup world, too.

Loaded with money, the Flipkart founders have been investing their wealth back into Indian startups. Sachin Bansal has invested at least $92 million in Indian taxi aggregation unicorn Ola already, while Binny Bansal has in the recent months backed health tech startup Niramai and Crio.do, a learning platform for software developers.