Flipkart is flush with cash, and is poaching hires from Google and beyond

Mountainview to Bangalore.
Mountainview to Bangalore.
Image: Reuters/Paul Hanna
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In 2012, a Forbes magazine story about India’s leading online retailer Flipkart had ruffled quite a few feathers.

The cover story said the company hired top executives only from Jwalamukhi hostel at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Delhi. The co-founders—Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal—studied at IIT Delhi and Sachin lived in the Jwalamukhi hostel.

The story also raised some questions about the work culture at the Indian e-commerce giant. In 2009, five people hired to lead key departments such as marketing, finance and human resources, quit the organisation within a year, because they reportedly could not make inroads into the tightly knit group of IIT hostel mates.

Sachin Bansal, CEO and co-founder of Flipkart, vehemently refuted the claims in a letter to the magazine’s editor.

Three years later, Flipkart is again in the news regarding its hiring, but for good reasons.

In the last six months, the company has hired eight executives from organisations such as Google, Yahoo and Calvin Klein.

On April 9, Flipkart said it has appointed Peeyush Ranjan as senior vice president and head of engineering. Ranjan comes from Google, where he managed the Android One engineering group. He has also worked with phone maker Motorola in the past.

Another Google and Motorola alumnus, Punit Soni was hired in March as Flipkart’s chief product officer.

Both, Rajan and Soni will move to Bangalore from Mountainview, California.

There are plenty of reasons why top executives from some of the best companies globally are joining Indian startups: Challenging opportunities, million-dollar salaries and immense growth potential, to name a few.

The new hires at Flipkart are reportedly being paid million-dollar-plus salaries. Ranjan and Soni will be paid fixed annual salaries of about $1 million (Rs6.2 crore) with an additional $3-6 million in stock options, the Economic Times newspaper reported citing unnamed sources.

The hiring extravaganza comes at a time when the company fights it out with Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, and is raising funds at an unprecedented level. In 2014 alone, Flipkart raised around $1.9 billion. It is valued at around $11 billion.

“The business at Flipkart is growing at a tremendous pace and to deal with the growing demands we are always on a lookout for great talent that can prepare us for the future growth,” Mekin Maheshwari, Flipkart’s head of human resources, told Quartz in an email response.

The Indian e-commerce industry is expected to cross $16 billion (Rs99,665 crore) by the end of 2015—and this tremendous growth rate makes it attractive to professionals from across the world.

“Professionals, especially from the West, are looking to come back and do some good quality work given the tremendous opportunity in the e-commerce sector,” said Aditya Narayan Mishra, president of staffing at Randstad India, a human resource services firm.

Global talent is attractive for investors, and is key to high valuations, Mishra told Quartz.

Some experts say that getting experienced local talent for technology companies might still be a challenge.

“Nobody in India has ever run a technology platform with the scale of Flipkart, so it’s hard for the company to hire local talent that can genuinely claim to have experience with scale,” said Kartik Hosanagar, professor of internet commerce at the Wharton School.

“Hence, they are looking West—not for innovators, but for experienced technologists,” he added.

Meanwhile, rival Snapdeal hired Jeyandran Venugopal in February as a technology advisor. Venugopal comes from Yahoo India and has previously worked with Amazon.