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The logo of India's largest online marketplace Flipkart is seen on a building in Bengaluru
Reuters/Abhishek N. Chinnappa
Yet another exit.
LEADERSHIP EXODUS

The CFO of India’s largest e-commerce company resigned in the middle of peak demand season

By Ananya Bhattacharya

Sanjay Baweja has called it quits with Flipkart.

The company’s chief financial officer (CFO) is slated to leave the e-commerce giant at the end of 2016, Flipkart said on Tuesday (Oct. 25). Baweja’s resignation comes in the middle of the peak festival season in India at a time when all stores—online and brick-and-mortar—are ramping up for high demand. A Flipkart spokesman said Dec. 31 would mark Baweja’s last day with the e-retailer.

The 56-year-old joined Flipkart in September 2014 after a nearly five-year stint as CFO of Tata Communications, part of India’s 148-year-old conglomerate, the Tata Group. His three decades of experience in finance spanned other traditional behemoths such as real estate developer Emaar MGF Limites, telecom giant Bharti Airtel, and Xerox ModiCorp, the Economic Times reported.

Many were surprised by Baweja’s decision to transition from established companies to a young startup founded by two former Amazon employees in their 30s. In his role, Baweja was expected to lead Flipkart to an eventual IPO. However, in May 2015, he said Flipkart was not ready to debut as a public company for at least two more years as it was not yet equipped to handle quarterly scrutiny.

The high-profile exit comes on the heels of a slew of other departures since Sachin Bansal stepped down as CEO and Binny Bansal took the reigns at the start of 2016. The very next month, in February, two executives resigned: the head of commerce and advertising business, Mukesh Bansal, and chief business officer Ankit Nagori. Then, in April, ex-Googler Punit Soni, who was Flipkart’s chief products officer for just over a year, and Manish Maheshwari, its head of seller and business ecosystem, both quit. By July, payment product head Lalit Sarna and product lead for marketplace division, Sunil Gopinath, also moved out.

Once a clear leader in India’s e-commerce market, Flipkart is now struggling to keep its head above water amid growing competition. Despite remaining India’s largest online marketplace, the Bengaluru-based company has been devalued by several investors since January. Rival Amazon funneled $3 billion into its India efforts this June, adding to the $2 billion it announced in June 2014.  Amazon’s total investment in India will be higher than the total funds raised by Flipkart (around $3.2 billion) and Snapdeal (around $1.7 billion).

The homegrown e-retailer did triumph over Amazon by selling 15.5 million items during its Big Billion Day (BBD) sale on Oct. 02-06, but only marginally—Amazon India’s “Great Indian Festival Sale” on Oct. 01-05 sold 15 million. With more senior employees leaving, Flipkart is at the risk of slipping up anytime.