• ‘Indian unicorns unwilling to bring in professional CEOs’

    Former Flipkart chief product officer Punit Soni, a prized Silicon valley hire who quit the company in less than a year, says Indian unicorns (startups with $1 billion or more in private valuations) are grappling with leadership challenges but are unwilling to bring professional chief executives on board.

    In an interaction with TOI, Soni, a former Googler, said, “In the US, you’re either taught to become a great CEO or you’re asked to step out to get a professional chief on board. Tell me: In all the Indian unicorns, do you have any situation where the founder is not the CEO?”

    He argued that investors in the Indian internet economy haven’t run large tech companies. “They have built small companies and sold them in the past. Do you think there are enough product CEOs in the country who are spending time coaching these entrepreneurs? The answer is no,” said Soni, who is probably headed back to the Bay area to start an entrepreneurial innings.

    The domestic e-commerce story has faced some early upheavals with large global asset managers beginning to reset startup valuations. The Indian leader Flipkart has witnessed successive markdowns, bringing its valuation lower to around $9 billion after hitting a peak of $15.2 billion in early 2015.

    “I don’t think these are fluffy and ambiguous exercises. It cleans up a system a bit after some irrationality crept into the India story of late,” Soni said. “Nobody is going to argue that India is not going to be a large market. Everybody thinks it’s an exponential curve, perhaps it’s a small exponential curve and a little bit of straight line,” he added.

    Soni said Flipkart has to revisit priorities with a fresh lens before Amazon further narrows the gap in a fiercely-competed domestic e-commerce business expected to grow tenfold to $50 billion by 2020.

    “It’s a neck and neck contest. If they shape up and do the right things, they will be able to hold up, else they will be No. 2. It’s not such a bad outcome in India,” said Soni who was instrumental in developing Flipkart’s chat application Ping and relaunching its mobile website – Flipkart Lite. Lawrence Taylor Womens Jersey

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