Flipkart is in strong hands now: Outgoing CFO Sanjay Baweja
Outgoing CFO Sanjay Baweja on why he left Flipkart ahead of plan, his achievements and allegations of fraud against him
Bengaluru: Flipkart chief financial officer Sanjay Baweja resigned this month, barely two years after he joined the online marketplace. Baweja, 56, is a veteran CFO, having held senior roles at Tata Communications Ltd, Emaar MGF and Bharti Airtel Ltd. He was hired to set up badly needed processes and systems, cut losses and prepare Flipkart for an eventual IPO. In an interview, Baweja spoke about why he left Flipkart ahead of plan, his achievements and dismissed allegations of fraud against him. Edited excerpts:
Why leave now?
In the past two years, we’ve been able to expand the market in a big way. We’ve been able to bring a lot of new customers into the fold, bringing more cities into play, bringing more pin codes into play. That’s happened because we’ve been focused on innovation; we’ve launched new stuff like product exchange, no-cost EMI. We’ve built a very strong leadership team, especially in finance. From the time I’ve come till now, the processes we’ve put in place, the standards of governance—it’s been a remarkable journey. We have the audit on a quarterly basis; the accounting closes on day 4-5 (of a given month); we’re on our way to SOX compliance (requirement under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in the US). So, all of this allowed me to think that now that the company is in strong hands, I can move on to something fresh, something else I wanted to do.
Where are you going after Flipkart?
I’m not at liberty to disclose that as of now.
Much of the senior management that oversaw Flipkart’s disastrous performance in the year ended March 2016 have been removed or have left. Does your exit have anything to do with this?
No, my exit is about what I wanted rather than the other way round.
How well prepared is Flipkart for an IPO? Any visibility on when an IPO will happen?
Now that I have left Flipkart I can’t talk about the timing. But as far as preparedness is concerned, we have transitioned. We are on our SOX compliance road map; we are meeting international standards. Like I said, we are doing quarterly audits, we close our books on a monthly basis on day 5 (of the next month). So, from the structure perspective, which I’m used to delivering, we’re well on our way to being prepared. Now, the preparedness also has to come from a business perspective. That’s where the company will still take some time before it goes on the IPO journey.
An anonymous Twitter handle has accused you of fraud and said that your exit was because of this alleged fraud. According to the Twitter handle Unicon Baba, Flipkart, at your behest, paid Tata Communications 30% more than it was paying its previous data centre supplier. Comment?
I’ve read it and it’s an absolute load of crap. We have robust processes. When we do an RFP (request for proposal) we invite people to bid for it. In this case, they (Tata Communications) were the only ones who could have delivered. When Chennai went down (during last year’s floods), our data centre was up and running. We went for the servers that were technically the most superior and lowest cost. I don’t know where this 30% is coming from. There’s no inquiry. Nothing of this kind has come up.
In the past two years, some senior leaders from established companies who came to Indian Internet firms haven’t fit in and have had bitter experiences. Do you regret joining Flipkart?
Not at all. I’ve enjoyed every bit of the last two years. I enjoyed putting in the frameworks, the processes, the feeling of growing the company. When I was at TCL (Tata Communications Ltd), I had a great time. And then I took the call to come here. So, you take calls at some points in your career. I think Flipkart will go places and I will benefit eventually.