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Business News/ Companies / Flipkart to step up senior-level hiring in mobile technology push
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Flipkart to step up senior-level hiring in mobile technology push

The e-commerce firm plans to hire 5 vice-presidents in product, engineering roles under its new technology leaders

Punit Soni, chief product officer at Flipkart.Premium
Punit Soni, chief product officer at Flipkart.

India’s largest e-commerce firm Flipkart plans to hire at least five senior executives in product and engineering roles, under its newly-appointed tech leaders, and work in small, fast-moving tech teams, as it seeks to establish expertise in mobile commerce.

Flipkart is looking to recruit at least five vice-presidents and several senior directors in technology functions, such as mobile technology, user interface and machine-learning, three people familiar with the matter said.

The e-commerce firm recently recruited Punit Soni and Peeyush Ranjan from Google Inc. as chief product officer (CPO) and senior vice-president of engineering, respectively.

The company has hired several headhunting firms, such as PromptHire Inc., a Silicon Valley-based boutique recruiter, and LongHouse Consulting to recruit tech experts.

Flipkart declined to comment on the specific positions, but chief product officer Soni said Flipkart was attracting top tech talent from Silicon Valley and India.

“We have the largest repository of top product and engineering talent in India. We are trying to find the best talent across the world and, yes, Silicon Valley is the largest source of talent globally. We will hire from there and continue to hire from Indian companies and engineering institutes here," Soni said over the phone. He is one of the several former Silicon Valley-based tech executives attracted by India’s booming Internet start-up scene.

Large e-commerce start-ups, such as Flipkart, Snapdeal and Ola, which have raised billions of dollars in funds from private investors, are offering fat salaries and millions of dollars in stock options as well as challenging work to attract senior tech talent.

Indian start-ups are facing strong competition from global rivals such as Amazon Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc., both of which boast of proven technology expertise.

Apart from senior-most technology leaders, companies, such as Flipkart, also need to have a second rung of tech executives who will drive day-to-day activity and bring expertise in niche functions.

Soni said Flipkart’s top three hiring priorities are mobile tech, data analytics and supply-chain engineering.

“We have to make sure we are the best in mobile, where we’re already very successful. To do that, we’re hiring in consumer mobile, mobile infrastructure, design and, basically, across the stack of mobile tech. (The second priority) is data. For serving users in the best way, we need to make sense of data so we’re hiring in machine-learning, data sciences and other data-related roles. Third is the supply chain. There are a lot more pin codes to cover and complex problems to solve there," said Soni.

Flipkart is planning to ditch its desktop website and become an app-only shopping platform later this year, according to earlier reports in Mint and other publications. Accordingly, the company has been focusing on revamping its app to offer a high-quality user experience.

Since Soni’s appointment in April, Flipkart has launched several new features on its mobile app, such as the image search, home-screen customization and integration with offline pick-up stores. The firm has also reduced the size of its app to adapt to cheaper smartphones.

Soni said Flipkart was moving to a leaner structure in which tens of individual tech teams would work independently. “The best tech companies have very small, semi-autonomous teams that can work without needing layers of approvals. On mobile, the market is so fluid that you need to change certain aspects frequently, sometimes even on a daily basis. So we are trying to work in small teams focusing on various aspects (such as search, transactions, app design) that can work independently. The trick is to put this together. We’re empowering our product teams to take responsibility, continuously launch new features and build the best mobile experience," he added.

“The differentiator for Flipkart and other e-commerce firms is tech, not any other function, so they need to build tech teams that can keep them ahead of rivals," said K. Sudarshan, managing partner at executive search firm EMA Partners.

“If you’re competing with tech giants like Amazon, you need to hire really good tech hands and build a strong technology organization across levels. Very good hires will help local firms play catch-up on the tech side with their global rivals," he added.

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Updated: 05 Aug 2015, 12:58 AM IST
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