Home/ Companies / Start-ups/  The rise and rise of Flipkart CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy

New Delhi/Bengaluru: From being ousted by Flipkart co-founder Sachin Bansal four years ago to orchestrating the biggest ever e-commerce exit globally, Kalyan Krishnamurthy’s meteoric rise marks one of the most stunning career elevations in corporate India.

On Tuesday, apart from announcing Binny Bansal’s departure as Flipkart group chief executive officer (CEO), Walmart also made a crucial reshuffle in the e-commerce firm. It rolled Myntra and Jabong into the Flipkart organization. Almost two years after becoming CEO, Krishnamurthy is now effectively the group CEO with Myntra CEO Ananth Narayanan reporting to him. Krishnamurthy officially answers to no one, except the Flipkart board.

With Flipkart’s umbilical cord with its founders well and truly severed after Bansal’s dramatic ouster on Tuesday, Flipkart is almost completely dependent at the senior level on the 46-year-old.

Krishnamurthy, a former Tiger Global executive, started his first stint at Flipkart in May 2013 as interim sales chief and finance head. The following year, after a bitter fallout with Sachin Bansal, Krishnamurthy abruptly left Flipkart. Krishnamurthy’s second stint at Flipkart began in 2016 and he replaced Binny Bansal as chied executive officer (CEO) in January 2017.

Krishnamurthy has developed a reputation of being good at fixing things. Both in 2013 and in 2016, he helped turnaround Flipkart, in the second instance, saving it from disaster.

However, his lack of leadership hiring has left Flipkart overly dependent on him, according to experts.

Several current and former employees Mint spoke with believe that Krishnamurthy will soon need to hire more senior leaders around him to stabilize Flipkart and reduce its dependence on him.

“While he (Krishnamurthy) may still have Binny on the board to consult, this exit surely leaves the CEO with a lot of responsibility," said an employee, on condition of anonymity. “There is a significant distraction in the office right now with a lot of questions in our minds," the employee said.

Since he returned to Flipkart for his second innings in June 2016, Krishnamurthy forced out 12 senior leaders, many of them C-level executives, including logistics head Saikiran Krishnamurthy, chief financial officer Sanjay Baweja, product chief Surojit Chatterjee and, most controversially, chief operating officer Nitin Seth. Krishnamurthy’s inner circle includes senior directors Smrithi Ravichandran, Sandeep Karwa and Ayyappan R., and vice presidents Amitesh Jha, Shoumyan Biswas and Manish Kumar. The 46-year-old CEO works directly with these managers and many others, instead of working through senior vice presidents in most functions, the people said.

ALSO READ | The CEO who helped deliver the Flipkart-Walmart deal

Earlier this year, Walmart had four of its senior leaders join Flipkart at the group level, three of whom were to report to Binny Bansal. This included Daniel De La Garza (from Walmart in central America); Grant Coad (from Walmart Canada) and Dawn Ptak (from Walmart China). Walmart’s M&A head Emily McNeal joined Flipkart group as senior vice president and group chief financial officer.

“Kalyan may not have a traditional approach to running the company, but his style has worked for Flipkart and helped it to improve its performance and gain market share," said a former executive at Flipkart. “He is already a powerful decision making authority and Binny’s departure doesn’t change much for him," said the former executive on condition of anonymity.

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Updated: 15 Nov 2018, 08:28 AM IST
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