Home / Companies / People /  Flipkart hires former Google executive Punit Soni as chief product officer

Bengaluru: Flipkart Ltd, India’s largest e-commerce firm, has hired former Google Inc. executive Punit Soni as head of products, as it seeks to accelerate its push into mobile commerce and move sales away from desktop-based platforms.

Flipkart co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Sachin Bansal has held discussions about shutting the company’s mobile site and its website to move sales entirely toward the mobile app, three people familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.

Bansal has discussed the possibility of moving technology executives off the website team and move them to its app business, the people cited above said.

Although these plans are not formalized and it’s unclear whether Flipkart will risk losing sales through the desktop, a majority of Flipkart’s new hires, especially in technology, will be recruited for the company’s push in mobile, the people said.

India is expected to have more than 500 million users by 2018 from roughly 200 million currently, and a majority of these users will access the Internet on their smartphones, according to estimates by analysts.

The hiring of Soni, who was previously with Flipkart’s brand partner Motorola Mobility, when the company was owned by Google, marks the company’s highest profile recruit in technology and will boost its efforts on the mobile. Soni was involved in developing Google News and Google+ as well as Motorola devices such the Moto G and the Moto E.

Motorola signed an exclusive partnership with Flipkart last year to sell its Moto E and Moto G phones in India, a move that gave a significant boost to sales at both companies.

News of Soni’s hire also comes ahead of a talent scouting visit in the US. CEO Bansal and the head of the company’s commerce platform Mukesh Bansal are due to visit San Francisco’s Silicon Valley next week to hire more high-profile technology talent.

“The next stage of Flipkart is here. As we build a leading-edge technology company, we are pleased to welcome Punit to Bangalore to lead our product-related initiatives. His deep experience in launching successful tech-related products and his extensive relationships in the US and abroad will help Flipkart stay on the cutting edge," Mukesh Bansal said.

Flipkart is spending large sums of money on hiring senior leaders across functions as it prepares for an initial public offering within the next two years. The company most recently hired former McKinsey director Saikiran Krishnamurthy as chief operating officer (COO) of the commerce platform and former Tata Communications Ltd finance chief Sanjay Baweja as chief financial officer.

The Bengaluru-based e-commerce firm is among the world’s most sought-after private companies, with its valuation jumping to $11-12 billion at the end of December from $2.5 billion a year ago. It raised nearly $2 billion in capital in 2014 from large institutional investors such as Government of Singapore Investment Corp. and Qatar Investment Authority, as well as venture capital firms including Tiger Global Management, its largest shareholder.

Flipkart reorganized into three units last month: new initiatives, to be headed by CEO Bansal; supply chain, which will be led by co-founder and COO Binny Bansal; and marketplace, retail and marketing, which will be headed by Mukesh Bansal, the Myntra co-founder who joined Flipkart last May when it bought the online fashion retailer.

The company also split its technology function into engineering—day-to-day technology management—and research and development or innovation. Senior vice-president Sameer Nigam now heads engineering, while Amod Malviya, chief technology officer, has moved on to head new technology projects and innovation.

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