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When online retailer Flipkart.com fetched a valuation of $7 billion in July after raising a mammoth $1 billion in funds, it became not only India’s largest start-up, but also one of the most valuable companies in the country.

That valuation of $7 billion is reward for the persistence of Flipkart’s co-founders Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal (not related), both of whom ploughed ahead with their idea of creating an online megastore amid derision and scepticism that Indians would not buy things such as clothes, mobile phones and laptops without touching or even seeing the products.

“This is a big milestone not just for Flipkart, but for Internet firms in India in general," Sachin Bansal, Flipkart’s chief executive officer, said in July. “We believe India can produce a $100 billion company in the next five years, and we want to be that. Whether it takes five or 10 years, we are here for the longer term."

Sachin and his friend Binny started Flipkart in 2007. They had studied together at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, and crossed paths again in 2006 when they joined the Indian unit of Amazon.com Inc., the world’s largest online retailer.

Less than a year later, they decided to replicate Amazon’s model in India by starting out on their own. “Everybody we knew in Bangalore was working hard building great technologies, but they were building them for US companies. We could not relate to that. Amazon is a great business, but as users, we could not relate. Binny and I decided to start something on our own and see how it went," Sachin said in an interview to a blog last year.

They used personal savings, borrowed from friends and family and launched the site Flipkart.com from their apartment in Bangalore. They started with books. The first order came from a customer from Andhra Pradesh for the book Leaving Microsoft to Change the World by John Wood.

“Though we started with books, we always knew that we would add more categories," said Binny in an interview with Mint earlier this year. He has the official title of chief operating officer at Flipkart.

The first few months were tough—customers were too wary to buy online. But slowly, Flipkart built its book collection and word-of-mouth grew. By 2009, Flipkart was generating sales of more than 2 crore. Investors, however, weren’t convinced as they felt there weren’t enough online shoppers in India.

After long negotiations, venture capital firm Accel Partners invested nearly $1 million in Flipkart in October 2009. This was one of the key moments for the Bansals.

Then, a few months later, in a move that stunned the small e-commerce world, US-based hedge fund Tiger Global Management committed nearly $10 million to Flipkart. At that time, Flipkart reportedly got a valuation of 220 crore.

Barely four years later, that same start-up is worth a massive $7 billion, having raised as much as $1.78 billion, the most by any Indian start-up by some distance.

Since Flipkart is a privately held company, it’s not clear what the Bansals’ exact stake is, but analysts estimate it to be anywhere between 6% and 8% each. That would make them worth $600-800 million.

All entrepreneurs at some point entertain thoughts of selling out. The way Flipkart’s valuation is growing, it would be tempting for anyone to sell out. “There are pros and cons for both sides (to stay or to sell). It’s about what the founders want. We want to build the company. It can be one of the largest e-commerce companies in the world; we can be in the top five. India can produce that kind of a company, given the number of consumers. So we want to be independent and build the company. Our role models are not companies which have sold, but companies like Airtel and Infosys, which have built large businesses," Sachin told Mint in an interview last September.

He said that trust and understanding between founders are “very important".

“Mistakes happen. There are disagreements and sometimes I would decide to do something because I was so passionate about it but it turned out to be a wrong decision. What we’ve been able to do is not blame each other for mistakes. If we’re not able to come to an agreement, the guy who’s more passionate about the issue will take the decision. But we never do things like, ‘I told you so.’ That’s wrong, even if you had told the other so." Bansal said in the interview.

Some Flipkart employees and friends of the Bansals whom Mint spoke with said that regardless of the jump in their personal wealth (at least on paper), their lifestyle hasn’t changed much. They are heavily involved in running Flipkart, regularly work more than 15 hours, and have taken up separate apartments that are a walk from Flipkart’s head office in Bangalore.

The one area where the Bansals have shown an inclination to spend their wealth is funding other start-ups. Over the past six months, they have invested in several start-ups, including Tracxn, TouchTalent and Roposo (only Binny).

But for now, Flipkart takes up most of their time and attention.

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