Binny Bansal, the co-founder of Flipkart, the massive online retail operation in India acquired by Walmart this year, has stepped down as CEO following an allegation of serious personal misconduct.
Walmart, which purchased a $16 billion controlling stake in Flipkart Group in May, the largest single investment in its history, said Tuesday that an independent investigation done on behalf of both companies did not find evidence corroborating the allegation against Binny Bansal, but it did reveal lapses in judgment on his part.
However, Bansal, 37 and one of the most high profile of India’s new generation of young, tech-savvy billionaires, has strongly denied the allegations. In a letter to employees, he said: “My plan was to continue in my current role for a few more quarters to continue transition after closing deal with Walmart.” “My decision to step down has been accelerated by certain personal events that have taken place in the recent past” Binny added.
Stating that personal events accelerating decision to step down relate to a “claim of serious personal misconduct made against me”, he said the investigation, did bring to light lapses in judgment, “particularly a lack of transparency, related to how I responded to the situation.” He also said that he would continue to be a large shareholder in the company and serve on its board.
Kalyan Krishnamurthy, who heads the company’s main Flipkart e-commerce operation, would now act as chief executive for a broader group of businesses including apparel websites Myntra and Jabong, the company said.’
“While the investigation did not find evidence to corroborate the complainant’s assertions against Binny, it did reveal other lapses in judgment, particularly a lack of transparency, related to how Binny responded to the situation,”Walmart said in the statement. “Because of this, we have accepted his decision to resign.”
Bansal founded Flipkart in 2007 with Sachin Bansal, his friend from the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi.
Sachin Bansal remained the CEO of Flipkart for most of its life, with Binny Bansal as the chief technology officer. In January 2016, Binny Bansal took over as the CEO as his partner became the company’s executive chairman. A year later, the company named Kalyan Krishnamurthy, its then category design organisation chief, its CEO and Binny Bansal was elevated as CEO of a newly formed entity called Flipkart Group Organisation.
Walmart’s statement says Bansal had already been planning a transition, so there were already plans in place for his succession. Given his sudden exit however, those plans are being accelerated.
The move also marks the exit of both co-founders from the e-commerce giant, Sachin Bansal having exited earlier this year after selling his stake to Walmart. Ananth Narayanan, who is the CEO of Myntra and Jabong will continue in those roles and will now report to Krishnamurthy.
Since Walmart paid $16 billion for a roughly 77-percent stake in Flipkart in May, Indian media have speculated Walmart was planning changes at India’s biggest online shopping platform as it strives to compete with Amazon.
Walmart believes India, which has more than 1 billion people, could be among the world’s top five e-commerce markets within the next five years. Flipkart appeals to its customers for numerous reasons, including its various payment options. The company focused early on mobile phones, and in 2016 became the first app in India to reach 50 million users.
Bangalore-based Flipkart has acquired a string of other companies in recent years, from fashion e-commerce company Myntra to mobile payment firm PhonePe. Its supply chain arm, eKart, serves hundreds of cities and makes at least 500,000 deliveries daily.
Despite the sudden leadership upheaval, Walmart said it plans to take Flipkart public in the future.
“As we look ahead, we have full confidence in the strength and depth of leadership across the company. We remain committed to investing for the long-term and are supportive of the leadership team’s desire to evolve into a publicly-traded company in the future,” the company’s statement read.
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