Tiger in Flipkart's corner: Krishnamurthy led fight against fierce rivalry

Many wondered if Kalyan Krishnamurthy was running too tight a ship, with not enough senior executives to handle the load. Walmart’s endorsement seems to show otherwise
Foreign direct investment (FDI) in India was less than five basis points as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) when Kalyan Raman Krishnamurthy was born on January 12, 1972. Forty six years later, he will help usher in, as chief executive officer of e-commerce giant Flipkart, billions of dollars in investment a result of its deal with Walmart. 

The transaction is in many ways a reflection of a changed India, and the professionals such as Krishnamurthy who are helping bring in that very change. 

In many ways he has been instrumental in attracting the investment at a time when competition in the space had grown fierce. Appointed by American investor Tiger Global, Kalyan Raman Krishnamurthy, son of Kalyanasundaram Krishnamurthy, can claim that he has led the fight against fierce competition at Flipkart with some success. 

The only other company he is associated with in India seems to be Sunshine Teahouse Private Limited, where he has been director. The company runs the popular tea-service cafes under the brand-name Chaayos, in which Tiger Global also invested. He was appointed on May 15, 2015. Chaayos has also been on a growth path. He resigned with effect from December 13, 2016, to take over as chief executive officer of Flipkart in January 2017. 

He replaced Binny Bansal, who was elevated to the position of group chief executive officer. A year earlier, co-founder Sachin Bansal had been elevated from the CEO’s post to that of the chairman.  

It was not just the founders who had to take a step back at the company. A number of senior executives exited the company soon after Krishnamurthy came on board. Rumours were soon doing the rounds that there could more exits, including those of Surojit Chatterjee, senior vice-president of product management; Saikiran Krishnamurthy, the head of Ekart; and Samardeep Subandh, chief marketing officer.

It is said that this was part of Krishnamurthy’s mandate, to cut losses and realign operations for better growth. Investors seemed to have backed the moves, with Flipkart raising more money in a year than in the previous nine – as Business Standard noted in an interview with Krishnamurthy last month. 

This was not his first hands-on stint at Flipkart. He was the interim chief financial officer for the company during a previous stint from 2013 to 2014. He has worked at e-commerce company eBay and consumer goods company Procter & Gamble earlier.

He has two MBA degrees, one from the Philippines’ Asian Institute of Management and another in finance from the US-based UIUC College of Business.

Krishnamurthy is also said to have led Flipkart fashion portal Myntra’s acquisition of Jabong in July 2016, reportedly pushing to close the deal in a matter of three days. The $70-million deal opened doors for a significant rise in new customers, with Flipkart discovering that only a third of Jabong’s customers were also on Myntra. 

He reportedly often deals with juniors directly, and communicates with vendors directly as well. 

Many wondered if he was running too tight a ship, with not enough senior executives to handle the load. Walmart’s endorsement seems to show otherwise.

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