Flipkart does soul-searching at town hall in tech hub

Reeling under lower valuation, exits by many senior executives and downsizing of staff in the face of intense competition in the digital world ahead of the festival season, leading e-tailer Flipkart had a soul-searching town hall discussion with its employees last week, the company said on Monday.

“At Flipkart, we have an open and transparent culture. The town hall that we conduct regularly is one of the pillars of this culture of openness,” the company’s spokesman said in a statement here.

Presiding over the discussion on Friday (August 19), co-founder Sachin Bansal is said to have admitted that the nine-year-old city-based company had missed some of its targets and that he was “replaced because of performance”.

Other co-founder Binny Bansal took over as the company’s chief executive on January 11, while Sachin was made executive chairman.

“Our performance metrics are shared to encourage a collaborative environment. Anybody is free to ask any question, challenge norms and hold the leadership accountable for business and organization metrics,” the spokesman asserted.

The candid town hall meeting was held in the backdrop of the company recently asking about 1,000 employees to quit or take severance package for non-performance as part of its annual appraisal policy.

The company has about 30,000 employees across the country, with many joining owing to inorganic growth over the last five years.

“We believe this (town hall meeting) leads to an environment of trust, openness and respect. We are also probably the only large company in India to have this open and collaborative culture,” the spokesman claimed.

While the performance management philosophy was part of the inter-active session, most of the time was spent on discussing the strides the company had made in its business performance.

“Some of the highlights of the discussion were on the company raising the game on execution, increasing speed of customer deliveries, upping the stakes on product quality, resulting in growth in customer NPS (Net Promoter Score) as well as maintaining a healthy lead over competition,” the spokesman added.

NPS is an index that measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products or services to others.

The changing dynamics of business in the e-commerce space had also forced the company to defer the joining dates of campus recruits from leading management and engineering institutions.

Interacting with media recently here after meeting Karnataka Industries Minister R.V. Deshpande, Sachin Bansal said his company was exploring different revenue streams, as e-commerce penetration in India was still at two percent of the overall shopping as against 8-10 per cent in growth markets like China and the US.

Competing with global and domestic players like Amazon and Snapdeal, Flipkart had last (July 2014) raised $1 billion (Rs 6,000 crore) in fresh funding from a group of investors, when it was valued at a whopping $7 billion (Rs 42,000 crore).


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