E-commerce firms such as Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal, Paytm and Jabong are attracting traditional retail staffers to steer the right growth course and connecting their big ideas to the right network. The migration is expected to pay huge dividends to the e-tailers as most of the leading professionals have two decades of experience and have been poached either from successful national retail organisations or most profitable Global giants.
Benetton’s Managing Director Sanjeev Mohanty is joining Jabong after spending 19 years at Benetton India (out of which 8 years were spent as managing director). He will be the company’s CEO, taking the reigns of leadership from Praveen Sinha and Arun Chandra Mohan. Sanjeev Mohanty’s appointment comes in the wake of the rising popularity of consumer Internet companies such as Flipkart, Snapdeal and Paytm, looking to hire the best in senior- and mid-level talent, across functions such as marketing, finance, supply chain, technology, logistics and business development.
FROM TRADITIONAL BUSINESSES TO ONLINE CAMARADERIE
The changing scenario is influencing staffers from Pantaloons to Reliance Retail, to Future Group, to Mahindra Retail, to Infiniti Retail (under the Tata group), to Landmark group, and major companies like McKinsey, Unilever, ITC, Pepsi and Unilever, toward tech-enabled consumer businesses or largely the eCommerce sector. Through this article, we would not only focus on appointments from the traditional retail to pure-play online space or eCommerce, but on the overall key developments in the ‘staffer appointment’ space in the last six months.
Samardeep Subandh, who has spent 15 years with Hindustan Unilever (HUL) across numerous marketing, sales and business verticals and a recent stint as a chief sales officer at Marico, joined home-grown eCommerce giant, Flipkart in October 2015 (’15) as its chief marketing officer. A seasoned worker in the consumer goods industry with a deep understanding of consumer insights, Samar will be a value-add at the time when Flipkart is doubling down on customer centricity.
“His insights of the consumer behaviour and proven track record of building national brands will surely be a value addition at Flipkart,” stated Bansal in the release issued by the company.
Separately, Snapdeal, an eCommerce company ambitiously strengthening their products and services ecosystem, (quite similar to the strategy adopted by the Alibaba Group in China) announced that it had hired Amit Choudhary from Procter & Gamble (P&G) as senior VP in the finance vertical. Prior to joining the consumer Internet company, Amit headed P&G’s Asia (pet care vertical) business across a dozen countries. Key talent from many consumer good companies is seen shifting loyalties to the buzzing e-retail space in the country, which promises to change the way hundreds of customers shop daily.
Even the fashion-focused e-tailer Jabong, whose Co-founders Praveen Sinha and Arun Chandra Mohan stepped down recently, announced the appointment of Benetton India’s MD, Sanjeev Mohanty as its CEO and MD effective early December. Sanjeev Mohanty needs no introduction; he is the man behind the many milestone moments that defined the Italian brand, Benetton in India in the last 11 years. He made brand Benetton one of the largest in the country. Under his leadership, Benetton expanded (mostly through franchisees) to about 720 stores from just 35 in 2007.
Such was the herculean task shouldered by Sanjeev Mohanty, who spent 8 of his 11 years as MD at Italy-based Benetton, which owns United Colors of Benetton and Sisley brands. The recent shift to Jabong is big – given the development of a chief executive joining an online e-tailer to be the most impactful – and coming in at the time when the company needed it most.
“There could be no better opportunity than Jabong given its scale and consumer brand recognition... we have identified a number of growth drivers that will allow us to deliver an un-paralleled experience to delight our customers and suppliers,” Mohanty said.
With plans to strengthen its top management team, the online lingerie retailer, Zivame appointed Shaleen Sinha as COO in November. Prior to Zivame, Sinha was VP, the chairman's office at Aditya Birla Group, overseeing Idea, Madura, Pantaloons, More, among other units.
“We seek to create one of the most consumer-centric companies by building a stronger technology and data-oriented company and by building an employee-centric organisation,” Sinha said in a statement.
Hyper-local mobile marketplace, Zopper snapped up Harneet Singh as Chief Business Officer in September. During his time at Jubilant FoodWorks, Harneet closely worked with the Pizza brand, helping them establish its footprint across India and Sri Lanka. He is known to be instrumental in building up India’s first “Hyper Local On-Demand Food Delivery eCommerce and mCommerce” platforms from scratch and established Domino’s as India’s better known Digital Food Ordering & Technology platform.
“With Harneet as a part of our leadership team, we are confident that we will be able to leverage his extensive brand building skills and expertise in order to establish Zopper as the most recognisable go-to option in the Indian hyperlocal market landscape,” said Neeraj Jain, Co-founder & CEO, Zopper.
FROM TELCOS TO ECOMMERCE – AS SEAMLESS AS THE OTHER SIDE OF PILLOW
A spurt of high-profile hires were done by Snapdeal earlier this year, which made Bharti Airtel, the telecom major in the country its hunting territory. In June, it brought on board Anand Chandrasekaran, a former Bharti Airtel executive, as its Chief Product Officer, among other two top-level execs Jayant Sood and Govind Rajan.
In the face of extreme competition from other consumer Internet companies, including Flipkart and Paytm, top-level appointments at Snapdeal have flourished since December 2014. Bharti Airtel’s senior executive, Govind Rajan joined Snapdeal in July as a Chief Strategy Officer. Before Rajan’s stint with Bharti Airtel, he juggled various leadership and marketing roles at the top consumer goods company, Hindustan Unilever, where he joined as management trainee in 1997.
Prior to his appointment at Snapdeal, Rajan most recently served as Chief Marketing Officer (B2C) at Bharti Airtel, where he was responsible for revenue and market share growth, customer life cycle management, and building marketing capability across the organisation. Concurrently he also served as CEO – Airtel Money (Airtel M-commerce Services Limited) leading Airtel’s foray in the exciting world of mobile money and payments.
Rajan is third senior official from Bharti Airtel to join Snapdeal within a span of months. In April 2015, the company’s head of contact experience, Jayant Sood left to join Snapdeal as Chief Customer Experience Officer, followed by Airtel’s Chief Product Officer (CPO) Anand Chandrasekaran.
Experts say that both telcos and eCommerce companies have similar requirements – customer dealing, analysing pattern of spending and offering plans that fit their lifestyle – and therefore the appointments seem like a natural process of leaving one organisation and joining another, without ruffling any leaves.
Furthermore, Paytm, a fast-track mobile commerce and services company appointed ex-Airtel and Samsung executive, Nitin Misra in September to head the payment product pipeline for scalability and security of platforms. Responsible for content and digital services across telecom giant Samsung’s Android and Tizen portfolios, he has had an experience with Bharti Airtel in the past.
Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Founder and Chief Executive, Paytm spoke on Nitin’s recruitment, “We needed someone who can go in hands-deep in mobile and consumer businesses, and Nitin brought that with his wealth of experience, across Indian and global markets. We welcome him on board at this vital juncture in our growth story and look forward to his contributions as we get set to create a wallet product that will be used for banking and commerce activities.”
“I’m thrilled to come on board at Paytm and to lead the product pipeline of this fast growing consumer Internet company. It's a tremendously exciting space to be in, and while there can be significant challenges, I think Paytm is at a point where it can play a very significant role in creating a smart and secure digital economy,” Nitin Misra said.
THE KEY-LEVEL HIRE FROM GLOBAL CORPORATIONS
Amazon’s Dan Rawson, Google’s Ravi Byakod and Mocrosoft’s Anand Lakshminarayanan have all been lured up by Flipkart to strengthen its delivery, accounting and digital product pipelines. While Anand would lead the expansion of the company’s digital product offerings, Ravi and Dan would look after accounting technology and logistics and supply chain capabilities, respectively.
Flipkart also announced that it hired former Yahoo senior executive Eric Lange as vice president of product management for its customer experience. The leading e-retailer had also hired former Google executive Punit Soni as its Chief Product Officer in March. Most recently, Flipkart appointed Tarun Jain of Twitter (leading commerce strategy for several ads and commerce products) as head of product, Ads Group, and former Google executive Surojit Chatterjee as Sr VP and Head of Consumer Experience and Growth.
Separately, in August, Snapdeal lured away Adobe executive Rajiv Mangla as Chief Technology Officer. Previously, he spent a decade at Adobe Systems with his most recent role being VP Engineering, Digital Marketing. As the company is ramping up its technology team, it is seeing at Silicon Valley as its major hunting ground.
In the past few months, the major e-retailers have significantly ramped up its non-tech as well as tech leadership teams and have hired senior- and mid-level leaders from India and around the world. Benefits of creating management strength range from having systems and processes in place, to building functional capabilities, to scaling up operations and changing organisation’s culture and character.