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Walmart Started Talks For Investment, Ended In Acquisition: Sachin Bansal

Flipkart co-founder Sachin Bansal gave his first public talk from a stage at a product conference hosted by NextBigWhat, a product discovery platform. Ten years on, he returned to the same stage albeit in an avatar he would not have imagined back then.

Bansal got a loud cheer from attendees when he walked up to the stage on Saturday, and, for the first time, opened up publicly about his exit from Flipkart, following Walmart’s purchase of a 77% stake in the Indian startup posterboy for $16 billion.

In an ask-me-anything (AMA) interaction at the Unplugged conference, Bansal said his exit wasn’t planned. “It was a big event that was happening and the discussions, the way they started was slightly different from how it ended. It started as an investment, but ended as an acquisition,” said Bansal. He said a critical question that made him decide whether to stay or move on from Flipkart was whether the startup would run as successful without him.

“Essentially, at the end of the day, it came to the question of, am I needed here? Is there a role for me? Will the company be successful if I am not there?” the 37-year-old internet billionaire said. His conclusion was that Flipkart was in a good position even though Amazon sounded like a big threat.

During the AMA session, Bansal said home grown companies like Flipkart and Ola can outdo rivals like Amazon and Uber, who are often seen as big international threats. He said Indian startups can do a better job going international than Chinese startups, citing the example of how Didi failed to make a mark in Australia, while Ola is doing better. Bansal has put Rs 650 crore in Ola, the largest such capital put in a company by an individual.

Asked about his next innings, Bansal said financial services would be broadly the next big area of focus for him, as the segment has many problems, such as what was earlier the case with online shopping.

Asked why he was looking to start again, instead of retiring or becoming an active investor in startups, Bansal said he is not ‘wired’ to retire and neither can he think all the time like investors, who typically prioritize their LPs (limited partners), those who put money in their funds. “It feels criminal to be sitting on the sidelines when there is so much action that’s going to be there and so much opportunity,” he added.

During the hour-long session, Bansal was asked about his toughest decision in Flipkart of which he was proud of. He said building in-house logistics was one of the big decisions which eventually paid off handsomely for the company. To convince board members and the management, Flipkart started its own delivery in one pincode in Koramangala in Bengaluru with four people. “It just went through the roof in terms of crucial user metrics,” he said.―Times of India

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