Top executives are leaving startups like Flipkart and Ola. Are they hungry to start their own ventures?


Senior managers, working at startups like Flipkart, Snapdeal and Ola, are no more interested in these top consumer Internet companies in India. They are heading for the exit door, with many citing a mixture of low job satisfaction and poor work-life balance.

This change is seen at a time when Indian startups, boosted by soaring valuations, are on an aggressive spree to hire new talents. So are these mangers hungry to start their own companies? Lets’ read and know!

Swaminathan Seetharaman, who earlier worked as the vice-president for engineering at taxi app firm Ola and quit after about a year at the company, said: "There are multiple levels of decision-making as an organisation grows and individual contributions to make impact get diluted."

The 41-year-old Seetharaman, who led the development of consumer mobile interfaces while at Ola, teamed up with former colleagues Ganesh Subramanian and Nitin Agarwal to launch an on-demand services marketplace Pianta.

Termed unicorns — or companies valued upwards of a billion dollars — Flipkart, Snapdeal and Ola have all witnessed exits of senior managers in recent months.

The latest exit was of Ravi Vora, the head of strategic initiatives at Flipkart, who quit this week. Others to have quit the country's largest online retailer include engineering head Sameer Nigam, who left in July.

Chief Technology Officer Amod Malviya transited to an advisory role in July. In February, Delhi-based Snapdeal saw its then CTO Amitabh Misra leave to start his own firm.

Restaurant listing guide Zomato has seen the exits of marketing heads Alok Jain, and subsequently Rameet Arora, who quit within 10 months. Jain has started an ondemand food venture Yumist.

The Gurgaon-based company's chief product officer Namita Arora left within a year of joining the firm.

Let’s know the reasons behind leaving the billion dollars companies.

Seniors being relegated: Experts tasked with finding fresh talent for these high-growth startups say several exits stem from seniors being relegated when hierarchies alter. "Shrinking interactions with the founders coupled with decreased influence on impactful decisions are two most frequently cited reasons for individuals to move out of startups," Harish Kumar, founder of headhunting firm Wenger & Watson, told ET.

Volatile work environment, long working hours, and high levels of stress are also wearing out several senior executives at startups. "The culture of having beds for technology teams in offices can backfire and hurt emotional health," said a senior technology executive who quit a Delhi-based startup.

Bid to lock in talent: Dissatisfaction with compensation is also leading to exits in several cases. Startups typically offer employee stock options aimed at locking in talent from a year to four years. Often, employees can cash in about a quarter of their holding after a year. "After that, shares can be redeemed on a pro rata basis every month or quarter, depending on the contract," said Seetharaman.

However, this is only at an ideal startup. At several others, founders allow only a tenth of promised stock to be sold at the end of a year, with vesting periods rising incrementally to 40% at the end of four years. "There can be additional harsh lock-ins, which make the packages unfair," said the Delhi-based founder of an executive search firm who works with companies such as Flipkart, Zomato and Snapdeal.

Senior employees are realising that they too have a chance of making big returns from India's unprecedented startup boom where the top Internet companies have between themselves soaked up some $6 bn of funding so far.

(Image: Indiatimes)
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