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The untold story of Flipkart, the big billion e-commerce startup

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Walmart and Flipkart announced their long-awaited deal on May 9, 2018. Walmart would pay $16 billion for a 77%stake in India’s largest e-commerce firm. Binny Bansal, Co-founder and then Group Chief Executive Officer, Flipkart, shook hands with his Walmart counterpart Doug McMillon. But it was one of the photographs released the next day that was far more striking. 

On his Facebook page, Sachin Bansal, the founder of the e-commerce site Flipkart, shared a photo of himself with Kalyan Krishnamurthy and Binny Bansal. The three men were standing close together, but their position attracted attention as if it were a Freudian slip. After the events leading up to the photo, it was unthinkable that Sachin would agree to such a shot, but it is an accurate reflection of how things had ended up between the two founders.

Sachin and Binny founded Flipkart at a bungalow in Koramangala, Bengaluru, in 2007 with Rs. 4,00,000 of their own money. They could no longer stand each other more than a decade later, despite developing a company with $7.6 billion in revenue, making entrepreneurship chic, and becoming millionaires.

However, before its demise in 2015-2016, Flipkart’s meteoric rise seemed like something out of a fairy tale.

Binny Bansal is the creator of the e-commerce portal Flipkart, created by his brother in 2007. He claims he wants to foster an atmosphere in which Indian tech firms may compete on their terms and be transparent.

The co-founders of Indian company Yfrog Media, Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, are India’s first indigenous internet enterprise. The two met while working for Amazon in Bengaluru, where the company has had a technology research centre since 2004.

The Bansals left the American retail giant in September 2007 to start their own e-commerce company, similar to Amazon.

Flipkart’s early years were littered with disappointments, tribulations, and near-misses. It had taken them almost 18 months to come up with a magnificent sum of $1 million. The Bansals’ first two employees were a laid-off packing worker and a chain-smoking hippie slacker who was mainly hired because he owned a working laptop. After being turned down by every venture capitalist in the country, the Bansals were able to overcome the opposition of a tiny investment firm in 2009, thanks to the help of one of their associates who had recognised them and became passionate believers.

Sachin Gupta is the co-founder and CEO of Flipkart, an e-commerce behemoth. In July 2014, the company raised a massive $1 billion, and Sachin predicted that “Flipkart will be one of the world’s biggest online retailers. Binny Mukherjee, his mentor, he claims, impressed him because he was more attentive about how to apply his ideas. Mukherji’s personality was, in many respects, a reflection of his own — explosive, chaotic, and ecstatic.

“We believe that in the next five years, India will generate a $100 billion firm, and we want to be that firm.” 

Flipkart symbolised the Indian economy’s concerns about its place in the world and its acute sense of its inferiority in comparison to both China and the West. Flipkart appeared to be India’s response to Amazon and Alibaba as the country’s entry into the digital age. However, it is a parable of the post-liberalisation era in its ultra-consumerist vision, its assumption that it would take its proper position beside the American and Chinese internet titans, as well as its subsequent stumbles and unique, but narrow, wealth creation.

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Business

Investor’s greed a problem, says Sankaran Naren

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Gordon Gekko might have felt that greed, for lack of a better word, is good, but that isn’t always the case. The human urge to clamour for more has caught many an investor on the wrong foot and Sankaran Naren, Executive Director and CIO at ICICI Prudential, opines that investor greed is increasing day-by-day, which is a problem.

Naren Indian equity portfolios at ICICI Prudential, and has worked with various financial services companies, including Refco Sify Securities India and HDFC Securities. Delving further into the issue at hand, he says, “We are not seeing a problem in the macro or business cycle. But investor greed is a bigger problem. They think that there is only one asset class called equity and there is nothing called risk and that is the bigger problem rather than anything else in the macro or business cycle from an India point of view. In the world, all the way from 2012, people have not seen market corrections in the US. There people are used to investing in stocks and not worrying at all about market corrections except in 2018 December and 2020 March,” said Sankaran.

At this point, he believes that it is very important for investors to practice asset allocation and that they should make choices based on earnings connected to 2021 or 2022, investing in names which have steady operating cash flows, dividend yield, etc.

“The key learning from 2007 is that investors who invested in IPOs based on 2014 earnings were in for a disappointment. There is a fair amount of froth in many parts of the markets, particularly in new-age areas. Unlike Asia which has seen periodic market corrections, since 2012, US equities have barely witnessed a meaningful correction,” said the fund manager.

“Today the number of loss-making new age companies trading at stretched valuations is very high in the US compared with dividend-paying, cash flow-generating old economy-oriented companies,” he concluded, as he offered an investment roadmap for stocks and mutual funds to a rapt audience. 

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Business

Swiggy to give 2-day paid monthly period leave to female delivery partners

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Food delivery giant Swiggy has announced a two-day paid monthly period leave policy for female delivery partners, marking an industry first. Swiggy has over 1000 women on its delivery team, and has stated that since bringing on female delivery partners, it has been working to increase inclusivity and diversity across the platform. The company believes that providing a welcoming environment for women will inspire them to explore delivering with them.  

Other initiatives to deepen inclusivity include enabling access to vehicles, access to hygienic restrooms, and implementing safety measures for female delivery partners. Mihir Shah, Vice President of Operations at Swiggy, said discomfort from being out and about on the road while menstruating is probably one of the most underreported reasons why many women don’t consider delivery to be a viable gig.  

“To support them through any menstruation-related challenges, we’ve introduced a no-questions-asked, two-day paid monthly period time-off policy for all our regular female delivery partners,” said Shah.  

SoftBank-backed Swiggy has approximately 200,000 delivery partners, with about 1,000 of them being female. Swiggy hired its first female delivery partner in Pune in 2016. “Since then, we’ve been working hard to promote inclusivity and diversity across the platform, with a goal of increasing the number of female delivery partners in Swiggy’s delivery fleet,” Shah added.

“Swiggy understands the pain of a woman in the field and period leave will definitely motivate more women to choose this platform and be independent,” said Komal, a delivery partner from Chennai.  

Last year, rival company Zomato announced a period leave policy, allowing female employees to take up to 10 period leaves in a year. These are available to employees and not the gig workforce. It has, however, taken steps to have a more inclusive gig workforce. In June this year, it said it has set a goal of reaching 10 percent female delivery partners by the end of 2021 starting with Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Pune. 

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Health

Gates Foundation boosts access to Covid-19 drug for lower-income countries

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The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged up to $120 million as part of its Covid-19 response effort to help lower-income countries gain access to the investigational antiviral medication Molnupiravir, which some say might be a gamechanger.

The Gates Foundation’s co-chair, Melinda Gates, said: “To put an end to the pandemic, we must ensure that everyone has access to life-saving health services, regardless of where they live on the planet. Low-income countries, on the other hand, have had to wait for everything from personal protective equipment to vaccinations. That’s not good enough.”  

Concerned about lower-income countries’ struggles to access Covid-19 vaccinations and the risk of being left behind once again when it comes to medicines, the Gates Foundation is urging other donors to commit money to hasten the implementation of Merck’s experimental drug Molnupiravir, if it is approved.  

Merck expects trial tablets fto reach low-income countries by early next year. Regulatory authorities such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and national governments are in charge of deciding whether or not to approve the drug for usage. The Gates organization said it aims to significantly reduce the time it takes for new drugs to arrive in low-income regions after they become available in wealthier markets. That gap can be at least 12 months, it said.

The organization has already granted money to assist generics firms in developing low-cost production procedures that lower raw material costs and boost product yields. Some wealthy and middle-income countries, such as Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, have either obtained or are in the process of obtaining the therapy.

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