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Binny Bansal

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Binny Bansal is half of the team behind Flipkart, a pioneer in Indian ecommerce. Born and raised in Chandigarh, Bansal attended St. Anne’s Convent School before pursuing undergraduate studies at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. An avid sportsman, he served as captain of the basketball team at both institutions. After earning his degree in computer science engineering in 2005, Bansal took a position in Bangalore as a software engineer for US-based Sarnoff Corp. During his year and a half with the automation company, Bansal developed a sensor enabling cars to detect road lanes, beeping if the driver moved from one lane to another without signaling.

In 2007, Bansal left Sarnoff, taking a position as a senior software engineer at Amazon.com India, where he reconnected with old friend Sachin Bansal. While the two Chandigarh natives are not related, they did attend the same high school and university, and had gotten to know each other during their time studying computer science at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi. Working together building aspects of Amazon Web Services, the friends started thinking about start-up opportunities. Noticing that Bangalore was full of people building great technologies for U.S. companies, but lacking innovative new India-centric companies, the pair decided to build a tech start-up for India.

While toying with an idea for a comparison search engine, the partners quickly realized that the ecommerce market in India was too small to create demand for the service. They decided, instead, to create the e-commerce infrastructure they had been seeking. In 2007, Sachin and Binny Bansal each pooled in Rs 200,000 to launch the Flipkart website from their two-bedroom apartment. Ten days later, they made their first sale, a copy of “Leaving Microsoft to Change the World” for a customer in Andhra Pradesh.

For the first few months, Flipkart, then predominantly a book retailer, sold about five books a day. Thanks to word-of-mouth advertising, business picked up quickly, however, and the company hit its breakeven point within six months. The partners found themselves an office and hired two employees. In 2008, they formally incorporated, and they were able to raise their first round of fundraising, $1 million in venture capital from Accel India, in 2009. They received funding from Tiger Global each of the next two years, $10 million in 2010 and $20 million in 2011.

In the meantime, they expanded their offerings, adding electronic goods, air conditioners, air coolers, stationary supplies, lifestyle products, and e-books. They also added their own brand, DigiFlip, of tablets, USBs, and laptop bags, as well as Citron, a line of personal healthcare and home appliances. Flipkart gradually acquired a handful of complimentary companies, including social book discovery tool WeRead in 2010, digital content platform company Mime360 in 2011, and Bollywood news site Chakpak.com in 2011.

After raising a $190 million funding round from Tiger Global and Accel Partners in 2012, Flipkart found its viability called into question. Burning through cash every month, the company started restructuring, tightening its employee base and implementing cost-cutting technology. They also shut down Flyte, the legal music download service they had launched in February 2012. Finally, they switched their model, moving away from their original set-up as a direct seller of goods. Flipkart re-emerged as a marketplace, with multiple merchants, including the company’s own WS Retail, selling through the site.

The restructuring paid off. Flipkart reached $1 billion in sales in 2014, a full year ahead of their projections. Along the way they raised three more funding rounds totaling over $1 billion, acquired Letsbuy.com and Myntra.com, and grew to over 150,000 employees. Flipkart has received wide recognition for its pioneering endeavors in bringing ecommerce infrastructure to India, with accolades including Young Turk of the Year at CNBC TV 18s “India Business Leader Awards 2012,” and a nomination for the 2011 IndiaMART Leaders of Tomorrow Awards.

Binny Bansal currently lives in Bangalore, where he serves as COO of Flipkart. He enjoys reading fiction, in particular the works of Salman Rushdie, and loves white-water rafting.

Companies and Investments

Flipkart (Co-founder, COO), Amazon.com India (Senior Software Engineer), Sarnoff Corporation (Software Engineer)

Lessons Learned

We both brought the same skills, having studied in the same college, having done the same job. It was not as if we brought in different skills, since we were mostly doing things together. But as business grew, we evolved along different lines, and we had to grow deeper too. I would look at the patent and the vendor side, and Sachin would go deeper into customer research…. Sachin takes a more intuitive approach and I take a bit more rational approach, so the combination really works. (Binny Bansal on a productive co-founder relationship, in an interview with M.G. Arun for IndiaToday)

Pursuit of excellence is one of our core values. Once somebody joins Flipkart, we give a lot of responsibilities to the person. Rather than telling people how to do it, you tell people what is to be done and leave it to them to figure out. (Binny Bansal on avoiding over-managing in order to foster innovative, self-driven work, in an interview with M.G. Arun for IndiaToday)

We started flipkart.com because we ourselves felt the need for a good online bookstore. At this time E-commerce sector is startup in India so we believe that we can make a difference here for online shopping. We wanted to create something which has a long lasting value and which we can be proud of. Also at this point in our life we can devote our entire time and energy to Flipkart which is very important for any startup. (Binny Bansal on creating something because you’d like to see it exist yourself, in an interview with The Next SEO)

Inspiring Quotes

Be afraid of our customers, because those are the folks who have money. Our competitors are never going to send us money.

Jeff Bezos

In the business world, everyone is paid in two coins: cash and experience. Take the experience first; the cash will come later.

H. Geneen

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.

Mark Twain

Binny Bansal's Quotes

Take the plunge. The timing could not be better.

Binny Bansal

Very importantly do not go at it alone. Have at least one co-founder.

Binny Bansal

We first look at what we can do for the customer. We give more importance to the customer than our competitors. We always try to lead. If we follow the competition, we will not be leaders.

Binny Bansal

Customer experience is the top metric at our level. Everybody is measured on that.

Binny Bansal

Pursuit of excellence is one of our core values.

Binny Bansal

Influential Books