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April 20, 2016

Did Culture Clash Send Punit Soni B2SV (Back to Silicon Valley)?

Even as the question of whether Flipkart can provide profitable exits to its investors remains a multi billion dollar one, the firm has started to see high profile exits of a different kind: that of its top executives that it had attracted through acquisitions (especially Mukesh Bansal of Myntra) and from Silicon Valley.

The recent exit of Flipkart Chief Product Officer Punit Soni (who had joined it from Google) has received a lot of coverage in the media - including ET Now's interview with Soni on why (a polite techie sounding "There are a couple of areas that I'm interested in working on that are not orthogonal to Flipkart's interest") and what next for him (he's headed back to the US to work on a new venture). According to recruiters and others interviewed by Mint, "cultural differences" (between start-ups in Bangalore and Silicon Valley) is the key reason for the disenchantment of the Valley Hires. Extract:
...“People from Silicon Valley companies are used to working in places where there’s some sort of democratization of power and where there are systems and processes,” said a recruiter who works with top Indian start-ups. “In many Indian start-ups, entrepreneurs still like to wield a lot of control, and instead of controls and processes, you have chaos. There’s obviously a cultural mismatch. What is needed is management of expectations from both sides, transparency about what they are getting into and patience. Unfortunately, patience is not something you can afford when you’re expected to show 2-3x (times) growth.”
...“Often, founders have expectations that are impossible to achieve. At the same time, they are unwilling to give you any kind of meaningful freedom and control. There are systematic issues and operational issues at Indian start-ups that have been brewing for the past several years. Hiring new talent cannot change things overnight,” a Silicon Valley hire said.
On the other hand, some Indian entrepreneurs said that executives hired from the Valley failed to act fast enough and adapt to changing needs of start-ups. “The speed of the consumer Internet industry requires the businesses to change and adapt very fast. It does not allow people to get the learning time,” the entrepreneur said.
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