startup india

'Flipkart was the most foolish': Watch tech investor Kanwal Rekhi flame India's start-ups

An Indian-American pioneer of venture capital paints a less-than-happy picture.

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Early in December 2016, e-commerce website Flipkart’s valuation dropped from a high of $15.5 billion to $5.5 billion. A failure to agree on valuation led to many funding deals to fall through.

In October of 2016, reports suggested that Flipkart’s marketing chairman Sachin Bansal wanted to form a lobby group that would represent the interests of Indian startups by seeking favourable laws for themselves, as opposed to US and Chinese companies. In fiscal 2016, Flipkart posted a loss of Rs 2,306 crore despite a revenue growth of 140%, yet as the company was bleeding, top employees were compensated to the tune of Rs 300 crore.

The last point is what Indian-American angel investor and entrepreneur Kanwal Rekhi, who is credited as being the “first Indian-American founder & CEO to take a venture-backed company public on the NASDAQ”, cites to heavily criticise the e-commerce giant in an interview to Entrepreneur.

“Flipkart was the biggest and most foolish [Indian startup],” Rekhi says in the video above. “Flipkart was hiring people, paying them Rs 2 crore, Rs 3 crore, Rs 4 crore salaries, they were selling products below their cost, they had no business models, and it is the venture capitalists who were encouraging them to waste their money, they caused it as well, not just the entrepreneurs.”

“The founders of Flipkart and Ola were selling their own shares in secondary markets,” begins Rekhi explaining, why he knew the startups were “doomed to fail from day one”. “And they were diversifying away from their own companies. They were telling me that did not believe in their own companies. They knew their company best and they were selling those shares so these are not the entrepreneurs that everybody should look up to.”

Rekhi also talks about why government safety nets for businesses isn’t a good idea. In using them, he asserts, companies will give away their freedoms and the domestic marketplace will become like China’s.

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