What’s the story behind the Flipsters who stuck around to see Flipkart lead India’s e-commerce industry? What was their recipe to succeed? What made them believe that a startup that sold books online could evolve into a path-breaking industry pioneer? Meet some of the Veterans of Flipkart and relive their action-packed journey with India’s most exciting company.
What does it take to stay the course at one of India’s most dynamic and fast-paced companies? In just over ten years, Flipkart has evolved through multiple avatars — from a two-person startup to an e-commerce market leader counting over 26,000 driven minds on its workforce. Every day is a new story at Flipkart. Only the tough and the strong-willed can endure the pace and the pressure, and smile away the threat of burning out or fading away. They are too proud to give in, and too young to cave. Yet, they are the tenure warriors — the long-timers who have seen the highs and lows of the Flipkart journey. Meet our League of Legends, the Flipkart veterans.
‘Work Hard, Play Hard’ screams a wall decal on the floor of a Flipkart office in Bengaluru. The atmosphere in the office building is charged with voices — and energy. The air is infectious with ambition and a desire to achieve.
What does it take to stand out in such a dynamic organization?
For a company to grow as Flipkart has in a span of 10 years, its employees must have that special something. They should be innovative go-getters unafraid to try new things and even dare to fail. In a decade of evolution, Flipkart has grown from a two-man operation to a workforce of over 26,000 making breakthrough after breakthrough in India’s e-commerce industry. And some of the employees attracted to the vibrant startup over this tenure have stuck around through thick and thin, playing key roles that left their stamp on Flipkart’s seminal moments.
Leeni O’Connor – The Symbol of Trust
When a customer shops on Flipkart, he/she looks for a badge. A symbol of trust. A feeling of security and assurance that the product is authentic, verified and will be delivered on time. That secure feeling when you see that familiar tick, comes from the work that Leeni O’Connor has done in establishing the first trust-marker in the e-commerce industry — Flipkart Assured.
Leeni has a sparkle in her eyes as she talks about her five years as a Flipster. She moved from Hubballi in northern Karnataka to Bengaluru as a fresh graduate hunting for a job. She reminisces what Bengaluru was like in those days. For starters, it was called Bangalore. And traffic did not clog the roads. She was alone for the first time in her life, but the drive to stand on her own feet was too strong to hold her back. Soon enough, she found herself working at TESCO and climbing the ranks quickly for eight years before she moved to Flipkart.
Leeni joined Flipkart during one of its toughest years in the industry. In 2012, Flipkart went through a down round of funding. With that came a ton of pressure on Flipsters to deliver results and retain the top spot in the e-commerce industry. With confidence in her skills and a work ethic to match, Leeni assumed her responsibilities as a Flipster and, four years later, became the architect behind Flipkart Assured.
As a Flipster, being focused and charged at work through the week is possible only if you have a way to unwind. Ever thirsty for travel, Leeni and her husband love to take their tuned-up ISUZU and hit the road when time permits. Road-trips apart, she has visited 14 countries to experience different cultures and ways of life. She enjoys camping out and cutting off from civilization.
A sports enthusiast, Leeni represented her university in three different sports, captaining the basketball, volleyball and kabaddi teams, besides playing national-level basketball. Teamwork and the desire to win came to her naturally. In school, she was a class topper, gathering academic accolades as she grew up. So it came as no surprise that this all-rounder fit in perfectly with Flipkart.
What has been the driving force behind Leeni’s success?
“I’m very strong and stubborn when it comes to Customer Experience,” declares Leeni.
Her message to the younger generation — budding Flipsters among them — is to build a foundation. She believes that being thorough with the basics in the fields you choose ensures a successful career.
A word of advice from this Flipkart veteran: “Don’t get stuck in the rat race.”
Deepti Agrawal – Empowering Flipsters with MAPI
Another one of the Flipkart veterans who has witnessed the phenomenal growth of Flipkart during her tenure is Deepti Agrawal, Senior Engineering Manager. Deepti began her journey with Flipkart at a time when the number of women engineers was a tenth of what it is today.
“I feel proud to be a part of a company that grew from a small scale startup to something that is catering to the shopping needs of the entire country”, says Deepti.
An introvert by nature, Deepti likes to keep to herself. But when she’s at work, she’s a whole other person. Her responsibilities as a Flipster and as a Senior Manager require her to interact with many people and head teams in a number of projects, all of which she carries out admirably.
Following Flipkart’s philosophy of empowering people, Deepti is credited with enabling any team of Flipsters to be able to make changes to the Flipkart app. This was necessary to ensure that customers got a hassle-free shopping experience as Flipsters didn’t have to wait on techies or coders to integrate their changes and designs into the app.
Excelling in a male-dominated field, Deepti believes that it is important for organizations to ensure that the male-to-female ratio is even in the workplace and ensure equal opportunities for men and women across all lines of work.
“The number of women employees in departments like HR, business development and corporate communications is more than what you’d see in a field like engineering. Even at Flipkart the women engineers are fewer, but they’re improving,” says Deepti.
At Flipkart, she has witnessed the growth in the number of female engineers over the last six years and feels that Flipkart as an organization sets the example for women empowerment in our country.
But what else about Flipkart makes her proud?
“The leadership here believes in empowering people to take end-to-end ownership — from ideation to planning to implementation to maintenance, and not being afraid of failures as long as we learn from the mistakes. That is what makes you feel like an equal partner and encourages you to put in your best,” says Deepti.
She enjoys working with the young and super-enthusiastic crowd at Flipkart. Their zeal for problem-solving coupled with the healthy mix of passion for work and fun outings with her peers made the work culture she found herself to be a part of, practically magnetic.
In her spare time she pores over psychological thrillers and works of fiction. This might be the only time in her day when her phone buzzing fails to draw her attention.
“If you ask me now, choosing Flipkart six years back was definitely worth it!” says Deepti with a winning smile.
Neha Srivastava – Saving big bucks with Green Bags
As one of the Flipkart veterans, Neha Srivastava recalls her six years at Flipkart with jubilation. She looks back at a time when she was at a crossroads, with a decision to be made. Her family wanted her to get married and settle down but she was determined to pursue her interests. And so, she got her MBA and was placed at Flipkart. She believes it was destiny at play.
“It’s always recommended to gather at least a couple of years of work experience before you attempt an MBA. But I decided to get my MBA first and soon after got placed at Flipkart,” says Neha. who overcame the pressure to “settle down” and continued her professional journey.
Now the manager of City Logistics at Flipkart, she believes that, over the years, as the business grew, Flipkart has learned to be more organized and process-driven to meet ever-increasing consumer needs.
“Flipkart offers you the kind of responsibility and thrill that no other organization does. Every day is a new day and it’s a boost to my enthusiasm to see so many people putting in all their skills and efforts to work towards a common goal,” says Neha.
At a time when Flipkart was cutting costs and trying to improve efficiency, Neha’s work on introducing Green Bags — bags specifically reverse-stitched and made waterproof to ensure safety of the product and reusability of the bag — had the potential to save over ₹1 crore rupees in one year.
Her work brought her recognition and accolades not just among her peers, but also from Flipkart co-founder Binny Bansal.
“My most memorable moment at Flipkart was when I was given an award by Binny Bansal,” recalls Neha.
But what brings that feeling of attachment when she talks about Flipkart and being a Flipster?
Neha is a mother of twins. According to her, she couldn’t have balanced her responsibilities as a mother and a Flipster as well as she does without the organization’s continued support, its maternity policies and flexible work timings. “I don’t think any other organization would have been as flexible or supportive of me as a mother. Being able to balance work and being a mom is not an easy task, but Flipkart made it easy,” declares Neha.
She feels that her decision to join Flipkart changed her life tremendously, and for the better.
Gokul Krishnan – Triumph through teamwork
“Working at Flipkart is a once-in-a-lifetime experience— it is a combination of learning from challenges and reaching new heights,” says Gokul Krishnan. The Catalog Manager at Flipkart cherishes being part of a startup that grew to become India’s online shopping centre.
According to Gokul, the opportunity to explore, to make mistakes and learn from them, is what makes Flipkart the organization to work for.
And what’s it like working with other Flipsters?
“Flipsters are not just my colleagues. They’re my other set of friends,” claims Gokul. “These are people who partner with me to face challenges on a daily basis,” he adds.
Besides a long-serving tenure, what else makes Flipkart veterans stand apart in the crowd?
Besides guts and gumption, and the penchant for rowing with the team towards lofty and impossible goals, it takes respect, a bias for action and a customer-first attitude. These are the cornerstone values on which Flipkart is built. More than ever, the Flipkart veterans are role models for every Flipster, and for the industry.
They have seen history made. And they’ve been a part of it. They’ve experienced every emotion in the spectrum of emotions. They steered Flipkart through tempestuous times and celebrated during the highs. They are the exemplars, the champions, the outliers. They are the Flipkart veterans.
Watch this video of the Flipkart Veterans for an insider’s take on what it’s like to watch Flipkart grow over the years:
Photographs by Arjun Paul