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Flipkart set to hire another top engineer Peeyush Ranjan from Google


Flipkart set to hire another top engineer Peeyush Ranjan from Google
BENGALURU: Flipkart, India's biggest online marketplace, is set to hire another top engineer from Google, underscoring a gold rush among the country's fast-growing companies to tap into Silicon Valley for talent to bolster their technology fronts.

Peeyush Ranjan, a senior engineering director at Google, will join Flipkart's commerce division led by Mukesh Bansal in a key role, according to a person directly aware of the development.

Last month, the company hired another Google engineering leader, Punit Soni, to be chief product officer in the same division. Soni will join Flipkart this month, and Ranjan likely in May, this person said. In March, Mukesh along with Flipkart co-founder Sachin Bansal met around three-dozen potential hires in the Valley.

With technology emerging as the biggest battle-front for Indian e-commerce and software firms, leading companies such as Infosys and Flipkart have been scouting for engineers groomed in top-tier US companies to acquire the domain edge they need to dominate rivals.

"Companies such as Google and Facebook have the talent pool we need to solve our biggest challenges," said an industry executive familiar with Flipkart's strategy. "You don't find such deep expertise — combination of technology, domain and experience in scale — in India." Over the past year, Flipkart has beefed up its technology team and vowed to increase investments as the electronic marketplace braces for a tough battle with Amazon in India.

All this aligns with Flipkart's new organizational structure announced earlier this year wherein Sachin, Binny Bansal and Mukesh are now leading three separate business units — advertising technology and big data, logistics and supply chain, and commerce, respectively. Flipkart declined comment for this report.

Infy office gets garage look

Infosys, India's second-largest software company, has renovated its Palo Alto office to look like a garage startup — with free food and soda but no cubicles. Just a few blocks from the SAP office, Infosys' Valley face is a far cry from its massive buildings in India that are more like factories full of engineers.

Infosys chief executive Vishal Sikka, who joined from SAP last year, is based in the Palo Alto office, hunting for disruptive ideas in the areas of automation and artificial intelligence.

"Vishal is the kind of the guy who will look at a customer project and say, 'Why can't we automate a lot of these tedious, mundane tasks and complete things in six months instead of 18 months and unlock real value there?'" said Dave Gardner, founder of Gardner & Associates Consulting, a strategic advisory firm based in San Jose, California.

Infosys under Sikka has poached top SAP executives Ritika Suri, Navin Budhiraja and recently Kaustav Mitra to help tap into the Valley. The company has also invested in a startup that was spun off from DreamWorks Animation. Kartik Hosanagar, associate professor of internet commerce at Wharton School, said the motivations for Flipkart and Infosys are different for tapping Silicon Valley's talent pool.

"For Infosys, their clients are asking for thought leadership; mere software implementation for projects that are well scoped out has become a commodity," Hosanagar said.

Experience with scale

And while Flipkart doesn't face the challenges of transforming an old, legacy organization, the e-commerce company is looking to solve problems never confronted before.

"Nobody in India has ever run a technology platform with the scale of Flipkart, so it's hard for Flipkart to hire local talent that can genuinely claim to have experience with scale. Hence, they are looking Westward — not for innovators, but for experienced technologists," Hosanagar said.

The biggest challenge faced by Infosys and Flipkart will be to integrate their disruptive, Silicon Valley-based front-ends with more complex organizations back home in India.

"The integration is not easy to pull off because the innovation approaches are so different and there are challenging cultural issues to resolve as well," Hosanagar said, referring to Infosys.

"I think it won't be hard for Flipkart to manage this integration because it doesn't require change in management style or issues of the sort," he said. Some experts, however, questioned the rush to Silicon Valley.

"The opportunities are in India — it is about to add half-a-billion internet users and see a technology boom that will make Silicon Valley's dot-com boom look lame," said Vivek Wadhwa, academician and an expert on startups and innovation.

"When American firms are realizing the opportunities in India, why don't Indian companies see this? They have that saying about 'ghar ki murgi dal barabar' (undervaluing homegrown talent) — this is what I am observing!"
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