Bengaluru: Flipkart co-founder Sachin Bansal is embarking upon his third journey as a chief executive.
This time, the IIT-Delhi graduate is shifting gears from e-commerce and investments. In his latest avatar, Bansal will become the CEO of Bengaluru-based microlender Chaitanya Rural Intermediation Development Services Pvt. Ltd (CRIDS).
Bansal is part of a growing tribe of seasoned entrepreneurs, who have exited their businesses to either start a new venture or become business leaders in other companies.
Bansal has taken a majority stake in CRIDS for ₹739 crore. While he will assume the role of CEO, the founders of CRIDS will continue in their respective roles of growing existing business segments.
But can Bansal replicate his successful journey in Flipkart, which he led from 2007-16?
Starting from a two-bedroom setup in 2007, Flipkart became the most valuable startup in India when US retail giant Walmart picked up a 77% stake for $16 billion last year, offering the e-commerce firm a valuation of $21 billion.
Bansal, who had a 5.5% stake in Flipkart, made more than $1 billion from the deal, and late last year he started BAC Acquisitions Pvt. Ltd, a holding company to invest in startups.
Bansal has been the CEO of BAC since December, according to his LinkedIn profile, and has been investing in startups and lending institutions, largely in the form of debt. Through BAC, he has invested ₹250 crore each through debt in non-banking financial companies Altico Capital India Ltd and IndoStar Capital Finance Ltd.
Bansal has also invested $3 million each in debt in scooter-sharing startups Vogo and Bounce. This apart, he has invested $100 million in Ola and led a $51 million funding round in electric vehicle maker Ather Energy.
Industry observers say product-minded entrepreneurs such as Bansal and Kunal Shah, who founded fintech startup Cred after exiting his first venture FreeCharge, don’t appear to enjoy investing in companies because they prefer a hands-on approach by doing things themselves.
“They see things in a certain way and implement them. They have massive experience and want a chance to avoid the mistakes they made earlier,” said Vivek Durai, founder of business information platform Paper.vc. “For second-time celebrity entrepreneurs, expectations in the market and from their peers are very high, so there is a huge fear of failure. So, they tend to choose these large vibrant markets, where capital is easy and they can focus on product.”
Anil Joshi, managing partner at Unicorn India Ventures, believes Bansal was able to create a large online retail setup on the back of technology and could leverage the same experience in microlending.
“The Indian finance world is very traditional and technology offers opportunity to explore several business opportunities, which was not possible earlier,” said Joshi.
While only time will tell if Bansal can create a behemoth such as Flipkart in the fintech space, many in the industry say he has the ability to pull it off.
“E-commerce is a lot about AI (artificial intelligence), ML (machine learning) and internet of things (IoT). Sachin knows these well,” Joshi said. “Be it e-commerce or fintech, the underlying technology works on the same principle: understanding a customer’s behaviour and needs.”