Exclusive: ZopNow co-founder Mukesh Singh steps aside; Raj Pandey new CEO

15 Jul, 2016

Online grocer ZopNow's co-founder Mukesh Singh has stepped aside and former JP Morgan executive director Raj Pandey has joined the firm as CEO.

Founded in 2011, ZopNow, incorporated as ZN Retail Pvt. Ltd, is backed by Accel Partners, Times Internet, Qualcomm Ventures and Dragoneer Investment Group and has raised around $12 million so far. The Bangalore-based firm follows a zero inventory model wherein the company does not own warehouses but provides technology and logistics operations for hypermarket stores.


ZopNow's new CEO Pandey has spent a decade in investment banking in New York with JP Morgan, advising companies mostly in technology, media and telecom industries on mergers and acquisitions, IPOs, private placement, debt and capital raising. "Having served as a strategic advisor to management teams and boards of corporates across the globe, Raj brings a wealth of knowledge, relationships and negotiation skills that will be instrumental in propelling the next phase of our growth," Mukesh Singh said in a press note.

Pandey has an undergraduate degree from IIT Kanpur and an MBA from Wharton School.

Singh too is an alumnus of IIT Kanpur. A former general manager at Amazon India and senior vice president at MakeMyTrip, Singh founded the company with another IIT Kanpur alumnus Bal Krishn Birla. However, Singh and Birla fell out and parted ways two years later.


In a mail to the employees, Singh said he would work on the tech-enabled operations side of the company while Pandey will focus on investor relations and marketing.

Here is the full version of the internal mail Singh has sent to ZopNow employees:

A few weeks back as I was working, my 4.5 year old son came back from school shouting "A,E,I,O,U". This was his first introduction to vowels. Naman started his schooling last year and now I do realize the importance of school.  A kid needs the love and care of parents along with the discipline enforced by the school. While the protective shell of parenting gives a lot of comfort to the kid but true independence is installed by the school.


Sometime back, a couple of mentors and board members did ask me to hire a full time CEO for ZopNow - Naman's twin brother. I struggled to answer the question - Why?. As a founder  - I had the commitment towards the company and I struggled to find the answer as to why do we need a CEO. Naman answered that question with his "A,E,I,O,U". Just like Naman needs a school, ZopNow has reached a stage where I need to put it in a school. Over the last 4.5 years; I have worked hard to get a lot of basics right for ZopNow which eventually boiled down to "Predictable Inventory at Predictable Time". However, for the kid to go to the next level, it needs to be admitted to a good school with a great principal.

I have figured out the school for ZopNow and am glad to introduce the principal of the school, Raj Pandey. I have known Raj for the last several years. Raj is an IIT Kanpur Alum and a Wharton MBA. For the last decade he has been working on Wall Street with JP Morgan and has taken many technology companies public, raised debt and equity capital for corporates, and has fronted innumerable strategic and merger discussions for his clients. He brings in a wealth of global knowledge - he has worked with companies from China to India to Australia to  Europe to Latina America, Africa and North America. I am so confident of his banking skills that I believe that he can convince a penguin to invest in technology stock and cover the last continent not covered in his resume. The skills he has honed over a decade will be the catalyst that will help us get to the next level in our evolution.

While Raj may not know a whole lot about groceries, he is very well versed in the technology space and knows a lot about transaction processing companies and what investors focus on - more than most of us. He needs to learn the tricks of the trade as a grocer from us and we need to learn from him the process of running an efficient company, negotiating deals with global corporates, taking it public and running a public company. He joins us as the CEO.


It brings up the next logical question of my role going forward. My commitment to the company remains the same. As a person, I have some strengths and a lot of areas of improvements. I have come to the conclusion that there are areas of improvements which I won't/can't improve - right from my dress code to PR to managing investors to public dealing and marketing to name a few. My strength and passion continues to be the ability to run tech enabled ops. I would shamelessly and gladly transition out all my "areas of improvements" to Raj and focus on tech enabled ops. My immediate goal is to work with Sunit, Vikash and Sanket to make the operations profitable by end of this year across all formats of stores. As a good by-product, we will make the platform robust and get around 10 customers across the globe on the platform. All other roles, including Investor Relations and Marketing, will transition to Raj. Some of these changes may be gradual and may take a few months. Raj will serve as the external face of the company.

One of my favorite essays has been "The Hedgehog and the Fox" by Isiah Berlin. I read it for the first time exactly on July 1st, 2001 and every time I've read it it, I have a different interpretation of the essay - in all probability I have never understood it. Without going deep into the essay the crux is that the Fox knows a lot of things while the Hedgehog knows one big thing. I am naturally tuned to be a hedgehog - the only thing that drives me is "predictable delivery at predictable time". A company needs both a hedgehog and a fox. I did try to play the role of a fox but was never quite there - had I been a good fox, we would have raised a much larger amount last year. Raj with all his global experience bridges that gap. We may have been behind the money raising race last year, but his addition to the team adds the Usain Bolt who leads us to the NASDAQ/NYSE listing, much ahead of all others.

Please join me in the school induction process of ZopNow and the principal Raj Pandey. While Raj would be principal, I would continue to play the role of a liberal father. While the principal may have a rule book, it will be my duty to occasionally break the rules. Its fine to have an occasional ice-cream before school, bunk a few classes to watch India-Pakistan match, skip brushing teeth in case you are lazy during those cold winter nights, play soccer in rain.


When Naman went to school for the first day, more than him I was scared - how will he behave in the school, will he adjust to the new environment, when will he have his lunch, will the school impart him the right education and many more. Over the course of time, all these questions were answered for me. The second time its easier - I am less scared and more confident that this it the right step for ZopNow. Raj will help take the company to the next level.

Welcome aboard- Raj Pandey - CEO, ZopNow

Like this report? Sign up for our daily newsletter to get our top reports.