The ever so-bustling Indian technology sector, right from startups to enterprise technology majors to venture investment vehicles, saw a number of notable exits and rejigs in 2019. As the countdown to 2020 begins, here’s a quick recap on all the top movers and shakers that kept the TechCircle newsroom busy in 2019.
Sweeping changes enveloped the Goldman Sachs and Tiger Global Management-backed Nestaway Technologies, a popular name in the crowded yet well-funded market of online rentals in India.
Deepak Dhar and Smruti Parida, two of the four member founding team, exited the company in 2019. Dhar, also a founding member of now PayU-acquired fintech startup Citrus Pay, left in June to set up an unannounced fintech venture, whereas Nestaway CTO Parida left in October to discover his “mojo in life.”
Dhar and Parida started NestAway in 2015 with Jitendra Jagadev and Amarendra Sahu, all alumni of the National Institute of Technology, Surathkal. In March, it incorporated a subsidiary Hello World, marking its entry to the co-living market.
In just the reverse, right after entering Nestaway’s turf in 2018, rapid expansions, revenue growth, widening losses and a reportedly-approaching IPO goal, made 2019 one of Oyo Hotels and Homes’ busiest years. With the power of changes arrived the responsibility of wielding it across verticals and geographies.
The company appointed former Airbnb executive Andrew Verbitsky as its Europe operations head, former president of Global Consumables Sam Shih as its COO for China, former CEO at London-based online pet healthcare retailer MedicAnimal Jeremy Sanders as the UK head and former Malaysia head of Chinese dockless bike sharing platform Ofo Tan Ming Luk as the country head for Malaysia. In June, the firm announced the appointment of Zhu Lei as the chief revenue officer of China.
In August, the Gurugram-based startup promoted Gaurav Ajmera, head of its northern region operations, as the COO of India and South Asia. Around the same time, it appointed former McKinsey executive Mandar Vaidya as CEO for its Southeast Asia and the Middle East businesses.
In November, Oyo appointed Betsy Atkins, an early investor in Yahoo, eBay and founding CEO of US-based venture capital firm Baja Corporations, as an independent director on the company’s board. Next month, the budget hospitality chain elevated its then India and South Asia CEO and former IndiGo president Aditya Ghosh to its board. Previously, the CEO of Oyo’s new real estate business, Rohit Kapoor, donned the India and South Asia CEO hat.
Oyo concluded the year with former McKinsey executive Ankit Gupta’s appointment as COO of Oyo’s frontier businesses in India and South Asia, a segment that includes its self-operated hotels (Townhouse, Collection O and SilverKey), student housing and co-living, and Home businesses.
A significantly-funded player in the furniture retailing space in India, Urban Ladder made headlines for a variety of news, the most notable of which was its co-founder Rajiv Srivatsa stepping down as its CTO and CPO in October.
A senior product manager at Yahoo prior to founding Urban Ladder with Ashish Goel in 2012, Srivatsa had said he would continue to be a shareholder and a board member, and work with Goel on strategic initiatives.
The Sequoia Capital-backed company posted its first profits of Rs 50 crore for the financial year ended March 2019. The profit routes came at the behest of the recently-turned omnichannel player’s strategy to cut costs and stay the profitability lane before launching an IPO in 2021. In February, it said that it laid off about 60 employees.
Former Norwest Ventures Partners’ partner Mohan Kumar quit the California-based venture and growth equity investment firm to form Avataar Ventures alongside former Freshworks COO Nishant Rao.
In the process of raising its $300-million fund, Avataar Ventures acquired six companies from Norwest: Elastic Run, Zenoti, CRMNext, Manthan Systems, Capillary Technologies and Appnomic, the latest in the portfolio.
In April, former Southeast Asia and India vice-president at Google Rajan Anandan joined venture capital firm Sequoia Capital India as a managing director. He joined the team at Surge, Sequoia’s scale-up programme for startups, as an investment advisor and mentor to the founders.
Having joined Google in 2011, Anandan had been investing and mentoring startups in his personal capacity.
In September, former Asia Pacific head of ride-sharing platform Uber Technologies Amit Jain, joined Sequoia Capital India as a managing director to help grow the Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm’s investment interests across India and Southeast Asia regions.
The Indian FAANGs
Filling Anandan’s empty Google India head seat took till November when former Star and Disney India head Sanjay Gupta was named the company’s country manager and vice president of sales and operations.
At Star, Gupta was known to have played an important role in increasing the company’s digital footprint with online video streaming platform Hotstar. Gupta worked aggressively to get cricket content on the platform. Replacing Gupta as country head was K Madhavan, managing director of the southern region of the country, at Star.
Another Hostar executive who made it to the Indian FAANG holdings is Ajit Mohan, who officially took charge of the Facebook India head post in January. In contrast to his predecessors, Mohan reports directly to company headquarters at Menlo Park instead of the Asia Pacific region head. His appointment brought an end to the seven-month hiring process, a period that saw Facebook struggle to find a leader for its India operations on account of its deteriorating relations with the government.
India is Facebook's biggest market, with more than 250 million active users as of 2018.
Apple reinstated its India head too, with former Nokia executive Ashish Chowdhary appointed the country manager in January.
The IT Crowd
Former Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka was appointed to enterprise cloud giant Oracle’s board of directors, well over two years since he stepped down from the helm of affairs at the Bengaluru-based information technology firm. Prior to his Infosys days, Sikka was CTO at German technology major SAP, a market rival to Oracle’s solutions portfolio.
Sikka has lately been a busy man. He is currently also the founder of AI (artificial intelligence) startup Vianai Systems. However, controversies don’t seem to have mired the IT veteran. Cloud analytics firm Teradata had initiated legal proceedings against SAP and Sikka over data theft.
Meanwhile, in January, Sudip Singh, the then global head of the energy, utilities, resources and services vertical at Infosys, had reportedly quit after a two-decade tenure at the software services exporter. In May, senior Infosys executive Suryaprakash Kareenahalli quit after working for more than a decade at the firm. Senior vice president Kareenahalli, who was heading India delivery operations for Infosys, left to join the Bengaluru office of New York-headquartered Institute for Personal Leadership as an executive director, his LinkedIn profile showed.
On the other hand, former SAP Labs India managing director Dilipkumar Khandelwal joined Deutsche Bank to oversee the development of the Frankfurt-headquartered bank’s technology centres. Based out of Pune, he will also take charge as head of technology, data and innovation for Asia Pacific and CIO for human resources, legal and communications. Khandelwal is an advisor to Bengaluru-based venture capital firm Stellaris Venture Partners and a member at the national executive council of Indian IT lobby group Nasscom.
2019 also concluded the Indian conglomerate Larsen and Toubro’s hostile takeover of majority stakes at IT firm Mindtree. Around the same time, Mindtree also saw several top-level management exits. Within days of the 60% acquisition, CEO Rustow Ravanan quit, immediately followed by co-founders Krishnakumar Natarajan and NS Parthasarathy. The three later agreed to stay with the company for an non-specific period to ensure a smooth transition.
Ravanan was last in the news for his plans to start a SaaS venture. Separately, Subroto Bagchi, another co-founder, who retired by rotation, did not offer himself a re-appointment.
L&T CEO SN Subrahmanyan said that Mindtree would be run as a separate entity and at an arm’s length from L&T Infotech and L&T Technology Services. Former president for global delivery, and digital systems and technology at US-based IT services firm Cognizant, Debashis Chatterjee, was named the new CEO by the company’s new promoter in August.
In November, Mindtree's CFO Pradip Kumar Menon resigned after a short stint of 13 months at the company.
At software services and consultancy major Wipro, the board voted to replace the then chairman Azim Premji with his older son Rishad Premji as executive chairman for five years until July 2024. Chief strategy officer Rishad, who took over as chairman from his 73-year-old father, has been working with Wipro since 2007 and been on the board since 2015.
In another development, Idaho-headquartered global semiconductor and storage solutions provider Micron Technology appointed former Intel veteran Anand Ramamoorthy as the managing director for its India operations.
The company produces dynamic random access memory, synchronous dynamic random access memory, flash memory, solid-state drive and complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor image sensing chips. Ramamoorthy will lead the research and development, engineering and support functions of the India sites for the world’s fourth-largest semiconductor manufacturer.
In April, microblogging platform Twitter hired Manish Maheshwari, the former chief executive officer of the digital arm of media and entertainment group Network18, to head its India operations.
Maheshwari replaced Balaji Krish, Twitter's global head of revenue strategy and operations, who took charge as the firm's interim India head, following the exit of Taranjeet Singh in 2018.
The change comes at a time when Twitter and other major social networks are facing constant regulatory heat to actively regulate content in one of the world's biggest internet markets.
In the over-a-decade-old sector of global social media networks, sites like Quora and LinkedIn have carved a niche area for themselves, the former serving to one’s question-answer needs on every topic possible, and the latter pandering to the virtual connection needs of a contemporised workforce.
Quora, the Mountain View-headquartered knowledge-sharing site, reportedly appointed former Yahoo India MD Gurmit Singh as its general manager. Quora claimed that India is one of its fastest-growing markets, with over 70 million monthly unique visitors in English. It is currently available in in Hindi, Bengali, Marathi and Tamil, and will soon be available in Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam and Telugu.
LinkedIn, the Sunnyvale-headquartered digital professional networking giant, promoted its sales executive Ashutosh Gupta to country manager for India. The appointment of Gupta will be the second time in six months that the Microsoft-owned platform has appointed a country manager in India. Mahesh Narayanan, former MD at Saavn and Google country head for mobile in India, last occupied the position and was given the post in January 2019.