Zomato co-founder Pankaj Chaddah quits as it shuffles top management

10 years after he co-founded Zomato, Pankaj Chaddah has hung his boots at the food technology firm in what is the first of its kind instance of a founder leaving a unicorn startup in recent times.
While Chaddah gave no indication of his next move, he is expected to stay with the company until the end of March to enable a smooth transition. According to people aware of Chaddah’s plans, it seems likely that he will startup again.
 
“After 10 yrs, I am moving on from Zomato to try out something new. I’ll continue to play an active role till the end of this month,” Chaddah announced on micro-blogging site Twitter on Thursday evening.
 
Chaddah will retain his stake in the company which stands at about 3.11% and is worth about Rs 237 crore post the latest funding by Ant Financial, as per data sourced by business data platform, Paper.vc. Chaddah will also continue to serve on Zomato's board of directors, wrote CEO Deepinder Goyal in a blog post.
 
While Chaddah's exit is one of the major instances of a co-founder leaving a large internet company, there have been similar instances as companies mature and experienced operators take a more prominent role.
 
One example is the case of MakeMyTrip, which was founded in 2000 saw co-founder Sachin Bhatia leave in 2010 to start his own ventures. Another co-founder Keyur Joshi also left, while founder Deep Kalra continues to run the company along with India CEO Rajesh Magow, who had joined the company in 2001.
 
Chaddah’s exit comes at a time when the Gurgaon-based firm has also seen a key shuffle in top management roles since January.
 
Mukund Kulashekaran has been elevated as the chief business officer from his earlier stint of global business head of online ordering - the vertical that is at the center of the firm’s business line as it looks to overtake market leader Swiggy in that domain. This is the first time the firm has had appointed an executive in the role of a chief business officer.
 
Apart from Kulashekaran, Gaurav Gupta has been appointed as the chief operating officer, elevating him from his earlier role of global head for advertising sales.
 
Kulashekaran who resigned from his previous role in December, was retained and handed the baton of the CBO, with the entire mandate of spurring revenue growth for the Gurgaon-based firm, not just through online ordering, but also advertising sales, Zomato Gold and Zomato Treats amongst others, resting with him.
 
Mohit Kumar, co-founder of hyperlocal delivery firm Runnr which Zomato acquired last year will taken on the mantle of online ordering from Kulashekaran at the firm now.
 
Gupta will be in charge of critical operations including content and new initiatives such as their cloud kitchen module Zomato Infrastructure Services along with sourcing and reviews on the platform.
 
The reshuffle in the management especially with the roles of chief operating officer and chief business officer were speculated to have been made due to Chaddah's move away from a profit and loss accountability mandate, said a former senior executive declining to be named.
 
ET had written to CEO Deepinder Goyal seeking details on Chaddah’s exit from the company as also the management changes on February 26th. Goyal however, denied the claims and maintained that Chaddah was “very much a part of Zomato” and performed a “very active role as of now”. He did not offer comment on the various management changes made in the last 2 months.
 
However, Chaddah’s role had been shifting since 2015 when he was handling the role of COO at the firm, setting the stage for his exit, according to the people cited above.
 
Over the last year, Chaddah has been the operational kickstarter for several new initiatives for Zomato having helmed Zomato Gold for the first couple of months during its launch as also stepping in to help the firm’s offline cloud kitchen model briefly, in the past.
 
As the food delivery space has increasingly become crowded with Ola’s acquisition of Foodpanda, as also UberEATS’ and Google Areo’s rapid expansion, both Zomato and rival Swiggy, which launched its cloud kitchen services late last year are looking at this business line as a way to enhance and boost the supply of restaurants on their respective platforms.
 
The reshuffle is the latest in Zomato’s tryst with a spate of senior and mid-management exits over the last 2 years, including that of Deepak Gulati who resigned as COO within six months of joining and Samir Kuckreja who was brought in to scale the cloud-based point-of-sale system Zomato Base, both of which ET reported.
 
The key shift in management roles and mandates to spur growth across various business lines comes shortly after the Info Edge backed firm raised $200 million from Ant Financial, the payments affiliate of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, in a deal that valued Zomato at $1.1 billion.
 
Zomato, which saw online ordering form less than 20% of its overall topline in FY17, is expected to grow the business significantly to form almost half the revenue share in the long term. To that end, the firm has also been significantly ramping up the share of self-fulfilled deliveries for the business.
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