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Why Flipkart, India's Amazon Rival, Just Hired Another Top Google Exec

The hire of Peeyush Ranjan comes shortly after Flipkart hired another Google exec, Punit Soni, as its chief product officer.

Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Add Flipkart to the list of tech companies now competing for top Silicon Valley talent.

The company, known in India as the most popular online shopping marketplace and outside India for the more than $2 billion it raised from investors, has hired Google exec Peeyush Ranjan as its head of engineering.

Ranjan most recently ran the engineering group for Google’s Android One project, an initiative to help create lower-cost phones for emerging markets, starting with Flipkart’s home country of India. The goal was to create phones with better software, design and functionality than has previously been available around a $100 pricer point. Ranjan also oversaw engineering for Motorola’s Value Devices group while it was owned by Google and ran the R&D team for Google India. His hire comes shortly after Flipkart hired another Google exec, Punit Soni, as its chief product officer.

Ranjan joins Flipkart at a time when India is developing into perhaps the hottest e-commerce market in the world. It is currently a fraction of the size of the markets in China and the U.S., but the size of the country coupled with the rapid adoption of mobile phone usage has Amazon and big investors pouring billions of dollars into shopping sites there. India is also home to Flipkart competitor Snapdeal, which has raised more than $1 billion from eBay, SoftBank and others.

In Ranjan, Flipkart has found an executive with two types of experience it thought were crucial for this role: Experience leading teams in India as well as deep knowledge in engineering for mobile devices, on which about 70 percent of Flipkart transactions happen now and more than 80 percent will in the future, according to Soni.

“The problems to solve are relatively complicated,” Soni said. “With the growth of Flipkart, you would expect that the infrastructure and the scaling of the company is quite an onerous task. We are almost always bursting at the seams.”

Additionally, Ranjan’s background will give him the credibility to come in and reorganize, if need be, Flipkart’s engineering staff, which Soni said is one of the most impressive he worked with outside of the U.S. while he was at Google. Flipkart will also look to their new engineering leader to make sense of all the data that flows through its shopping sites and put it to use. The hope would be to use the information to present better product recommendations, like Amazon is known for, or personalize the shopping pages a shopper sees based on their browsing and purchase behavior.

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