Flipkart, India's largest online shopping company, has allowed staff to cash in on some of their stock options in a move aimed at retaining talented employees, Economic Times reported Monday, citing persons familiar with the transaction.
The Bangalore e-commerce company, most recently valued at about $15 billion, sold shares worth between 17 billion rupees ($25.7 million) and 24 billion rupees ($36.2 million) to wealthy private investors. This "marginal stake" was a portion of the stock held in Flipkart's employee trust fund, the newspaper reported.
Flipkart, launched about eight years ago by two former Amazon.com Inc. employees, today has 33,000 staff, according to its website. A Flipkart spokesperson couldn't immediately be reached on the mobile phone. "The employee trust is a structure to facilitate employee liquidity across all levels depending on the amount of vested options. This is a repeatable structure and we do intend to use it as we go along at least on an annual basis," Economic Times cited the company as saying in an email.
Flipkart is in a fierce battle to retain its lead in India, a rapidly emerging online shopping market in which Amazon.com Inc. is investing at least $2 billion and local rivals Jasper Infotech and One97 Communications also have strong investor backing, including from SoftBank Group Corp. and China's Alibaba Group Holding.
Jasper Infotech and One97 Communications, both headquartered in the capital New Delhi, run the online shopping sites Snapdeal and Paytm respectively. All of these companies, including Flipkart, are seeking talent not only in India but also in Silicon Valley and over the last one year have made some significant recruitments, most notably luring away strong product engineers who have worked at companies such as Google Inc.
The e-commerce companies have also emerged as large recruiters at mid-to-lower levels, where attrition can be as high as 20 percent, the newspaper reported. A chance to sell stocks vested in their names as part of their compensation, via private sales would make the company a more attractive employer.
While a listing on a stock exchange is widely seen as a question of timing, Flipkart has not indicated any official plan so far. The company could list itself in the U.S. to raise as much as $5 billion, Economic Times had reported in January, citing investment bankers it didn't name.