Last week Twitteraties witnessed a bitter exchange of tweets between the two poster boys of Indian startup space - Sachin Bansal of Flipkart and Snapdeal’s Kunal Bahl.
Friday night, Sachin Bansal fired the first shot when he tweeted from a verified account saying, “Alibaba deciding to start operations directly shows how badly their Indian investments have done so far.” This was in reference to China’s Alibaba Group Holding planning to launch India operations, despite investing a handsome amount of money on Flipkart’s rivals Snapdeal and Paytm. Snapdeal’s Kunal Bahl quickly reverted to Sachin’s tweet hinting at Flipkart’s markdown by Morgan Stanley.
The tweets went viral and certainly have left a bitter-sour-funny imprint on the startup ecosystem and media. Flipkart and Snapdeal have both been ifiercely competing with each other and have struggled to maintain market share against U.S. ecommerce giant Amazon. Industry folks seem to be amused to the bitter turn this marathon has taken, that ideally should have been a healthy competition between two industry stalwarts.
Anil Joshi, Managing Partner at Unicorn India Ventures said, "In my view it is fine to air your views and opinion but something shared to put someone down and then counter views to defend and allegation would start wrong precedent in the ecosystem. Especially coming from market leaders and poster boys from the space will certainly influence and this all happening because of pressure they are leaving with. While this is not new, this trend is happening for quite some time, but as leader one need to be careful as it does impact many minds. As long as it is healthy and constructive views, it will always be welcomed. But negative remarks and counter remarks are uncalled for."
Prashant Sharma, founder ShotPitch said, "We are taught that you praise publicly and criticize privately. None of it seems to hold true in the digital and social media age. The recent banter among Flipkart-Snapdeal is an epitome of why some discussions/criticism should be held in closed rooms. Both of them being a pillar of the Indian startup ecosystem, this kind of banter sets a bad precedent for aspiring entrepreneurs who would think that being arrogant is cool. It is not! Indian entrepreneurs seem to be picking the fact that you need to be responsive to tweets from Silicon Valley counterparts, but looks like they haven't yet got a hang of it."
Brett Stevens , VP, Director at Jaarvis Accelerator, a company that nurtures startups said I find it very confusing that executives of two large, successful companies are resorting to public social media to carry on a war of words. There seems little if anything to be gained from it on either side. Don't they have media and public relations teams to advise them?
Take it easy!
Vikram Ahuja, Founder Byond Travel said, "I think Sachin Bansal and Kunal Bahl would do well to sit down and have a beer at some point, they keep going at each other! This isn't the first time they've squabbled on Twitter (in 2015, they exchanged barbs about hiring talent for example) and I suspect it won't be the last. I think it's only normal in a competitive scenario for competitors to take on each other and as long as it's logical, non-personal barbs, there's nothing wrong in it and in fact showcases a uniquely human side to these folks. I'm only waiting for When Jeff Bezos (a relatively new entrant to Twitter) and Jack Ma will join the fun!"