King for a Day: Flipkart CEO Briefly Gives Up the Reins

Television show Undercover Boss popularized the concept of CEOs pretending to be employees to gain some often painfully-honest insight into their businesses.

Now, Indian e-commerce giant Flipkart has put the theme into reverse, though with a less clandestine approach.

On Tuesday, Flipkart CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy was no longer, well, Flipkart CEO. He had just appointed 34-year-old staff member Padmini Pagadala to the position for a single day.

Pagadala is a warehouse executive who had been with the company four years. She was among applicants who applied for the opportunity via writing to Krishnamurthy explaining why they wanted the top job.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for our talented Flipsters to get a taste of what it means to be CEO of a large, innovative company like Flipkart,” Krishnamurthy said.

Pagadala undoubtedly had her wings clipped: no major decisions on acquisition targets, new products, hires or fires were announced on Tuesday (at least not publicly). She was, however, tasked with taking stock of the business and attending key stakeholder meetings, accompanied by none other than Krishnamurthy himself.

While more gimmick than revolutionary new management practice, the initiative seemed to serve a useful purpose.

“It’s been a wonderful learning experience,” Pagadala told Indian publications. Krishnamurthy, she discovered, was both a tough boss and a “very humble man”.

Krishnamurthy said the competition was intended to help executives and other staff gain fresh perspective in a fun and engaging manner—not a half bad idea, given the number of surveys indicating how few staff actually trust CEOs, or feel comfortable about sharing their ideas with top brass.

Photo caption: Flipkart CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy and CEO-for-a-day Padmini Pagadala

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Ross Kelly
Ross Kelly is a London-based business journalist. He has been a staff correspondent or editor at The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance and the Australian Associated Press.

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