Binny Bansal’s exit from Flipkart highlighted what has increasingly become our new reality: we’re quick to praise and quicker to judge. Which is why, even as news from Flipkart continues to unfold, I ask: why do we put someone on a pedestal so quickly and why are we even quicker to unseat them from that same pedestal? Isn’t there a middle ground — a place in between that might be imperfect but is more humane?
Binny Bansal was until Tuesday a celebrated figure. In not just the Indian startup ecosystem but beyond it — across India and even the world.
It feels like it was just yesterday when we were celebrating the Walmart acquisition of Flipkart — the company he co-founded with Sachin Bansal over a decade ago. The biggest e-commerce deal, we called it. The biggest success story of the startup revolution that the two helped start, we also said.
To emphasise, we documented and hailed the achievements of Sachin and Binny on every social and news media platform. Until they became godlike figures for us.
It was as if they could do no wrong.
And yet, when news of Binny’s sudden resignation broke early last week we were just as quick to jump to conclusions. Just as quick to believe every accusation hurled at him. Just as quick and brutal with our judgement, as we were with our praise not too long ago.
To be clear, Walmart’s statement announcing Binny’s resignation clearly articulated that the investigation into the allegations of “serious personal misconduct” against Binny came away unfounded. However, it revealed a lapse of judgment on Binny’s part: his failure to ensure full disclosure on an important event/s to a global firm like Walmart at the time of the deal.
Need for a culture of transparency
The fact is corporate transparency is held paramount across global publicly listed companies – just as it should be in the startup world. Studies on corporate culture have unanimously shown that investors and stakeholders appreciate and recognise the benefits of creating a culture of transparency.
And yet, many entrepreneurs-turned-CEOs are first-time leaders — many of them self-made and all of them only human. And they are wont to make mistakes or lapses in judgement, similar to what Binny was accused of.
And because Binny has resigned following the investigations, there would have been reasons enough from the findings to warrant his sudden exit. Several in the industry have said the Indian startup ecosystem could have avoided this kind of embarrassment and that Binny could have displayed a better sense of judgment at the time.
To be fair, I think it’s a bit harsh to make such sweeping calls. It brings to mind the insights I gleaned from Annie Duke’s book Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts.
Annie rightly talks about the judgement calls we take every day when we make a decision without being armed with all the facts. In fact, today, many of our celebrated figures, the seemingly godlike figures (like Binny himself), also take such decisions every day — without knowing the full facts to guarantee a particular outcome of a decision but still taking risks in the hope of the best outcome, while operating in a world of uncertainty.
What follows is either a loud celebration or equally harsh judgment of a decision, based mainly on the outcome/result of that decision — and doing so, without fully accounting for the lack of facts or details at the time to fully make the “best decision.”
And so, when I lamented on social media about the lack of transparency surrounding Binny’s resignation, several people were outraged. Some even asked me how I could bring myself to support Binny when I am a woman entrepreneur myself.
Finding a middle ground
But in my mind, this was and is not about taking sides or defending just one person. This is a larger issue about all of us. About our inability to hear the full story before passing judgement. And our constant search for a picture-perfect, can-do-no-wrong figure, situation or outcome. This, despite knowing only too well how flawed our quest for perfection is. There just isn’t one. No such thing as a perfect person, situation or outcome!
That’s why, I’m determined to refrain from resorting to judgement too quickly. Because, in the end, we need to remember that even our most celebrated figures are human. That they too err in their decisions when they don’t have all the facts to guide their actions toward a desired outcome.
So this week, even as news from Flipkart continues to unfold, I urge you to stop and consider: why is it that we put someone on a pedestal so quickly and why is it that we’re even quicker to unseat them from that same pedestal?
Isn’t there a middle ground — a place in between that might be imperfect but is more human and humane?
And with that thought, I leave you with my quote for the week…
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.”
Read YourStory’s full coverage of Binny Bansal’s sudden exit from Flipkart:
1. Binny’s resignation
2. Binny’s letter to Flipkart family
3. Walmart top brass letters
4. Startup ecosystem reacts
5. Leadership structure after Binny
6. Learnings from Flipkart
7. Myntra CEO set to leave, say sources
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