BANGALORE: When Groupon founder-CEO Andrew Mason got the boot last week, it opened the possibility of an Indian heading the struggling group discount site. The company’s Chief Operating Officer Kalyanaraman Srinivasan, who grew up in Tamil Nadu, is considered by many the strongest internal candidate to be the next CEO of Groupon. Kalyanaraman Srinivasan was born in Mannarkovil — a village in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district. 43-year-old Srinivasan graduated from the College of Engineering in Guindy, Chennai, which also counts the late Verghese Kurien of the White Revolution fame among its alumni.
Srinivasan, who previously headed technology teams at eBay, Amazon and Walmart, joined Groupon last year as senior vice-president (sales), and soon rose to the rank of COO. “He has the operational experience that Mason lacked, and which Groupon needs,” said Sameet Sinha, analyst at US-based research firm B Riley & Co. Srinivasan was brought in last year to fine-tune Groupon’s operations outside the US. Six months later, Srinivasan was made COO, as he drove operational changes within the company, including moving some of its customer support work from Chicago to Chennai.
While Groupon did not respond to an emailed questionnaire, its India chief Ankur Warikoo declined to comment on Srinivasan’s chances. But what awaits Srinivasan, if he gets his time in the CEO’s chair, isn’t easy. The shares have fallen 78% on the Nasdaq — to $5.6, from $26 apiece.
The shares have slumped since Groupon’s much-hyped initial public offering in November 2011, when it managed to raise $700 million (about Rs 3,800 crore) from investors, despite running losses of about $410 million in the previous year.
Riley’s Sinha said Srinivasan’s quick promotion from sales head to COO indicated the steps taken by him were having an impact on Groupon’s business.
Last week, the US-based internet company fired Mason, who founded the company in 2008, after it posted a fourthquarter net loss of $81 million. Shares reacted positively to Mason’s exit, but the precipitous pace at which Groupon’s sales have fallen recently have prompted analysts to question the sustainability of the company’s business model.
Chairman Eric Lefkofsky and Vice-Chairman Ted Leonsis are holding fort until a replacement is named. Groupon’s board is evaluating a set of internal as well as external candidates. Potential internal candidates, apart from Srinivasan, include Groupon’s financial chief Jason Child and senior vice-president for product management Jeff Holden.
Kalyanaraman Srinivasan, who started his career at the Tata Consulting Engineers in Mumbai and later worked at the Tata Consultancy Services in Chennai, had founded GlobalScholar.com in 2006. In 2010, Globalscholar.com was sold to US-based product firm Scantron Corp for $140 million. He was also a part of founding team at online retailer Drugstore.com, where he served as the chief executive from 2001 to 2004.
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