Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, said the co-heads of its Silicon Valley innovation group, @WalmartLabs, are leaving the company.
Venky Harinarayan and Anand Rajaraman, who ran the 200-person unit in San Bruno, California, will leave and take time off from the industry, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company said in an e-mailed statement today.
“They stayed for a year and built a really strong culture,” Shernaz Daver, a spokesperson for @WalmartLabs, said in a telephone interview. “The rest of the team will stay intact.”
Harinarayan and Rajaraman joined Wal-Mart last year when the retailer bought their company, Kosmix, and used it as the foundation for @WalmartLabs, bringing social media expertise to advance the e-commerce business. As Wal-Mart has tried to build up its online operations it has made management changes as executives have departed.
“It’s too bad because they are smart guys,” Bryan Gildenberg, an analyst with London-based Kantar Retail, said of the departures of Harinarayan and Rajaraman. “You have people in that environment who are serial entrepreneurs and they just aren’t in tune to working for a big company,” Gildenberg said by telephone today.
Wal-Mart has been trying to bolster its Walmart.com online operation and has had several changes in the senior management of the business in the past year. The company generates less than 2 percent of sales from its online business, according to an estimate from Kantar.
The company named Neil Ashe as president and chief executive officer of Global E-Commerce in January. In September, the company announced that two senior e-commerce executives were leaving the online unit. Eduardo Castro-Wright, a Wal-Mart vice chairman who ran global sourcing operations along with the online business, left the unit and is retiring in July. Wan Ling Martello, Wal-Mart’s executive vice president of e-commerce, left the company for Nestle SA.
Daver said the departures of Harinarayan and Rajaraman are not related to last year’s management changes. In tech companies, the founders often leave to start new ventures, she said