Almost out of Zomato, but Pankaj Chaddah will not talk to you

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Did you read the email before he sent it?

Of course. We’re co-founders. We worked together for 10 years.

I thought, maybe he wrote it independently…

No, why? When he wrote it he asked me to read it. He had to ask because I have to run whatever is left.

So, when you were reading it, how did you react?

Nice email.

Goyal talks about the email his co-founder Pankaj Chaddah sent to all of Zomato announcing his resignation. On 1 March. As soon as he sent that email, Chaddah put out some tweets, primarily to quell any speculation that would come after.

The next day, there were a few newspaper inches dedicated to Chaddah’s exit. And that was it. The news disappeared quietly into the long weekend. It was all very strategic. Very Zomato.

In a world where founders are celebrated, sometimes even raised to demigod statuses, Chaddah is an outlier. It is that unique part of being a co-founder. The other guy. You are sometimes forgotten.

What goes with Zomato?

Think about it, when you say Google, you think about Larry Page but not always Sergey Brin. Microsoft is always Bill Gates and very rarely Paul Allen. How about Apple? Steve Jobs, sometimes Steve Wozniak but almost never Ronald Wayne. Closer home? Ola is Bhavish Aggarwal and not Ankit Bhati.

Now, think of Zomato. It is Deepinder Goyal. Almost never Chaddah. It is just how it works. Zomato has been synonymous with Goyal for a few years now. Very few noticed Chaddah until he was gone. But that’s you. And that’s me.

Inversely, for the 2,000+ employees of the Gurugram-headquartered food tech unicorn, Chaddah was the one with the magic wand. He taught them how to make money off uploading menus on the internet. He taught them to sell. And for many, he was what made Zomato tick. The 200-something replies that clogged Zomato’s email server after he sent the farewell letter tell their own tale.

But as soon as this announcement was made, Zomato had a shakeup. Gaurav Gupta was made COO and Mukund Kulashekaran was made chief business officer (CBO). A position that previously didn’t exist in Zomato. “He can’t be replaced by anyone person, what he did has to be now done by many people,” says Goyal. Suddenly, employees had to wrap their heads around a lot of changes.

“It is a big blow to Zomato. For some who had been observing him, there were hints that he was leaving,” says an executive at Zomato; he asked not to be identified because he is not allowed to talk to the press.

For others, it was a rude shock.

“When he first told me, I could not believe it for a few minutes. It was very emotional,” says Pramod Rao, head of marketing at Zomato. Rao and Chaddah have been friends for 11 years. They played football together. They play in a band together. They take vacations together.

For those outside the inner circle, the email created some unease. “Maybe a little prior notice would have been welcome, but it was his choice. The email had an air of finality to it,” says another executive at Zomato, who also asked not to be identified. “If Goyal is the brains in the operation, Chaddah is the muscle.”

Chaddah is an important person to talk about. But, see, Pankaj Chaddah will not talk to you.

 

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