Indian startup founders take 100% pay cut as they slash jobs

This India startup competes with Amazon
This India startup competes with Amazon

The top two executives at one of India's biggest startups are giving up their salaries.

Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal, the founders of e-commerce giant Snapdeal, told employees that they would take a 100% pay cut as they lay off hundreds of workers in a bid to make a profit, a source at the company said.

The source confirmed the contents of a letter from Bahl and Bansal to staff that was published by Indian media. In the letter, the executives said Snapdeal, which is valued at $7 billion, had tried to grow too fast and made mistakes in the process.

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"We started doing too many things, and all of us ... are to blame for it," they wrote. "This also comes with some tough decisions in the short term."

Those tough decisions include mass layoffs. The Snapdeal source told CNNMoney that at least 600 employees will lose their jobs. The company currently employs more than 8,000 people.

Snapdeal said in a statement that the main goal of the restructuring was to "drive efficiency" across the company.

Several members of the company's senior leadership team have also offered to join Bahl and Bansal in taking a pay cut, said the source, who decline to be identified because they weren't authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

According to local media reports, the two men took home around $6 million each -- including stock options -- in the last financial year. The company declined to comment on their current salaries.

Founded in 2010 after Bahl was denied a work visa in the U.S., Snapdeal competes in India with Amazon (AMZN) and local rival Flipkart. Chinese online retail giant Alibaba (BABA) and Japan's Softbank (SFTBF) have invested in Snapdeal.

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But the startup's troubles have grown over the past year. Several senior executives -- including the CEO of digital payments subsidiary Freecharge -- have quit in recent months.

Bahl and Bansal said the big restructuring would help the company focus on profitable growth.

"This will mean tough choices and a conscious departure from a me-too race to the edge of the cliff," they said.

The duo aren't the first business leaders to give up all (or most) of their wages. They're in the company of big U.S. names like Facebook (FB) founder Mark Zuckerberg and Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk, who officially take home $1 or less.

In China, Jia Yueting, the billionaire CEO of tech giant LeEco, announced in November that he would cut his salary to 15 cents because of a cash crunch at the conglomerate.

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