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Sanjeev BikhchandaniThe story of India's first Dotcom IPO! Published On: Friday, September 18, 2015 Views 4029

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Born in 1963 – Sanjeev Bikhchandani is the Founder and now the Executive Chairman of Info Edge, one of the most dependable Internet Ventures in India and the owner of Naukri.com India’s largest job portal. It is also known to be the first Internet Company to list on the Indian stock exchanges.

Other than that; Info Edge also owns web sites like Jeevansathi.com, 99acres.com, Brijj.com, Naukrigulf.com, Shiksha.com, Quadrangle and Firstnaukri.com as well.

Additionally, Info Edge also holds a major stake in a range of companies including – Zomato Media Private Limited (www.zomato.com), Applect Learning Systems Private Limited (www.meritnation.com), Etechaces Marketing and Consulting Private Limited (www.policybazaar.com), Kinobeo Software Private Limited (www.mydala.com), Happily Unmarried Marketing Private Limited (www.happilyunmarried.com), Canvera Digital Technologies Private Limited (www.canvera.com) and Mint Bird technologies Private Limited (www.vacationlabs.com).

A frequent speaker at conferences and business schools, Board Member of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) in Delhi and a member of the Global Board of Trustees of The Indus Entrepreneurs; personally, Sanjeev holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management and Entrepreneurship from the prestigious Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

The Unfulfilling Day-Job Life!

Sanjeev belonged to a regular middle-class family, wherein his father was a doctor at a government hospital with no “under-the-table” income, and his mother was a housewife.

Even after being a Sindhi, he had absolutely no relation to business or businessmen. Being brought up in government colonies, he was always told that if he wanted to achieve something in life, he will have to study as hard as he could. And that’s what he did.

But one thing was very clear to him and so was his dream as well, to pass out of college, work for a few years, and then start something of his own. What? How? Where? He wasn’t sure! But one thing was certain, that he wanted to get onto the Business wagon.

So following the plan, after completing his Bachelors of Arts with specialization in Economics, he joined Lintas as an Accounts Executive in 1984.

He worked there for three years, after which he moved to Ahmedabad to pursue his PGDM from Indian Institute of Management in 1987. Later, he was hired by Hindustan MilkFood Manufacturers (HMM) which is now known as GlaxoSmithKline as their Product Executive in 1989. He was given to handle the marketing of Horlicks.

Now even though he had a secured and decent paying job, but this certainly did not justify his talent or fulfilled the purpose of studying so hard. Clearly, he wanted independence from this monotonous life, and wanted to do something that was more meaningful, more satisfying, and it definitely had to be a business.

So after working for a year, he quit and in 1990 started two companies Indmark and Info Edge (India).

The Chronicles Of Entrepreneurship!

It all began in 1990! Sanjeev had quit his lucrative management job at Glaxo Smithkline which used to pay him a salary of Rs.8,000 / month (which was great back then). According to him, the first 10 years since he left the job was the most difficult phase.

He was very lucky to have a wife like Surbhi, who took care of the household by working for Nestle, while he wasn’t working. He had met her during his IIM days, she was a co-student.

As a matter of fact he had very explicitly told her that, he would soon be quitting his job to try his hands on entrepreneurship and that she would have to take care of the expenses. And she was fine with it.

Heck. More importantly, he was cool with it too! You see, it is not easy for a man to put aside his ego and live on his wife’s salary. But he knew what it would take to become an entrepreneur. He didn’t care about what the neighbours, relatives, the society would think about him. He just had one clear agenda in mind.

The Early Days

In 1990, Sanjeev along with a Co-founder started two companies; Indmark and Info Edge. Indmark was about database of trademarks on which they did searches, whereas Info Edge was about salary surveys.

In their initial days, they used to operate from the servant’s quarters at home and used to pay his father Rs.800 as monthly rent.

While at Info Edge, they primarily used to deal in entry level salary surveys such as what companies were offering MBAs and Engineers at the entry level. They used to prepare a standard report and sell it to around 100-200 companies for Rs.5,000.

Info Edge Website

And at Indmark, they used to perform trade mark searches. The government used to take 5 years to approve or reject a trademark application back then. It means, if you apply for an application for a Brand name you had thought of and had begun using today, the government could potentially reject it (if someone else was using the name) five years later when you had become established.

Now his partner had noticed that the trade mark registry in Bombay had a library that was open to public inspection, where you could see pending trade mark applications. So they used to send in 20 college students to get out all information filed under pharmaceuticals in all 134 classes.

Later, they put all this data on a computer, wrote a software to search the info and then used to call pharmaceutical companies (5,000 of them), and give a printed search report for just Rs. 350.

Additionally, Sanjeev used to teach management at various places like the Times School of Marketing, IMT, IMS coaching classes, etc over the weekends to earn around Rs. 2,000 a month to meet his personal expenses!

In 1991, The Department of Telecom had announced that it was looking for private information providers to launch a video text service. They wanted someone who would own and maintain the databases, and would not charge them anything. But when the user would pay, the revenue would be split.

Their application was shortlisted from around 30 to 40 people and said that they would get back to them when they were ready for implementation, but to their hard luck, the project was cancelled. But they already had the database ready, and didn’t know what to do with it.

They tried a lot of ideas, but for some reason or the other, they did not work, and the database was filed and put aside.

Later in 1993, Sanjeev and his partner decide to part ways, and each partner kept one company, half the employees and assets. Sanjeev got Info Edge along with the database.

The Entry Of Naukri.Com!

Due to the partition, everything went back to scratch. Sanjeev moved back to the servant’s quarters and over the next three years, kept his expenses low and made some money.

He also took up a job as a Consulting Editor of The Pioneer’s career supplement called Avenues, and ran their careers supplements for the next four years.

Internet had now begun to come to India. In October 1996, he happened to attend the annual event of IT Asia exhibition in Delhi, and came across one stall with ‘WWW’ written on it.

Upon asking, he was explained that, it was the World Wide Web and that it was internet.

He was a retailer, reselling VSNL e-mail accounts. So he also gave a demo of what exactly email accounts were, and their potential. He further browsed the internet, showed and also explained its functioning; a lot of information.

The fact that, 14,000 (just) people were using internet that time, gave him a brilliant idea. During his days at HMM, Sanjeev had noticed that his colleagues (and companies too) used to regularly flip through Business India, a leading business magazine of that time, to check out the 35 to 40 pages of appointment ads that the magazine displayed. Not because they were unhappy about their jobs, but just to keep their guns loaded. They literally used to read the magazine back to front.

That is when he realised that people had no one source for job ads.

Hence, he asked the retailer, if he could setup a website for him or how to go about it. But because all the servers were US-based and websites could only be developed there back then, he couldn’t.

He quickly called his brother, who was a professor at the UCLA business school, and explained that he wanted to start a website and wanted his help to hire a server, but didn’t have the capital for it and would pay him later.

He agreed. And in return, as a goodwill gesture, Sanjeev gave his brother a 5% stake in Naukri.com for paying $25 / month rent for the server.

In addition to that; he also called-in Anil Lall and shelled out 8-9% for learning net-programming and doing it and V N Saroja 9% for running the company.

And finally started Naukri.com!

The Rise Of Naukri.Com!

Now that Naukri was started, he thought of bringing the forgotten database idea that he had thought of, to use.

This was the time when the recession of the mid-1990s was going on, and was the perfect time to reach out to the people. Together, the team began combing 29 newspapers to build it up the database.

 In 1997, they launched Naukri.com with 1,000 ads taken out of various magazines. It was a database of resume, jobs and recruitment consultants. It was envisioned to be a platform where jobseekers and hiring managers searched met.

Unlike rediff.com, Khoj and Samachar who were targeting Indians in the US; they were the first site that was targeting Indians in India. The site was very basic. Internet had just reached India, due to which for the first six months they barely had any Internet connection.

Luckily, during the same time, journalists in India had also begun to write about Internet and were looking for Indian examples to talk about. And guess who could be the best example?

So they also began receiving massive coverage, due to which they didn’t have to spend anything on marketing themselves, and started receiving great traffic.

naukri website

The salary surveys which they were still doing helped them bare the expenses. In the first year, Naukri Rs.2.35 lakhs of business, even when 80% of the jobs were free. The second year, the figure jumped straight to Rs.18 lakhs. This is when the VCs began calling Sanjeev, but Bikhchandani turned all of them down.

But soon Sanjeev noticed that fully loaded and funded competition was on its way, and he would also need to be an equally strong competitor or else, he would be crushed in no time.

That is when he decided to get in the venture capitalists and Naukri received Rs.7.3 crores from ICICI Ventures in return for 15% stake in the company in 2000.

Since then there has been no looking back for them!

In 2004; the company earned Rs.45 crores, all from fresh ads and booked profits worth Rs. 8.4 crores.

In 2006, it became India’s first Dotcom Company to get listed on the Bombay & National Stock Exchanges in 2006.

In 2012, Naukri entered into the Mobile world and launched their first Mobile App for Smartphone users designed for Blackberry, Android and iPhone devices. Due to this transformation, more than half of traffic inflow now happened through Apps and Mobile sites.

And today, Naukri.com with a database of about 37 Million+ registered job seekers, controls almost 70% of the online job market traffic share.

Additionally, Info Edge – the parent company of Naukri.com, also owns web sites like Jeevansathi.com, 99acres.com, Brijj.com, Naukrigulf.com, Shiksha.com, Quadrangle and Firstnaukri.com as well.

Additionally, Info Edge also holds a major stake in a range of companies including – Zomato Media Private Limited (www.zomato.com), Applect Learning Systems Private Limited (www.meritnation.com), Etechaces Marketing and Consulting Private Limited (www.policybazaar.com), Kinobeo Software Private Limited (www.mydala.com), Happily Unmarried Marketing Private Limited (www.happilyunmarried.com), Canvera Digital Technologies Private Limited (www.canvera.com) and Mint Bird technologies Private Limited (www.vacationlabs.com).

Achievements

  • Received the Best Website of the Year award by Metrixlab (2014)
  • Naukri.com was recognized as the best classified website at the 2nd edition of the India Digital Awards organized by the IAMAI (2012)
  • Sanjeev won the “Ernst and Young – Entrepreneur of the Year” award (2008)
  • Received the “Red Herring Asia 100″ award (2006)

Author:

“A businessman by blood, but a business writer out of passion”! As a Business Writer; Karan’s forte lies in writing some really interesting Case Studies about Companies/Eminent Personalities covering aspects which certainly, would not bore you to death!

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