It was December, 2007 and a very interesting phase of my professional career was about to start. Where? With India’s largest Media conglomerate. My tryst with the internet was about to start. It was time for some new learnings and lots of un-learnings to do.
It took me sometime to understand what everyone was trying to achieve. In the manufacturing industry, one traditionally builds a product that can be touched, seen, admired and used. In the internet, the product cannot be touched, but yes it can be felt, used and admired. There were some really great experienced minds trying to figure out how to build successful internet businesses. It was a learning experience everyday and I knew I was “bugged with internet”. Even after so many years, can I think of any other domain to work, I don’t think so.
Internet is the first and last love. What I really understood from Seniors in the team was that fundamentals of advertising don’t change, even when one talks about internet as a new age media. The customers are the same, end consumers and advertisers. And the problems also remains the same – 1) how to get end consumers use the services offered by advertisers and 2) how to get advertisers get more business from consumers. And while we solve these problems we need to make money as well.
During that period 2007-08, the mobile and e-com revolution was yet to start, but the shifts in consumer preferences were happening. Slowly and steadily people we spending time in the internet, not that they were reading newspapers or watching television less, but there was a different charm of coming onto the internet for information, and it was quite cool to write and share views. There were lesser number of internet based companies. There used to be thoughts around the extent to which internet companies can grow, in terms of internet penetration in the country. Broadband was growing slow and no one thought mobile would grow so fast. Mind you, Iphone was yet to come to India in a strong way. We all were planning with constraints. Assuming X as total audience, then saying Y% of X will be on the internet, and Z% will use our product and so on. That was a different thought process, and I don’t think there was anything wrong in it. Additionally, there were constraints on budgets and we used to build business models that show profits atleast in 2-3 years.
Then came a phase, between 2010-2015, I can call this the Magic 5, the phase of no constraints, hundreds of companies sprung up with using internet as their core. Assumptions have changed, no one thinks of internet as a constraint, the focus is on solving a problem using internet, and not worry about either internet speeds or reach. That’s a paradigm shift! And it’s worked well, as we have seen a number of really every successful companies. The second highlight of Magic 5 has been investments in the startup phase. With $75Bn coming into India money no longer was a constraint for good people. These are great times, but there is an issue – there are too many companies doing similar things, why? Economics – if there is an attractive business opportunity and there are less constraints, there will be more businesses. When there are many businesses in the same space, offering products and services that are not very different, it is not easy to be profitable. One would need some serious scale and competitive advantage that can be sustained atleast for a period of 6-8 months. But then, India is also gradually accepting companies that are popular, but not profitable – much like the US. I am yet to the see such companies being liked by the Stock Market, as none of them can list in India in their current financial state. Stock Values are more about sentiment and perception than real financials. The other question, is typically how many years would you give to a company to turn profitable. 0-5 years, 5-10 years, 10-15 years or more? A larger question, do you really need to be profitable to be successful?
A lot of these were preoccupying my mind last year, and I thought why not start a company myself with a good team of folks whom I have known to be really very good, and see if we can together build a company that –
1) Solves consumer and advertiser problems, as mentioned earlier.
2) Is not built on constraints of internet reach and funds.
3) Becomes popular and used/admired by many as a good product.
4) Is profitable, and lists in India. Has some serious scale in terms of revenues.
Time = 5 years, Company has to deal with properties and internet based, given my experience. I don’t think I know anything better, having spent the last fews years in this domain.
Problem, we solve for property seekers –
Finding residential and commercial properties, moving in and settling comfortably. Current user experience is scattered among a number of online and offline interactions – which can be seamlessly integrated in a single platform by use of technology.
So far, some baby steps
1) We have a built really good leadership team, we might not be the best, but we’re definitely up there in the top in terms of capabilities. More than product and strategy, people differentiate businesses, especially leaders. We have 2 more additions to this strong team of leaders. Overall, we have hit 50 in strength till date.
2) A number of us have built businesses from nothing, the hard way. We’re more on the field that in the office, and we love advertisers and know how to serve them.
3) Our product and tech leaders are have the respectable IIT + IIM pedigree and they have taken up the challenge to build a product that gets respect from consumers and advertisers alike. Our product is work in progress, and our first major release should take some more time. This said, people are using our product, we should have successfully served atleast 1000+ property seekers till date.
4) We have our financials under control, and we are making some serious money and we should continue to do so. We have a well thought of plan and execution is on track. We have a 5 year plan.
If 7 months is a precursor to plan versus achievements, we are fairly close.
Why PropGod, we want God to be with us always 🙂 This is the start.