I’ve always been a great admirer of people who took a different path in life. One such man is Deep Kalra. TechCrunch recently posted about Deep Kalra on their blog. Its a long article, so I’ve decided to pick up the big points and present them to all my readers who day dream about being different but never actually do anything about it.
Back in 1995, Deep Kalra quit his steady, safe, good-paying & boring job of a banker to join AMF Bowling, an American company that was trying to setup bowling alleys and billiard halls for the first time in India. Kalra managed to open about 200 lanes, most of them in small centers. Worse, Kalra was in that business-man’s-limbo: The venture wasn’t really his own thing, but he had a remote boss back in America who didn’t give him much mentorship or guidance. After serving there for four years, he decided to return to the safe world of Banking. Then in 2000, with some money saved in his bank, he began to get that entrepreneurial itch again and decided to quit again.
Kalra was amazed by the power of Internet and also knew how hard it was to travel to India. He opened MakeMyTrip.com to address this issue. For Indians, the venture was too ahead of time as people were reluctant to using their credit cards online and didn’t trust non established brands. Like any other venture, MakeMyTrip was successful in raising venture capital; but post the dot com bubble, the VCs refused $1 million in funding commitments. The times were really bad for Kalra. Kalra was 31-years-old with a wife and a baby at a time when starting a dot com was insane and in a place where it was downright suicidal. But Kalra and two senior managers bought back their equity in the business and agreed to go without salaries for 18 months. Kalra says, “It worked out, so we can say we were resilient. But at the time I worried I was just being stubborn. But I figured you regret the things you don’t do in life, not the things you do.”
Kalra’s company is now making $5 million in US dollars of profit this year and doing more than $500 million in gross bookings. Revenues are up 88% during the recession and one-out-of-every-twelve domestic flights in India is booked via MakeMyTrip.com. After airline tickets, the second biggest category is railway tickets—the site sells 2,500 of them every day. Kalra is busy interviewing a lot of US-trained management types to augment the team. Don’t look now, but MakeMyTrip could be India’s next dot com IPO. (Like most well-behaved CEOs, Kalra wouldn’t comment on any immediate IPO plans.)
Ahead of his time or no, Kalra is glad he took the risk when he did. He’s not sure he would today even with more money in his savings. He’s also glad he didn’t give up on India’s domestic market, “If I’d been in Silicon Valley I’m convinced we might have reached scale in half the time, but we also probably would have been obliterated by the competition.”
Amazing, right? 🙂
–The Big K–