ndian high school students wake up early on weekends to slog over textbooks at IIT coaching classes, right? Well, not all high school students. Over the next two months, 50 teens from schools in Delhi’s NCR region will spend their Sundays at a young entrepreneurs programme organised by The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), the largest global network of Indian entrepreneurs. They will learn about marketing, finance, intellectual property and business law; their ‘teachers’ will be established entrepreneurs; and there won’t be any textbooks around. Indian parents are not exactly famous for nurturing the entrepreneurial dreams of their offspring. Their well-meaning and well-known mantra: study hard and find a good job. But young India seems to be making other plans. For every Mark Zuckerberg, Kevin Systorm or Larry Page in the US, India now has a Naveen Tewari of inMobi, Sachin Bansal of Flipkart and Dhiraj Ram of Mu Sigma. Okay, they are not exactly comparable in size but the new businessmen on the block have quickly become the poster boys for entrepreneurship. Ballsy and brazen, they are confident enough to take on global players. “Even first generation entrepreneurs without a legacy are aiming and dreaming big,” says Sateesh Andra, venture partner at VC firm Draper Fisher Jurveston India (DFJI). “Some of them are going after India but it’s also good to see them reaching for the global market. They are not afraid to create a product and sell it in the US, Europe or South East Asia — it could be anything from mobility to enterprise software.” Within five years of its launch, inMobi has become one of the largest independent ad networks in the world — and it has gotten there by daring to take on Google and Apple in the mobile advertising space and raising $200 million from Softbank Japan to fuel its expansion plans. In the same five years, Flipkart has become India’s largest e-commerce company (likely revenues of Rs 2,500 crore in FY13), raising almost $150 million in its fourth round of funding at the start of this year. Is this kind of growth too aggressive? We can debate away but there can be no denying the ingenuity of this new breed of entrepreneurs — they have built formidable businesses in a short span of time and, what’s more, they have been raking up valuations yet to be seen by brick-and-mortar companies that have been around for decades.
|During 2011, in India, venture capital funds invested $935 million across 180 deals|
So, what’s driving entrepreneurship in India like never before? First off, there’s now a thriving ecosystem of early stage investors who are scouting for good ideas. “Two years ago, it was very hard to get time with an angel [investor],” says Pranay Gupta, CEO, Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship, IIM Ahmedabad. “But entrepreneurs with a good business model or product can now choose from a line-up of angels. They can decide how much money they want and from where they want it.”
That was not always the case. “There is far more risk capital available for entrepreneurs today,” agrees Sanjeev Bikhchandani, one of the earliest dotcom entrepreneurs in India and CEO of Info Edge, the company that owns Naukri.com. “They also have success stories and role models to follow. So the ecosystem is better developed than what was available when we started.” Back then, start-ups had to grapple with the lack of capital and infrastructure, and they had a tough time in recruiting talent. Now, though, not only do investors put money in pre-revenue start-ups, they are willing to help strengthen the team and sharpen the business model.
TiE’s established ecosystem, for example, has its network of entrepreneurs mentoring aspirants. “People don’t give enough credit to the kind of mentoring that is available to entrepreneurs now,” says Deep Kalra, CEO, MakeMyTrip. “Mentoring is the most important input that a young entrepreneur can get today because it can save him a lot of effort and time and stop him from going in the wrong direction.” Kalra mentors at least one entrepreneur every week. He believes established players like MakeMyTrip and Naukri that have been operating for over a decade have added credibility to the start-up business. And their listing was rewarding for both their investors and employees — MakeMyTrip gained 89% and Info Edge 94% on the day they were listed in August 2010 and November 2006, respectively. If MakeMyTrip’s market cap is currently $514 million, Info Edge has soared to about $670 million; and inMobi and Flipkart were being valued closer to $750 million to $1 billion based on their last round of funding.
|Investors now put money in pre-revenue start-ups and even act as mentors to the team|
It’s technology that lifts Indian entrepreneurs to the same playing field as their global peers. “The only difference is that the amount that gets invested in the US is significantly larger,” says DFJI’s Andra. Look at the numbers: VC investors in the US poured $32.6 billion into 3,209 venture deals in 2011. During the same time, in India, VC funds invested $935 million across 180 deals, according to VCCircle. “The US is a more developed market so there are many opportunities. There is also a lot more entrepreneurial experience since everyone in Silicon Valley has worked in a start-up,” says Kanwal Rekhi, managing director, Inventus Capital, who works with entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley as well as India. “But we have seen some innovative ideas coming from India. Certainly, Indian entrepreneurs are a lot more mature now than they were 10 years ago.”
|“Entrepreneurs now have success stories and role models to follow. Also, the ecosystem of angel investors is better developed" —Sanjeev Bikhchandani, CEO, Info Edge
||“Some of the entrepreneurs are going after India, but it’s also good to see them reaching for the global markets" —Sateesh Andra, Venture partner, Draper Fisher Jurveston
|“Indian entrepreneurs are a lot more mature now than they were when we started 10 years ago" —Kanwal Rekhi, Managing director, Inventus Capital
||“Mentoring is the most important input that a young entrepreneur can get today to stop him from going in the wrong direction" —Deep Karla, CEO, MakeMyTrip
Tech: the great enabler
The role of technology in the mushrooming of start-ups cannot be understated. Entrepreneurs across India are leveraging technology to build products and services for both domestic and global markets. “Earlier, companies like Infosys, Wipro or TCS used technology to build solutions to solve problems in other countries,” says Gururaj ‘Desh’ Deshpande, Indian-American venture capitalist who co-chairs Barack Obama’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “The next wave of companies will use talent and technology to solve problems in India.” He feels that every problem is an opportunity for a new company. “The opportunities in India are huge for people who want to be entrepreneurial,” he adds.
|Indians are using technology to make products for both domestic and global markets|
India is capital scarce, and technology helps a business run more efficiently. It’s already happening — for instance, several start-ups in education and healthcare are using the cloud to deliver products and services without investing in physical infrastructure. In another example, Red Bus saw the big opportunity in the $2.5-billion bus travel market and leveraged technology to set up its online ticketing platform — the company now has over 700 bus operators on board and recently sold over a million tickets, clocking revenues of Rs 300 crore in FY12 to make it one of the most transacted sites in India.
The ability to sell online opened up a limitless opportunity for Druva, the data backup service provider. “Initially, most of our customers were from the US,” says Jaspreet Singh, CEO, Druva Software. “We realised that there was a huge market for our products, when customers in the US were willing to buy from an unknown start-up from a different part of the world. Being able to sell our products online gave us a reach that was beyond our imagination.” Druva hopes to clock revenues of over $50 million by 2014-15, around which time it may take an IPO to the market.
Stumbling on their dream run
However, sometimes, entrepreneurs are so focused on getting their businesses off the ground that they don’t always get the big picture right. “In the first phase, entrepreneurs are very eager to sell their idea,” says DFJI’s Andra. “They wake up only during the second phase to realise that selling profitably is more important than getting customers.” Andra feels that if the entrepreneur doesn’t analyse his business enough, or if he gets too much money early on, he may end up pushing the accelerator too soon. He adds, “If you are not evolved as a company, it could lead to huge problem in execution.” Naukri’s Bikhchandani says it is keeping a tight lid on costs that helps in the long run. “We had bootstrapped [self-funded] the company for 10 years before we took venture capital,” he remembers. “We had to earn money to break even so we were very frugal and that helped us keep afloat during the market meltdown after 2000.”
|Early-stage investing is an art as there is no data available to ensure the businesses’ success|
Trying to keep afloat is exactly what some e-comm firms are doing today. Start-ups were set up at a frenzied pace as entrepreneurs and investors wanted a bite of the e-commerce pie that is tipped to double to $20 billion by 2015. But here’s the catch. “Only a few million users are consistently buying from online stores,” says Subrata Mitra, partner, Accel Partners, which has funded some of the leading Indian e-commerce start-ups, including Flipkart and Myntra. “The number is growing, but from a relatively small base, and [the market] can, therefore, sustain only a few such start-ups today.” Deal site Taggle, which was kicked off in June 2010, shut shop last year and Flipkart bought out electronics site LetsBuy. VCs say more e-comm portals will crash and burn before the dust settles.
That’s why a team that can adapt quickly is important. A few venture capitalists say they always put the team ahead of the idea. “It’s always better to fund an A-team with a good idea rather than a B-team with a brilliant idea when it comes to investment,” says Deshpande. “Most companies end up doing things a little differently than when they started off, so it’s really important to find the A-team that can navigate through that process.”
Early-stage investing is an art, experts insist. Since there are no numbers, no customers and no spreadsheets to validate everything, it becomes a challenging task. “More often than not, it’s like a roller coaster ride and unless you have been an entrepreneur yourself, it will be difficult to understand the early stage dynamics of a business,” notes Inventus’ Rekhi. So his firm sets up filters that help it whittle the 800-odd proposals they get every year down to about six in which it invests. Inventus believes every entrepreneur must have some skin in the game so it only funds entrepreneurs who have been bootstrapped, and who have been in business for over a year. “We don’t invest in companies unless we see at least a 10-times return on our investment,” Rekhi says. “So we develop that vision with the entrepreneurs and work with them to realise that goal.”
Finally, if you think this is probably the best time to become an entrepreneur, you could be just a little wrong — many observers feel that the situation will get even better in the next two or three years. “The ecosystem to develop products is still not here in India,” says Druva’s Singh. “It should develop in the next five years,” he adds. Sure, there’s always room for improvement but we are already in the middle of exciting times for both entrepreneurs and investors. In the following pages, we feature some promising entrepreneurs with interesting ideas. And no, they are not your usual suspects.
Photograph by Nilotpal Baruah
Varun Agarwal / 25 | Rohan Malhotra / 25 Founded Alma Mater / Launched July 2009 / FY12 revenue Rs 2 crore
Alma Mater makes hoodies, bumper stickers and mugs printed with school names
Like all good ideas, this one, too, was born in a bar. In late 2009, Bishop Cotton’s Bengaluru-based alumni Varun Agarwal and Rohan Malhotra were mercilessly ribbed by the former’s cousin for being not hip enough to have a school branded T-shirt. A few drinks and some brainstorming lead the 22-year-olds to the idea of getting the T-shirts made for themselves. Sales to other Bishop Cotton alumni followed. And then, through word of mouth, others started approaching them to do the same for their schools. And Alma Mater was born. Agarwal and Malhotra invested Rs 1 lakh each and started a website to manage the front-end and take orders. Today, they have a turnover of Rs 2 crore and 800 schools and colleges as clients across India, including the likes of Bishop Cotton Bengaluru, several IITs and IIMs. Products include T-shirts, hoodies, caps, mugs and bumper stickers. “We have two business models now. One, where we take official permission from a school or college for its merchandise and second, where anyone can approach us to have stuff made for his class, batch, group or anything he has affinity with,” says Agarwal. Now, the duo is expecting to get funds from Indian Angels Network, he adds. This will be used to scale and grow the business further.
Photograph by Bhupinder Singh
Harpreet Grover / 29 | Vibhore Goyal / 29 Founded CoCubes / Launched August 2007 / FY12 revenue Rs 7.8 crore
CoCubes is India’s largest online campus hiring platform connecting colleges and companies
Harpeet Grover and Vibhore Goyal didn’t exactly start on the best terms when they met as roommates at IIT Mumbai. “He got the better bed so things were a little frosty,” says Grover, who graduated in 2005. Matters improved, though, and the duo have gone on to start a venture that has become India’s largest student engagement and campus hiring platform. A casual conversation with a placement officer made Grover realise that there was no formal platform for campus recruitment and with over 30,000 colleges in India, companies, too, find campus hiring a daunting task. So, with an initial investment of Rs 2 lakh, he and Goyal launched CoCubes in 2007. Based out of Gurgaon, the word CoCubes derives its origin from the first two letters of three words — connecting colleges (and) companies. The company currently has around 2,500 colleges on its network who pay an annual fee, and plans to increase it to 7,000 colleges over the next year. Over 400 companies hire students through CoCubes: some 10,000 students have been placed through them and 800,000 students are currently registered on the platform. The company hopes to clock $4 million (Rs 22 crore) this year, driven by the increase of colleges in the network.
Photograph by Nilotpal Baruah
Ajaita Shah / 27 Founded Frontier Markets / Launched March 2010 / FY12 revenue NA
Frontier Markets distributes solar lamps across rural Rajasthan
It was during her stint with SKS Microfinance and Ujjivan Financial Services that Ajaita Shah discovered that, although there was demand for products in rural areas, a poor distribution network meant products never reached the people in rural areas. So the US-based Shah and co-founder Daniel Tomlinson, whom she met when he was working with rural retail and entrepreneurship company Drishtee, decided to start a rural sales and distribution company, Frontier Markets. The aim? To bring high-quality products at very low prices to the people at the bottom of the pyramid. The Jaipur-based company researches and tests the products before selling through agents. It started last year with solar-energy lamps, sourced from companies selling clean energy products such as Bengaluru’s Duron Energy and Mumbai’s Greenlight Planet. The company’s already covered 300 villages in Rajasthan and aims to cover the state by end-2013. “We’ll expand to Andhra Pradesh by end-December 2012 and cover five more states by 2015,” says Shah.
Photograph by Nilotpal Baruah
Pallav Nadhani / 27 Founded FusionCharts / Launched October 2002 / FY12 revenue Rs 38 crore
Barack Obama is a fan of FusionChart’s interactive spreadsheets
FusionCharts (FC) came into being because as a teenager Pallav Nadhani, now 27, hated asking his dad for pocket money. He was all of 17 when he discovered that making excel charts interactive and fun could earn him big bucks. In 2002, Nadhani launched the first version of FC using macromedia flash that made charts interactive and he hasn’t looked back since. With 85% of Fortune 500 companies, including IBM, Coca-Cola, Cisco, Intel, Apple, and the US government as its customers, FC hasn’t felt the need to raise money from outside investors. All the charts on Linkedin and Google Drive are powered by this company. Its products are used in areas like business intelligence where data visualisation plays a key role. FC has over 90 chart types and hopes to grow at least 20% on a year-on-year basis driven by new product launches. The company has just launched Collabion charts, which create insightful dashboards for Microsoft Sharepoint, and will be launching Oofmo next month, which brings the FC suite to Microsoft Powerpoint. “Our products are popular because they turn data into delight in minutes,” says Nadhani.
Photograph by Soumik Kar
Abhishek Nayak / 24 | Arpit Mohan / 24 Founded Gharpay / Launched April 2011 / FY12 revenue NA
Gharpay collects around ~4 crore a month for its customers from across 15 cities
Having a State Bank account that wasn’t net enabled made Abhishek Nayak realise there was a large chunk of people who didn’t have access to online transactions or would rather pay cash. After reading that many customers of online bus ticket service Red Bus booked electronically but preferred to pay in cash, Nayak convinced the company’s founders — his seniors from BITS Pilani — to let him collect the cash from customers as a pilot. Arpit Mohan came on board to help with the technology and Gharpay was incorporated in April 2011. The company collects cash from customers at their doorstep in 900 pincodes across 14-15 cities. It’s now got over 190-200 customers mostly in the e-commerce space (companies like Red Bus, Cleartrip, Times Classified and Fetise) and reaches out to about 15,000 people a month. Gharpay collects about Rs 4 crore of cash every month on behalf of its customers and collects a fixed fee plus a percentage, depending on transaction volumes. It specialises in dealing with companies that have digital goods such as tickets, coupons or classified bookings. “We’re a payment solutions company rather than a logistics player,” says Nayak.
Photograph by Soumik Kar
Neha Juneja / 27 | Ankit Mathur / 27 Founded Greenway Grameen / Launched December 2010 / FY12 revenue Rs 40 lakh
Greenway has sold about 6,000 chulhas to rural households across the country
After trying various business options, Delhi School of Engineering alumni Neha Juneja and Ankit Mathur hit upon creating a cooking stove for rural households. They registered Greenway Grameen Infra (GGI) in 2010 and started selling the Greenway smart stove the following year. Compared to the mud chulha used by 160 million rural households in India, the GGI stove burns 70% less fuel and has much less emission. “There is a Rs 10,000 crore market for such products,” says Juneja. The cost of a chulha is Rs 1,250 and GGI had sold some 6,000 so far. At present, GGI works as a social enterprise in collaboration with various institutes and NGOs. Next on the cards is a bigger, better version of the GGI smart stove. “Our new stove will be much cleaner and will be exactly like using LPG,” says Juneja. Also on the cards is a device to covert waste heat into electricity.
Photograph by Soumik Kar
Ankit Gupta / 24 | Neeraj Agarwal / 23 Founded Innovese Technologies / Launched (*Yo!Captcha) December 2010 / FY12 revenue NA
Innovese inserts advertisements as captcha code that increases recall value
Captchas are those alphanumeric strings you have to key-in everytime you open an account, make a payment or take a poll online. Instead, Ankit Gupta (right) and Neeraj Agarwal came up with Yo!Captcha, an online advertising platform that offers readable brand advertisements and all the user has to do is fill in the blank based on the image to pass the captcha. “Advertisers know that target consumers are looking at their ads,” says Gupta. The duo founded Innovese Technologies in November 2009 when they were at BITS, Pilani. They began work on Yo!Captcha in October 2010 and decided to make a business out of it. Dhruv Sogani joined them in January 2011. The company was chosen by the CIIE’s iAccelerator programme in October 2011 and won a seed funding of Rs 5 lakh. The product was launched in January 2012 and currently some 35,000 captchas are solved everyday — advertisers are charged for every captcha solved correctly and the revenue shared with the publisher of the site. The aim is to reach 500,000 catpchas by FY15.
Photograph by Nilotpal Baruah
Deepak Ravindran / 25 Founded Innoz / Launched September 2008 / FY12 revenue Rs 6 crore
Innoz has created an SMS-based search engine for those without access to mobile web
Innoz started as an engineering college project where four friends developed a Q&A search engine that responds to queries over text message. The service targets feature phone users who do not have access to the web. With Rs 1 crore from angel investors, Deepak Ravindran, Abhinav Sree, Ashwin Nath and Mohammed Hisamuddin converted the project into a business and dropped out of college. “We thought if Mark Zuckerberg could do it, so can we,” says Ravindran. In March 2011, the firm signed its first agreement, with Airtel, to provide the service, now called 55444. Other telcom majors followed in the next year. Innoz provides its services to almost 10 million users and gets more than 3 million queries a day; each query costs Rs 1, which is shared between Innoz and the operator. The company has also set up an app store where you can use an app through the SMS platform. There are 200-300 app developers and 400 apps currently. A third of queries are through apps currently. With all major telcos as its clients and increasing use of the store, Innoz is hoping to clock revenues of Rs 20 crore in FY13.
Photograph by RA Chandroo
Suneil Chawla / 29 | Anupam Agarwal / 30 Founded Koolkart / Launched September 2011 / FY12 revenue NA
Koolkart lets people brag about their e-shopping goodies on social networks
As classmates at IIM Ahmedabad, Suneil Chawla (right) and Anupam Agarwal always knew they were going to start something on their own. They got big-name jobs on campus, but the entrepreneurial bug clung on. In early 2011, Chawla quit his job and connected with Agarwal to start their venture. “There was no e-commerce site in India that replicates the experience of shopping with friends and family, and that’s what we set out to do: mix social shopping with e-commerce,” says Chawla. Set up with an investment of Rs 50 lakh, Koolkart is the first shopping application in India to closely integrate with Facebook: so, if you like or buy anything from the site, it appears on your Facebook timeline and your friends get to know what you like or are buying. Shoppers on the site can also find products recommended by their friends and other shoppers and can compare prices across retailers — the site makes a commission on the business it directs as well as sales from its own site. Koolkart went live a few months ago, covering around 180 online retailers in India and has a database of over 14 million products — the site already has 120,000 unique vistors every month.
Photograph by Nilotpal Baruah
Raj Sheth / 30 | Girish Redekar / 31 | Raghuveer Kancherla / 29 Founded RecruiterBox / Launched November 2010 / FY12 revenue $100,000-200,000
RecruiterBox makes hiring easy for companies through an e-mail-based profile index
RecruiterBox aims to make recruiting easy for companies. Raj Sheth (centre), an undergraduate in finance from Babson College, Boston, joined RecruiterBox, the brainchild of IIT Chennai graduates Girish Redekar (right) and Raghuveer Kancherla who stumbled upon the idea when they were trying to build a job search engine. Companies need to forward e-mails with attached résumé in response to job openings to RecruiterBox, which creates candidate profiles based on the mail and can be accessed by not just the HR but all departments of the organisation. Within a year, it has helped 200 companies including Groupon, Levi’s and Standard Market avoid manual updating of spread sheets. The company charges $50 for five openings, $200 for 10 and $500 for 25. About half its clients have signed on in the past five months with more than 80% from the US. The target: expand the customer base five times to 1,000 by FY13. “We have a few plans that give us confidence,” says Sheth. “Not only have the first 200 customers helped make our product stronger, they’ve helped define our target segment.”
Photograph by Soumik Kar
Rohit Gupta / 29 | Anuj Tandon / 29 Founded Rolocule / Launched November 2010 / FY12 revenue NA
Rolocule is an iOS-based app company that specialises in social and casual gaming
Gaming was always a passion for Rohit Gupta (below). It turned into serious business when he gave up his job at Electronic Arts and started Rolocule in 2010 with an initial investment of Rs 1 lakh given by his father. His classmate at engineering college in Pune, Anuj Tandon, gave up his job at Infosys to join him as a co-founder and game designer. Young game fanatics and animators at Rolocule develop realistic, social and casual games for iPhones and iPads. Touch squash, super badminton and flick tennis are their most popular offerings in the app store: there have been over 1.5 million downloads in more than 100 countries so far. The company follows a freemium model where the basic game can be downloaded for free but additional features will be charged. Each game costs $2-6, of which Apple keeps 30%. “We expect the downloads to reach 5 millions by FY13 once we port the games to the Android platform as well,” says Tandon. Rolocule has lined up more than five or six games lined up for release in the next year, with a new take on tennis likely to be out by September.
Photograph by Nilotpal Baruah
Porush Jain / 27 Founded Sportskeeda / Launched October 2009 / Current revenue NA
Sportskeeda is a crowdsourced sport forum that fuels discussions on all kinds of sport
A student of Symbosis Institute of Management and sports fanatic, Porush Jain started Sportskeeda with his friend Srinivas Cuddapah in 2009 when he realised there was no online multi-sport forum in India. With more than 1,000 contributors, the majority of whom write for free given their passion for sports (only 5-10% of the writers are paid), Sportskeeda has become India’s largest multi-sport, crowdsourced sports fansite. It gets 2 million visitors a month and the founders believe they are now on an equal footing with other sports forums, like Cricinfo. The idea is to engage fans across India at one place where they can discuss sport. The site secured a funding of Rs 2.8 crore from Seedfund in November 2011. “We plan to use this to help us scale up our presence by going mobile, adding international content and contributors and by offering customised content based on user interest,” says Jain.
Also on the agenda is fan-based merchandising to augment its advertising revenue, which remains
the main source of income. Sportskeeda hopes to make Rs 10-15 crore in FY13.
Photograph by Nilotpal Baruah
Pavan Sondur / 26 | Prashant Kumar / 27 Founded Unbxd / Launched October 2011 / Revenue $20,000 per month
E-commerce search engine Unbxd maps shopping patterns for online store owners
When Pavan Sondur (right) and Prashant Kumar started this Bengaluru-based firm, they wanted its name to reflect the fact that behind the business were young minds. And what better way to do that than a name in the language their generation invented — SMS lingo. Believing their solution was definitely an out-of-the-box idea, they named their company Unbxd. Unbxd is an intelligent search engine that can be plugged into e-commerce websites. It acts as a virtual sales person that maps the intent of customers, getting smarter with every search, telling online store owners what items sold faster, demographical information about the users and their buying patterns. Within the first year, the company has about 15 clients, including Indiaplaza. “We plan to move to the cloud, which will act as a big kicker and will allow more customers to download the product and pay as they use,” says Sondur. There are around 100 customers using the product on trial and Unbxd wants to increase that to 250 in the next year, which will grow revenue to $100,000 per month.
Soumik Kar; Location Courtesy: Krishna Pearls and Jewellers
Ravikiran Bhat / 25 Founded Yashas Consulting / Launched November 2007 / FY12 revenue Rs 80 crore
Yashas cultivates freshwater pearls and exports the entire produce to France
As an 18-year-old, Ravikiran Bhat decided to cultivate pearls on an astrologer’s recommendation. But all the oysters he had implanted with nuclei (imported from Japan and made from oyster shells) died. That was 2005 and Bhat headed to China to study pearl farming at the Freshwater Fisheries Research Center in Jiangsu. “Pearl farming involves patience. How could I give up after one failure,” he says.
Two years later, Bhat came back and re-started pearl cultivation, investing Rs 5 lakh. This time he was successful. He collects mussels from rivers, which are operated upon to implant the nucleus. They are later put back in a pond where, in about a year, pearls form in the shell. He exports all his pearls to France.
Bhat has expanded through a franchise model of sorts. He ties up with those who have land and water supply for rearing oysters, provides manpower and technology, including the nucleus. The only difference is that instead of selling pearls to customers, these clients sell them back to Bhat. “I have 28 clients, in Malaysia and Singapore. In India, most of them are in Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Orissa,” he says.
—Rashmi K Pratap
Photograph by Bhupinder Singh
Deepinder Goyal / 27 Founded Zomato.com / Launched July 2008 / FY12 revenue Rs 3.5 crore
Zomato has created India’s largest online restaurant guide with peer reviews
While working for Bain in 2008, lunch time for Deepinder Goyal and Pankaj Chaddah meant queueing for the restaurant menus before deciding their order. So the batch mates from IIT Delhi scanned menus and put them online. Soon, around 100 colleagues visited the website everyday. That’s how Foodiebay kicked off in July 2008 (re-branded as Zomato in 2010). Over the next few months, the website went live with listings of 1,200 restaurants in Delhi. Convinced of the potential, Goyal and Chaddah jumped into the job, backed by InfoEdge, which has pumped in around Rs 18 crore into the venture. Today, the 150-people strong Zomato touts itself as India’s largest restaurant guide, listing over 30,000 eat-out places across 10 cities in the country. Singapore, Dubai, Hong Kong and Russia are in the process of joining the list soon. “We are all about food and where one can find the best of it,” says Goyal. The challenge is to make the brand platform agnostic, helping users discover places to eat around them through the web, mobile and print, while retaining the “neighbourhood restaurant guide tag”.