What made Deep Kalra what he is?

We’ve heard many a time that real businesses take a lifetime to build and Deep Kalra’s journey epitomizes this sentiment. Complete devotion for more than a decade and a laser sharp focus is what has taken for Makemytrip to reach the stage of an IPO and scale to this level. But what were the incidents that shaped Deep’s life before? What were the instances that moulded him into what he is and what makes him tick?

Deep kalra

Deep kalra

At TechSparks 2013 in Delhi, Deep took the audience through this journey before diving deep into the Makemytrip story. “It took me 8 years to figure out what I really wanted to do,” started Deep and then took us through all the highlights and how they mattered.

Deep went to St.Stephens College, Delhi in 1987 to pursue Bachelors in Economics from where he went to IIM-A for an MBA Degree. “I was 23 and fresh out of an MBA and it was a fairly obvious choice to go with the flow which people are trying to change now but back then, I took up a banking job,” says Deep. He worked with ABN Amro Bank and as most of us are, was really excited about his first job. But after 3 years, a sense of incompleteness set in and he decided banking was not something he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Deep quit ABN Amro and took a break for about a year to figure out what to do next.

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How did it help? This period made Deep realize the importance of doing something you really like. If you’re doing what you love doing, you give your best. And hence, you need to follow your calling.

While on his break, Deep got a number of well-paying marketing jobs but he decided to pick the craziest of all. “I wanted to do something touch-feel, on-the-ground kind of a thing and hence I took up the job of bringing AMF Bowling Inc. to India,” said Deep. The task was a herculean one as no one in India was really ready to invest in a bowling alley in the 90’s. Deep went around from place to place measuring places and setting up bowling alleys but the competition was just too tough. There were hardly any returns and competing against the giant chains like McDonalds’ was proving out to be impossible in terms of returns on real estate. Deep ran it for four years but decided to quit. “It was a great entrepreneurial experience but a financial disaster,” said Deep.

How did it help? The AMF stint taught Deep some of the nitty gritties of how a business is run and basically how to setup a business from scratch (rolling in the mud all the while).

Post AMF, Deep could have started up something else but he felt he needed some more corporate experience before diving into it. He felt that he was missing out on the learning part and the self-development part had plateaued after ABN. Looking out for companies, he got a lucrative offer from GE Capital to head Business Development. The year was 1999 and looking for opening up new avenues, the internet was the obvious answer. Deep met almost all the top players in the Indian internet space and helped GE grow via the internet and during this time, Deep also had a couple of incidents that formed a strong faith in the internet- he managed to successful sell a car for INR 20k more than what was being offered online and he was able to book a hotel in Thailand for a trip with his wife and the vacation went off really well.

And after a little over a year with GE, Deep felt he was ready to take the plunge. Entering travel was not only because of the good experiences but a very clinical thought-out decision: it was too early for eCommerce back then and travel seemed like the right direction to move in. Mixing the idea with a proper business model, Makemytrip was born in the year 2000. And the rest, as they say, is history…

How did it help? Corporate life helps in the later stage of a company when you want to scale it. Corporate experience is not really necessary when you’re just starting up but comes in handy during the growth stages.

Deep’s advice to entrepreneurs:

And in case you don’t know what happened after MMT started, stick around for more articles and videos from TechSparks 2013. Apply to become a TechSpark here! (website) And the next event is in Chennai!



Jubin Mehta

Jubin Mehta

Jubin is an old timer at YourStory. Deeply entrenched in the Indian startup ecosystem, he has written about more than 1000 startups. With an engineering background and a keen interest in data analysis, his passion for writing and entrepreneurship makes him a perfect match for Yourstory. He operates from the mountains in Dharamshala where he also runs a hackbase. He can be reached on Twitter @jub_in and on mail at jubin@yourstory.com