Who knows the value of money better than an entrepreneur. A guy who haggles over small amount of money with his vendors, but travels far to meet his clients. he faces a problem and tries to solve it while others crib.
Rikant Pitti perfectly fits the profile of a jugaad entrepreneur. As a businessman, his father used to travel a lot and always used to book his tickets via his travel agent, we are talking about 2005 when OTAs were not that popular. It all changed one day when Rikant checked the price of the same tickets online and found out that his travel agent was charging 1.5K more than what he was getting online for the same ticket. And since his father used to book over 15 tickets, it was a loss of over 20k per month.
As his elder brother was an IITian, which set the expectations high for Rikant as well and he had to drop an year for it which in the hindsight proved to be a good decision. His dad wanted him to be a pilot or engineer and go abroad and while he had different plans. Rikant started booking tickets for his parents and soon all relatives also started calling him to book their tickets as well. His fame spread and his father also started referring him to his colleagues as they could get their tickets cheaper. Rikant, in turn, was getting his pocket money by charging a Rs 100-500 commission on each ticket, though hiding the commission part from dad (but aren’t most businesses hidden from dad at first?).
More often than not, doubts of adulthood end up killing dreams of childhood. Rikant was working undercover from his dad and chose Kurukshetra University for his undergrad, as attendance was not a problem there. Meanwhile, he also started Duke Travels along with his brother Nishant (who is also the co-founder of EaseMyTrip)and marketed his offering using bulk SMS. The rate of conversion was good, as around 20-25 people used to call back to enquire after each SMS blast. Soon they started getting customers from other parts of India. They also started selling tickets on ebay (I am not sure if that is legal, but it is definitely a lesson in marketing).
As they grew, Duke Travels rebranded to EaseMyTrip. Talking about their USP – Rikant says lowest costs and not charging convenience/processing fee are their core selling points (although tomorrow somebody with deeper pockets can easily offer cheaper prices).
Things were going rosy for Rikant as their father also somewhat approved of it and they started expanding. They partnered with Air Deccan and took an agency from them on commission basis (and a promise to sell tickets worth a fixed amount) and started networking with travel agents and started generating sales. It was at the time when Air Deccan started selling air tickets in the Rs 500-700 range. But, as bad luck would have it, Air Deccan stopped selling cheap tickets and they were in a soup as it became difficult to generate enough sales without cheap tickets. Their business was on the verge of shutting down. They lowered their commissions and hired more travel agents to help them who were able to help them out and reached the target.
Fast forward to future
Currently they have over 275 employees on board and have a network of over 30K travel agents and a client base of over 800 companies and around 15-20K daily unique visitors on the site, their current turnover is around multi crore. Talking about his future, Rikant says he is looking at a turnover of at least Rs 1,200 crore in next year, and also being the best travel company of India.
Lessons from journey
Rikant shares his key lessons from his journey:
1) Be focused at your work.
2) Be honest.
3) Respect your work and your employees.
Check them out here.
McDowell’s No. 1 Platinum respects Leaders like Rikant who took the unbeaten path and also inspires more people to follow their dreams and join them in their unconventional journey.