How two Jaipur-based brothers created profit making internet products without ever filing loss
Amit Jain and Anurag Jain are brothers based out of Jaipur. Amit is the older brother who went on to get an engineering degree from IIT Delhi in 1999 and his brother followed his footsteps two years later. Amit went on to work for TCS and from there he moved to Trilogy which took him to the US. While at Trilogy, Amit was responsible for setting up India operations and was also a key participant at Trilogy's internal incubation center. This is where his love for products grew and he inched closer towards his dream of starting his own business. Spending a good eight years in the corporate world, handling multiple roles, Amit finally started up in 2007 along with his brother Anurag when they launched GirnarSoft.
The failure-ridden journey
Some personal reasons and love for his hometown brought Amit back to Jaipur. The Jains had a family-run jewellery business and Amit thought of starting an online store for jewellery. “I always used to give advice to my father about how to expand the business but when I actually came on the ground, I realized the difficulties,” says Amit. All the initial assumptions crumbled and there was a serious misalignment with respect to expectations and ground realities. They tried out a couple of other ideas but they bombed as well.
Getting back to what you know best
Circumstances necessitated the brothers to go back to something that they knew best and this is how GirnarSoft came into existence. “We started out as an IT outsourcing company because the cash flow was important,” says Amit. In retrospect, Amit believes that it is best to start early. With time, responsibilities and liabilities pile up making it harder to take risks.
The duo sat down with their computers in a small room and started mailing prospective clients. None of the emails resulted in anything fruitful. “We had initially started out with high ambitions to get big projects but soon started reaching out to anyone who'd need technology services,” recollects Amit. They finally landed a project that would get them INR 50,000 which was below the standard pricing but they took it.
That one project led to another and the story kept building. They hired their first employee on April 1, 2007, and in the ensuing year, they reached a team size of 40. “Jaipur is a nice place with all the required facilities, and access to the local talent pool served us well,” says Amit. They hired freshers and nurtured them to become project leaders. Once they had a decent capital pool to fall back on, the team decided to roll out the products.
Maintaining a services-products balance
For any technology company, if it decides to take up services, products tend to suffer because services take up most of the time and the in-house product doesn't get the required attention. “We tried out a lot of things with products as well before we stepped onto something big with CarDekho,” says Amit. His visit to the international AutoExpo had sparked the idea for an auto portal and by 2010, the portal was seeing a reasonable traffic.
Alongside, the company maintained its services business. “We had a clear mandate. A focus on product, and attaining perfection, etc. is all fine but the most important thing is to bring in revenues for the company,” says Amit. Alongside CarDekho, PriceDekho had also got traction and GirnarSoft now had a clear direction with products. The company is now more than 600-people strong, and Amit heads the team building and growth while Anurag heads PriceDekho and the services division.
CarDekho itself also has an impressive journey where the initial revenue came in from ads but slowly evolved to a more wholesome revenue model where the company has an on-ground team and works with car manufacturers and dealers. CarDekho is involved throughout the process till a car is sold.
Growth and funding
An eye on cash flows has ensured that GirnarSoft has never filed a loss in the five years of its existence. By 2012, CarDekho had become the biggest auto portal in India with more than 70 lakh monthly visitors. “We realized we were sitting on something really big and for the next stage of growth, we needed a bigger push and hence started looking for investors,” says Amit. GirnarSoft had received interest from investors previously but they never felt the need for investments. But now, they wanted to take a quantum leap and this is when Sequoia decided to invest in the company. Sequoia invested $15 million in GirnarSoft in 2013 to consolidate the business and prepare it for the next stage of growth.
GirnarSoft has a spectacular story of how two determined entrepreneurs from Jaipur were able to build a venture of scale on the basis of hard work and a grip on reality.