ixigo co-founders reveal the secret to the travel-tech startup's success
After returning from Europe in 2006, Aloke Bajpai and Rajnish Kumar launchedin 2007.
In a conversation with Prime Venture Podcast, they revealed that business prioritisation worked for ixigo during the initial years when the market competition was tough.
Next, they focused on achieving product-led organic growth. Lastly, an empathy-led company culture saw ixigo through almost four near-death experiences over the years. Now, when the company is readying for its IPO, the co-founders attribute these three factors to ixigo’s success.
Short-term versus long-term business prioritisation
Talking about what worked for ixigo during the initial years, Rajnish explained the need for business prioritisation.
“For us, prioritisation was the key because every other company [was] prioritising the most obvious things…, which is driving revenue and business objectives right now. But, we looked at certain problems, which did not drive any revenue… but figured out that there was a large problem to be solved,” said Rajnish.
The co-founders did not get any short-term dividends from the problems they were generally tackling at ixigo. But they saw long-term benefits behind solving those problems and went ahead in building products around the same.
Citing an example, Rajnish spoke about when ixigo decided to capture train users. The company knew internally that it won’t generate any short-term revenue, but it took a bet and decided it will figure out the monetisation when the time comes.
Product-led organic business growth
Aloke and Rajnish spoke about product-led growth instead of creating the illusion of growth by burning money.
Rajnish explained how startups should never find themselves in situations where the only way to grow their businesses is by raising money.
Citing ixigo’s train app feature as an example, he said, “We realised that building traction was more important in the early days, getting users, sticky users, and then monetisation will come.'' He revealed that ixigo grew in the first five years majorly due to word of mouth as the product was solid.
Aloke explained the illusion of growth that entrepreneurs tend to create while raising and spending money.
“It’s very easy to feel you are successful and you have growth when you’re spending money. And it’s very difficult at times to figure out whether you have the right product-market fit when you’re in that kind of a growth curve,” he added.
Building a culture of belongingness
The co-founders emphasised that the ixigo’s team bailed the company during every business dip — be it during the 2008 financial crisis or the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aloke explained, “It does start at hiring with the right attributes. We hire more for attitude than for skill.”
He shared empathy is one of the core values they maintain at ixigo. Aloke and Rajnish ask a series of questions to understand a candidate’s empathy, which ultimately helps to create that sense of belongingness to the company.
Rajnish emphasised the importance of transparency at every level. “Bad news should travel faster than good news, both upstream and downstream,” said Rajnish.
“We understood that culture obviously is not about talking about things in the all-hands meeting or putting up some nice posters… culture was just defining our own acts every day,” he added.
To know more, listen to the podcast here.
03:04: ixigo founding story
07:03: Unconventional prioritisation
14:12: “More capital killed more companies than less capital”
21:18: Near-death experiences and culture
30:05: Future; Thinking Big; Changing the World