Success Quotient is a weekly feature that appears every Friday on Firstpost, which looks at the pains and joys en route to success for a head honcho - whether a CEO, MD or an entrepreneur. The column looks at the ideas that helped launch a company, its highs and lows.
He wanted to strike it off on his own while he was in college. That led Sachin Bhatia, CEO and Co-Founder of dating site, Truly Madly to make career choices that would give him the freedom to earn for his upkeep and be independent. Entrepreneurship was a dirty word for a career choice in Bhatia’s growing up years in Delhi. So he was hoping to snag a job and make a go of his dreams to be independent.
The dignity of doing an honest job was drilled into him during his teenage years. His mother, a florist, ran her business from home. So the 12-year-old Bhatia would be sent to the airport to pick up fresh deliveries that came in from Holland. In college, he helped his mother with the business and earned his pocket money.
“I recall when we shifted to South Delhi my dad was the only one in the area where we lived who would wash his car himself. I learnt early that as long as I did a job that was honest, I should not hesitate to take it up.”
Finishing his graduate studies, Bhatia’s first job was in marketing where he sold bottled water to corporate offices, which was not a rage then. He recalls being ribbed by friends who would say, Paani bech rahe ho. Abhi hawa bechoge?
A short stint at an advertising firm later, he joined a bowling firm. It is here that he 'stumbled' into entrepreneurship when he was invited by Deep Kalra to join him in his online travel firm - MakeMyTrip, the company he had just founded. At 27, Bhatia was eager to explore entrepreneurship with people he was familiar and comfortable with.
MakeMyTrip opened up a new and exciting world of travel for Bhatia. “We were attempting something new – travel on the e-commerce space in India and it fired us all up. It was a satisfying and very fulfilling period of my life working for 10 years in MakeMyTrip.”
In 2010, when the company was coming out with an IPO, he quit. “I had done all that I could for the company. How long can one sell tickets and hotel room?” he asks.
Not clear what to do next, Bhatia made angel investments in a few ventures. A business idea took shape when he met with Rahul Kumar, a former colleague from Make My Trip, and Hitesh Dhingra, founder of Flipkart owned Letsbuy, an online media company operating a retail website of electronics.
They looked at trends prevailing then and found that the number of girls moving to big cities to take up corporate jobs was increasing and they had no social life beyond work friends and Facebook. The trio decided to fill the gap that existed between Facebook and matrimonial sites with a dating site.
Business of dating
After months of brainstorming, they zoomed in on the name during discussions at a cafe and Savage Garden’s Truly Madly Deeply filtered through the sound system. “That was a serendipitous moment. We found that Truly Madly fitted with what we were aiming – Truly: to put out a site based on trust, real people; Madly: taking a leap of faith that we all need to take to meet someone,” says Bhatia.
Women, the co-founders spoke with, spelt out their concerns regarding trust about a dating site which led them to adopt Big Data and algorithms to check that the person on the site is single and active on social networks. It also uses trust-based scores. One can get on to the site using her Facebook profile. The user is verified through other social networks, offline photo ID and also phone number.
Truly Madly which was launched on Valentine’s Day in 2014 has around 100,000 engaged users on its app who spend 40 minutes on an average daily. Around 20 percent of women take the first initiative to engage in a conversation. Bhatia says that the high point for the founders is when they get a letter, almost daily he claims, from men and women saying they have met through the site and have got married.
The gross merchandising value (GMV) is estimated at $6 billion over the next 3-4 years. "We have just started monetising. We hope to get to 40 per cent of the market share as the leader," says Bhatia.
The plans for the future include a few acquisitions in events, books, content by the middle of the year, integrating new services, events and coming out with a social network for singles. “This is about monetizing what we have built,” he says.
Truly Madly keeps the 43-year-old young and peppy as he and his co-founders have to come up with interesting data and ideas to keep their users engaged. Bhatia is obsessed with fitness and starts his day before dawn at 5 am. He cycles, plays tennis in the evening and goes to the gym daily. Before hitting the bed, he loves to catch up on books that focus on history and politics.
Bhatia is unabashed about admitting that money is the matrix that keeps him going but besides that, he says, what keeps the adrenalin rushing is the constant lookout for ways to create something interesting, huge on scale, easy to use with technology that will make a difference to the people using the site. With Truly Madly, he and his co-founders have a generation from college and corporate office-goers who are willing to vouch for that.