9/11, dot-com bust taught us that innovation is key, says MakeMyTrip's Rajesh Magow
Magow tells Firstpost about his work, the challenges the firm faced in its initial years, the future plans and also about his passion—the adrenalin thumping world of sports
Success Quotient is a weekly feature that appears every Friday in Firstbiz, 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.
A topper in college, a degree in chartered accountancy and working with some big names in the corporate world, Rajesh Magow, Co-Founder and CEO- India, MakeMyTrip did not find his mojo until he met up with this business partner Deep Kalra, through a head hunter. Saying 'yes' to joining the firm changed the course of his career that he can't contain his enthusiasm 14 years later. Magow tells Firstpost about his work, the challenges the firm faced in its initial years, the future plans and also about his passion—the adrenalin thumping world of sports—where he says that he has more than merely rubbed shoulders with known names.
Excerpts from the conversation:
When you started MakeMyTrip, there were hardly any travel companies in the online space. Today, there are several options. What do you make of this trend?
eCommerce is growing at a fast pace in India. Online travel was one of the first segments to really take off in eCommerce. With the penetration of mobile internet and new technologies, many new users have been brought online. There is, therefore, a lot of room for growth in the category. People have become more internet-friendly and the trend is moving towards mCommerce, i.e. mobile ticketing. We are geared up to service this growing segment and look forward to creating innovative products and services for Indian travellers.
How does this affect your business?
Competition drives us to innovate and better ourselves. MakeMyTrip is India’s leading Travel Company. Our comprehensive offerings coupled with the convenience of online transactions supported with great-value prices have revolutionised the way Indians purchased travel services. We continue to lead the market with innovative products and services. MakeMyTrip is more than just a travel portal – it is a one-stop-travel-shop that offers the broadest selection of travel products and services in India.
What has been the biggest learning for you at MakeMyTrip?
We faced quite a few challenges in the initial years of setting up MakeMyTrip. Global events like the 9/11 terror attacks in the US, the dot-com bubble burst and the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) had a direct impact on the travel business. Funding was hard to come by. At one point we were advised to shut down the business but we were convinced about our idea and believed in it whole heartedly so there really was no turning back for us. I think what this period showed us was how unpredictable things could get despite the most thorough planning and robust forecasts. Success was determined by the ability to think on our feet, and not give in to panic. Self-belief and an unrelenting focus on innovation have been the building blocks of MakeMyTrip and continue to inspire us to this day.
What are the expected revenues for the company in 2015? Where would you like the company to be in the future in terms of growth, revenues?
Our strategic approach is to build mobile-first offerings to tap into the emerging segment powered by the growth of mobile internet. In our last earnings results, we improved our fiscal year 2015 annual revenue less service cost guidance to a constant currency growth of 30 percent-31 percent, which is in the range of $137 million to $138 million.
What are you asked most at gatherings where family and friends meet?
Leading a travel business, one of course becomes the de-facto source of travel tips and advice. Although discounted airline tickets is something I can never get used to, since the margin on that product is so low. I tell everyone that MakeMyTrip offers great deals on hotels and holidays since we have greater flexibility in pricing, but flight tickets have to be sold at airline-mandated price so there is no extra discount there! Especially for short notice travel.
Did you dream of a career that takes you zipping across places? How much do you enjoy that?
I studied as a Chartered Accountant and in the early stage, finance function usually does not involve a lot of travel. But I was always interested in travelling as a child, although I got more opportunities when I started my corporate life. After joining MakeMyTrip of course the travel has increased manifold. So, it’s nice how things worked out. We travel at least once a quarter to meet our investors in the US and sometimes in Singapore. It is usually very hectic with little time for personal interests, but I take some time out to shop for my kids and check out a few things of interest (especially sporting events).
What are you reading now?
I am reading Playing It My Way by Sachin Tendulkar. I am a huge sports fan. I also play cricket so there is natural interest in Tendulkar and his perspective on the game and his career.
Which is your favorite go-to place for de-stress? And how has it helped?
To de-stress, I practice yoga and also spend time playing cricket and badminton with my kids. I like beach destinations and Maldives is the best of them all that I have visited so far. Among business cities, I like San Francisco, New York and London. While New York is modern and full of energy, London is calmer and has beautiful architecture.
What are your hobbies? How often are you able to indulge them?
I love following all sports. I play cricket and badminton; playing an exhibition match at Lords with players like Shaun Pollock, Darren Gough, Bret Lee, Andrew Strauss, and Michael Vaughn was like dream come true for me! My aim is to watch major sporting events live across the world. So far I have managed to check out Wimbledon Championship, the US Open, and cricket matches in Melbourne, Sydney and Lords. I am looking forward to the 2015 World Cup final in Australia!
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