Bhavin Turakhia is a serial tech entrepreneur and the Co-Founder & CEO of Directi. Directi boasts of 11 business units under its umbrella – four of which have been sold to the Endurance International Group in January, 2014. Currently, Directi’s business units include Ringo, Flock, Zeta, Radix, Media.net,Skenzo and Codechef. These businesses comprise of 1500+ people across 10 offices, with over 9 million customers, revenues over $300 million and a group enterprise value of $1.4 billion. His strong business skills, combined with a deep understanding of technology and market trends are what keep Directi a market leader in all its service offerings.
Bhavin has also written several noteworthy papers on technology and e-commerce trends, and has spoken at various seminars across the globe on topics ranging from advertising on the Internet to solutions for the startup ecosystem. He has won several awards in his career till date.
He is a respected personality in the Internet and Technology community, and a frequent speaker at various seminars, tech conferences and business college events. TechStory interacted with Bhavin to understand the secret behind his success that young entrepreneurs can adapt in their early startup life. With over 18 years of technology experience, Bhavin brings in a deep understanding of the entire industry, a strong technical background, a keen business sense, and most importantly, a clear vision of the future of the industry.
1. What according to you has triggered the growing number of SMBs going online in the recent years?
I believe there are a few factors:
Culturally, India has historically been a risk averse nation when it comes to career paths. This is a country where the desire of every parent was to see their child become a doctor or an engineer and get a cushy job in a large brand. Over the last 4-5 years there has been a brewing culture shift, where it is no longer a taboo, and potentially is even glamorous to be an entrepreneur or part of a startup. This change in the cultural mindset is a crucial aspect.
The amount of capital that has flown into India in the last 3 years has been potentially greater than the earlier decade. Easy access to capital always creates a platform for entrepreneurship.
It has become much easier to start a new business.
India is in many senses the last remaining “fast-growing” economy. We are one of the late entrants in the digital world and that makes this country of a billion people a land of opportunity in terms of high double or triple digit growth.
2. As a successful serial entrepreneur, how do you manage your time across different ventures?
To this day, I continue to believe that my main contribution is divided between strategy and recruitment. That is, identifying the right opportunities and identifying the best talent that can leverage them. Directi hires the best talent in the country, and I spend a lot of my time ensuring that. I tend to divide most of my time between my latest ventures – Ringo, Flock and Zeta currently.
3. Before taking up a venture, how do you assess the risk involved? What are the different strategies adopted from idea to conceptualization of a startup?
I actually take this process very very seriously. Before starting any business (and we have started 11 successful ones) I spend between 6-9 months thoroughly researching the space and understanding every aspect – tech, product, competition, landscape, industry, trends, regulations etc. I spend a fair bit of time identifying disruptive opportunities in the space and then figure out the area of focus.
4. Where should aspiring entrepreneurs focus on – monetization or problem solving?
On one hand a business is about making profits. Yet, it is ironic how many companies in the ecosystem have forgotten that. My fundamental formula for building a successful business is to ‘create more value through your product than the price you charge for it’. If you focus on “solving a problem” and solving it well, monetization will take care of itself.
A lot of businesses are failing today because they focus on incremental innovations, expanding user base, valuations and monetization even before strengthening the core of their business, which is to solve people’s problems. If you can get people to use your product without continuous discounts and cashbacks because you are offering them a great product that makes their life easier, then you are on the right track. With problem solving you create value, and revenue is a byproduct of it.
Our secret to success is a couple of things bound together.
From the very beginning, we started Directi with the fundamental belief that we as human beings share a moral obligation to make an impact on humanity that’s proportionate to our potential. It’s our duty to use our lives to make as much impact as we can.
This belief logically leads to problem solving. We are working on big problems at a fundamental level, where most other companies are stuck on doing incremental work. There are very few companies in this country that have built an innovative product from ground up and not a replica of an already existing product somewhere else. For all our businesses, we think about the fundamental issues and question the status quo to really change the way things work. Our pool of exceptional talent helps achieve this.
Additionally, with a lot of learning from others, we have been good at leveraging capital to generate profit and create value. We don’t engage in unsound non-sustainable spends, and focus on providing value to customers and becoming a profitable company. It’s a unique feature of all our businesses that each one of them becomes profitable in a fairly short window of time.
6. What is your advice to young entrepreneurs?
I have had the opportunity to learn along the way and i still continue to learn from others and their stories. If there is a single piece of advice I can give to anybody, which we have diligently followed at Directi, is to never compromise on the quality of talent that you hire.
Innovation is the need of the hour and it needs to happen fast because of the changing times and technology. At Directi, we are able to innovate and launch unique products at an unimaginable pace because we only hire the best and make no compromise there. I can confidently say that today at Directi we have a higher quality team than any company in this country. I still spend 30-40% of my personal time on recruitment and interviews and our quality bar keeps consistently increasing.
The other very important point may seem obvious, but a lot of players in the industry seem to be forgetting it. It must be remembered that the fundamental definition of a successful business is that you create more value for your consumer than the value you seek from them. That’s a sustainable business model and should be your first focus as an entrepreneur in building a product.