One of the biggest points that differentiates a startup from any other new business is its ability to endure and grow. Startups are built by individuals who lean onto the power of technology and innovation to cut through the noise, and hustle their way up even in the toughest of situations.
India has been fortunate to witness a breed of entrepreneurs who have taken upon themselves to solve the need of the masses. The founders too have been empowered by angels, venture capitalists (both Indian and foreign) who have supported them by providing capital to run and grow their business. Yet there are a few founders who believe that their product & business can sustain itself without external investment. One such story of ‘Bootstrapped yet profitable’ business is that of travel eCommerce firm ‘EaseMyTrip’, which went from bootstrapping to Rs 1400 crore in annual turnover in 8 years.
EaseMyTrip was founded by a group of brothers in 2008. The trio – Nishant Pitti, Rikant Pitti and Prashant Pitti – started the company from home-garage. Within 3 months they lost all investment (incurring losses due to fraud conducted by some miscreants), but still decided to move past that and start up again.
This was during the time when the popular travel companies like MakeMyTrip, Yatra, ClearTrip etc. had already established their presence both in the industry and in consumer minds. Nonetheless, the founders saw a space open for another travel firm, one that would focus more on the travel agents than the tourists themselves. “We started EMT to provide service only for travel-agents & corporation. We saw a huge gap there. Even till now 30% of our volumes come from travel-agents.” says Prashant.
He adds, “We catered to only to travel-agents in 1st few years, hence we did not need huge cash piles to market. We went door to door, showcasing them our better technology. Had we started purely with B2C mindset, we might not have reached where we are today. Our 1st year turnover itself was Rs 33 crores, and since then we have only seen 2-5X growth yearly.”
Growth, Competition and Present State
As mentioned above, the company still hasn’t raised any external investment and projects to hit an annual turnover of Rs 1400 crores in FY16-17. A 60% YoY growth from Rs 890 crore turnover in FY15-16. It has 28 offices across the globe, with 280 employees. When asked how were they able to sustain for so long despite of the tough competition, Prashant shared the following 5 reasons:
1. The patient game for last 8 years. Instead of burning-money and spending INR 1500 to acquire every new-customer (like all our well-funded competitors still do), we just never charged convenience-fees & focused on giving great services. Even when we were growing cash-positively every year, we still decided to not invest in marketing.
2. Amazing Retention. 83% of our customers have booked via EaseMyTrip more than 4 times. Plus our customers referred us wholeheartedly to their friends. During few dinner occasions, founders have overheard (conversation at nearby dinner-table), where someone would be informing their friends about zero convenience-fees at EaseMyTrip
3. No crazy hiring. We are still a lean team of 280 employees, which are directly managed and supervised by founding team. Ironically we have never hired folks from IIT or IIM. eCommerce is a wafer-thin margin business and frugality is the only way to keep it successful.
4. Keeping low profile. You would have hardly heard about us in media till now. We never hired a PR firm. We hardly visit startup conferences. We hardly ever get time to mingle outside of our business & customers.
5. Quick Decisions. Most of our experimental decisions are taken very quickly. We don’t allow delay or overthinking to kill the enthusiasm. Plus founding team being brothers, we don’t have to wait for approval from investor or external party.
“We are expecting 2X growth & hoping to see INR 2500+ crore booking for 2016-17” says Prashant.
The founders plan to grow their hotel and holiday space by 10X in 2017. It has handpicked & partnered with top 868 hotels across India based on their TripAdvisor ratings. On a separate note, to help tourist in cases of emergencies (medical or theft), it has tied-up with 450+ NRIs across every major city in the world.
The Brains Behind the EMT
Nishant Pitti, Co-founder – A seasoned travel mogul with more than 8 years of experience in travel industry. Nishant looks after finance-dept & relationships with airlines, hotels and agents. Nishant recently forayed into movie industry and has successfully co-produced movies like Madaari & Freaky-Ali
Rikant Pitti, Co-founder – A tech wizard with more than 8 years of experience in managing entire technology of EaseMyTrip. Rikant also manages marketing & customer-support at EaseMyTrip. His hobbies include travelling, cars & remaining abreast with technology
Prashant Pitti, Director – Prashant looks after corporate, holidays & expansion opportunities at EaseMyTrip. He is an alumnus from IIT Madras, has worked in few banks in Chicago & has multiple startup experience. Prashant hobbies include meditation & running