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$2m deal on a paper napkin
Would you believe that the agreement to raise venture capital for MakeMyTrip was written and signed on a paper napkin over coffee? That was in 2000, when at the age of 31, a strong gut feeling that an online business in travel and stock broking would be a winning proposition lured me to quit my job as VP, Business Development, with GE Capital and write out a detailed business plan for the travel business with detailed five-year financial projections. During my second or third meeting with Neeraj Bhargav, a consultant with McKinsey, over coffee at the Crossroads Mall in Mumbai, he made a $2 million financial commitment to the project on behalf of e-Ventures on a paper napkin. Despite the very difficult years building up to the dotcom bust in 2005, we boast of a roughly Rs 7, 000 crore market cap today, following our recent listing on Nasdaq. Since we launched in 2000, primarily serving Indians in the US travelling to India, we have received three rounds of funding - in 2005, 2006 and 2007. I don't remember feeling euphoric at any juncture. For me, personally, the IPO has been the high point - a feeling not just of pride or joy, but bigger - a validation of my beliefs and the satisfaction of not having let down any of the people who trusted me through the initial turbulence by risking their money and careers.
After following the straight and narrow path in terms of acquiring an MBA degree from IIM Ahmedabad, working with ABN Amro, where work was more aligned to online stock broking, and then GE Capital, which exposed me to the then nascent internet industry in India, I chose to follow my heart over rational career progression and marry my entrepreneurial aspirations with a passion for travel. This was despite a strong risk aversion born of having a wife and baby at home.
The biggest challenge that lies ahead of me is to ensure that we retain our open, honest and transparent business environment by keeping out the ills of large corporations - politics and unproductive employee time, especially characteristic of multinational firms across geographies. And no, I don't think I could do this all over again.
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