Technology is what has kept an 18-year-old People Group going in an industry where businesses run the risk of becoming obsolete, sometimes too soon. We spoke to Anupam Mittal, Chairman and MD, People Group, a company that owns internet businesses such as Shaadi.com, Makaan and Mauj Mobile, who shared a few secrets from the success of his many entrepreneurial ventures, and his new job as an angel investor.
CIO: You have come a long way since 1996. How have you managed to survive the dotcom bust and stay relevant even today?
Anupam Mittal: We have been around for a really long time. Technically, Shaadi.com was founded in 1996 but didn't really focus on the business till early 2002. For the first five years, it was more of an experiment. Finally in 2002 we started evolving Shaadi.com seriously, and that was really the time we started putting any energy into it. Fortunately for us, the dotcom had bust, so everything, from hiring engineers and designers, had become cheap.
At the time, most people had written off internet businesses. But we saw a huge potential in building something long term. In the short term, people always overestimate the impact of technology, but in the long term, they underestimate it. But I believed that long term could change a lot of things and we started investing in an internet business at a time when most people weren't. So there was no competition and that worked really well for us. It was not a hyper competitive market, so it gave us a lot of time to make mistakes and rectify them.
The next phase came post 2009, when social media, and especially Facebook, took over, and competition in our space increased with new players emerging, and then we knew that the old style of marketing wasn't going to work anymore. We decided that we were going to create a compelling user experience for our users. We realized that when it comes to matchmaking, we had to be better than anybody else. While Facebook is a medium used to discover friends and replicate real life in the virtual world, it's not optimized to find a life partner. So we thought we must spend our energy in optimizing Shaadi.com in such a way that not only direct competition, but even social networks couldn't offer such a service.
Therefore, from 2009 till 2013, our journey has been about making Shaadi.com a user-centric organization where several 100 people are trying to find the right match for our customers, and that's our unique differentiator.
CIO: Do you ever think you were a decade and a half too early?
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