While scrolling down our Facebook or Instagram feeds, we often come across motivational quotes about life and living, urging us to keep doing what we need to in order fulfil our dreams. And more of than not, such quotes do give us a psychological boost to keep hustling, to keep moving forward to where we want to be.
But, how does it feel to actually cross off that milestone that had once looked a dream? How many of us get the chance to actually look back in retrospect and be able to revel in the bad and good days of the journey to the top? And then work harder to move towards the next milestone?
We actually know someone like that — Aloke Bajpai of ixigo. We caught up with him in an Inc42 Facebook Live AMA for a leisurely chat.
In 2006 Aloke Bajpai, along with his co-founder Rajnish Kumar, founded ixigo, a travel search platform that claims to connect over 80 Mn travellers with content and deals from over 25,000 online as well as offline partners. It aggregates and compares real-time travel information, prices, and the availability of flights, trains, buses, cabs, hotels, packages, and destinations.
The company has raised nearly $25.5 Mn funding from its investors, which includes Sequoia Capital, SAIF Partners, and Micromax, among others.
In its over 11 years of existence, the company has become a quick reference platform for millennials who love to travel. Of course, it’s taken the founders a lot of hard work and grit to get where they are today. And of course, they’ve had their good and bad days in the 11-year-long journey.
It’s faith in their vision that kept Aloke going, working hard every day, especially through the bad days. We asked Aloke Bajpai about the turning points in ixigo’s journey and he shared with us three key factors/events that shaped ixigo to become what it is today. And the lessons he learnt from them.
The first, he says, was the fact that the company was started with just one motive in mind — building a product that could help Indian travellers search and compare hotel information at one place, online.
“It was purely that passion that got us started. During those days, we did not even think about funding. Our focus was on developing a product that the world actually needs,” Aloke Bajpai shares.
Even though at the time they launched, there were already a couple of companies built around similar models and even though theirs was an unproven model in those days, the ixigo founders kept the faith in their vision. They genuinely believed that ixigo would offer a more user-friendly way of searching for travel information. Once they had the product, they talked to clients and received a lot of turndowns.
So, here comes the first lesson: As an entrepreneur, you will hear a lot of ‘no’.
“That does not mean that you are on the wrong path. Rather, it means that you are on a difficult path and if you are able to build that path for yourself, you will have created a new market. One thing we did successfully was that we created a blue ocean (strategy) in this red ocean of online travel aggregators (OTAs),” Aloke says.
Ixigo was the fifth OTA company to launch in India, with the other four being well-funded. Aloke believes that it is important to believe in your vision and not get dissuaded by all the ‘nos’ coming your way.
The second lesson for ixigo was that fundraising is not a cakewalk.
Aloke shares that fundraising was very difficult at the time as there were very few funds and they were not focused on tech products. Therefore, ixigo couldn’t attract investors and ended up raising seed fund from Singapore.
“The whole process made us realise that we have to learn to survive without money and we actually did that for several years. We actually raised our Series A more than four-and-a-half years after we started the company,” shares Aloke.
The third learning was related to this experience — forced to bootstrap, the ixigo founders figured that one doesn’t need a lot of money to build a product or a tech company.
Aloke contradicts those who believe that you can’t build a large-enough business without spending hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing, especially if you are building a B2C brand.
He says, “Here, we have 12 Mn monthly active users. In the cumulative decade, we have not spent more than $4 Mn-$5 Mn on marketing. That’s because we have consistently focused on the product-user experience, making sure we deliver what we promise. That has to be the DNA of any good product company.”
A Google India-BCG report expects that India’s travel market (both offline and online) will become a $48 Bn industry within the next three years. Looks like ixigo has found another milestone to achieve.