In March 1997, still operating out of his father's garage and with his brother paying for server space in the us, Bikchandani's text-only Naukri.com went live. India had a total of 14,000 internet connections those days, and most of those were text-only connections. Yet, at the end of a year of operations, Naukri had made Rs 2.35 lakh and by the close of 1998-99, it made Rs 18 lakh. Bikhchandani and his collaborators knew they were onto something.
But late in 1999, Bikhchandani started facing new challenges. The internet was on everybody's lips and other companies had begun to enter the sphere of online job listings. Realising that Naukri was competing with rivals with far greater financial muscle, Bikhchandani, who had initially never wanted funding, decided that some money would be essential to survive. Despite several funding offers, he settled on ICICI Ecotec (now merged with ICICI Venture), which valued the firm at Rs 45 crore and took a 15 per cent stake for Rs 7.3 crore. The funding deal was closed in April 2000, days after InfoEdge had declared revenues of Rs 36 lakh for the year 1999-2000. A few months later, the dotcom bust would hit the world.
In late 1999, Bikhchandani made two decisions that would change InfoEdge forever. The first was to accept funding, and the second was to hire Hitesh Oberoi, an IIM-Bangalore and IIT-Delhi grad, who was then heading the regional ice-cream business of Hindustan Lever and had come to Bikhchandani for career advice on whether to join a dotcom from whom he had an offer. Before Oberoi knew, he was heading InfoEdge's marketing operations and one of the first things he did was to adopt an offline business model by recruiting sales people to actually go to companies and make sales.
Arun Natarajan is the Founder of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of information and networking services to the private equity and venture capital ecosystem in India. View free samples of Venture Intelligence newsletters and reports.