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May 29, 2007

Profile of Just Dial founder

The Mint has a profile of Just Dial's Founder & MD V.S.S. Mani. Just Dial, which is backed by SAIF, provides commercial information over telephone and the Internet.
The original investment has now grown into a company valued at $125 million (Rs521 crore) with a revenue in excess of Rs110 crore. Today, Just Dial receives almost 100,000 calls a day (or 36 million calls a year); it has a directory of two million establishments across 40 Indian cities. Some callers are entrepreneurs looking for suppliers or distributors. Others are customers shopping for a product or service—such as a housewife in New Delhi looking for caterers for a party (Just Dial offers an option where it takes down the email of the person and mails him or her a list of establishments offering the product or service). And still others call when they need a number in a hurry. Devottam Sengupta, a Mumbai-based lawyer, says he calls Just Dial when he is out on the road and has forgotten to make a dinner reservation at the restaurant of his choice.

The company has several variants of this service, one is online at www.justdial.com. (Mani claims that the site, which launched in the middle of March, gets over 200,000 page views a day). From May there will also be an SMS (message on mobile phones) service. Just Dial started off with a flat-fee for all establishments it listed and then moved to an advertising-led business model where it charged up to a 3000% premium for featured positions. Last year, Mani moved to a pay-per-lead model that he admits was inspired by Google Inc. Of the two million entries in Just Dial’s database, Mani adds, 60,000 are sponsored— much of the company’s revenue, he says, comes from these and advertisements.

Just Dial’s headquarters is a 20,000 sq. ft office in Mumbai’s Malad (West) area. The company employs 2,650 people across 11 offices. Madhu Nair, a senior executive at Just Dial, has worked with Mani for 11 years. “You won’t know who is the boss and who is the worker,” Nair says. The office has a cafe where most employees eat, and a training room. When the company started off it was a 25 sq. ft office in Mumbai’s Nariman Point area, Mani says. At last count, Just Dial’s offices occupied around 80,000 sq. ft across India.

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO 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.