Sanjeev Bikhchandani: The career entrepreneur

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December 12, 2019 6:11 AM

If there was someone who had total faith in his ability to build a business and backed him to the hilt, it was his jeevansathi, Surabhi, a batchmate from IIM Ahmedabad. Those were tough times and the business took a lot out of him. What it couldn’t take out were some of his middle class values.

Sanjeev Bikhchandani, jeevansathi,ICICI Venture, iim ahmedabad, 99acres.com, Jeevansathi.com, Shiksha, tech based start-ups, Zomato, Policybazaar, Meritnation, UstraaSanjeev Bikhchandani

He’s India’s original start-up guy. Fed up with the daily routine and humdrum existence of the office-goer, Sanjeev Bikhchandani decided he would make a living by helping others find naukris. So he stopped selling Horlicks and set up a jobs portal. Much like many of  the start-ups around the world, Naukri.com too  was conceived in a garage, his father’s.

Bikhchandani bootstrapped the business with his savings until in 2000, ICICI Venture invested Rs 7.3 crore. That was just before recession hit the globe and Bikhchandani recalls, how they used the money sparingly knowing the times were difficult. To this day he believes it’s important to spend wisely and has great regard for companies that use capital efficiently. And for this reason, he will forever remain a fan of Google.

If there was someone who had total faith in his ability to build a business and backed him to the hilt, it was his jeevansathi, Surabhi, a batchmate from IIM Ahmedabad. Those were tough times and the business took a lot out of him. What it couldn’t take out were some of his middle class values.

Bikhchandani recalls how, a few months before he was to be married, he gently broke the news about wanting to turn entrepreneur to his future father-in-law.
He also remembers writing market survey reports to earn a little money on the side to be able to finance his cigarettes. And also film for his camera; he was an avid photographer and often visited bird sanctuaries especially his favourite Bharatpur.

If the efficient use of capital stood InfoEdge in good stead, the strategy that helped it to break into HR departments across the country was the use of an on-the-ground sales fleet. It might seem odd that an online portal like Naukri.com was using feet on the street but it was the late nineties and early 2000s and email hadn’t become the default channel of communication that it has today. Bikhchandani and his team knew it was important to sell to HR heads across the table rather than write mails they might not read. That bond continues till today — InfoEdge has a market capitalisation of Rs 30,000 crore having grown its revenues at a compounded 16.5% and operating profits before tax by 17.5% compounded, between FY14-FY19.

Over the years, the company has set up several online portals — 99acres.com, Jeevansathi.com, Shiksha — and invested in tech-based start-ups — Zomato, Policybazaar, Meritnation and Ustraa. Even today Bikhchandani spends a few hours every day listening to budding entrepreneurs, hoping to spot a good idea. He’s excited about a food venture he’s invested in — a momo outfit — though he claims he’s not fit enough to eat too many of them. Neither can he binge on matri or mishti doi. But every now and then he lets the foodie in him have his way and gorges on some Japanese food.

Naukri.com will turn 25 in 2022 and Bikhchandani’s looking ahead at many more milestones. He admits he’s not able to switch off from work easily; even today he recalls the details of the outdated economics syllabus in college and to help the next generation get a better education, has with some friends, funded Ashoka University. His limited relaxation appears to be watching documentaries, especially ones on the World Wars. And yes, he does order in on Zomato.

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