Inspiring Start-ups: How JustDial Made It Big Just In Time
Back in the old days there was one massive directory that had names and addresses of every vendor, business and other classified listings in one place. As the world progressed we outgrew these hefty books but ended up having some common names on our mobile phone books. But not everyone will have a handy man handy all the time.
What is JustDial?
JustDial came into the market to fill up this void left by the yellow pages and directories. A place where you can get answers to every need, all you need to do is “just dial”. The idea was to offer classifieds listings of small businesses for a yearly charge. People can search for businesses via call, SMS, website, or now through its mobile app. But it wasn’t this simple to begin with and it is a brand that evolved over time as did the thought and mindset of its founder.
The JustDial Timeline
- Founded in 1996 by Mr. VSS Mani, Mumbai-based Just Dial is now a household name. But the initial steps of Mr. Mani’s career weren’t nearly as smooth. He failed at his first business ‘AskMe’ in 1989 as money ran out due to huge overheads. JustDial started at this juncture, in a humble 300 sq.ft. garage with a few pieces of borrowed furniture, rented computers and a seed capital of just INR 50,000. The focus was to accumulate numerous small customers instead of a few big customers.
- When the dotcom collapse of 2000 happened, most online companies collapsed, JustDial survived as they had small bets on the internet and focused more on voice enabled local search and marketing up till 2002.
- They finally launched their web version in 2007 over several discussions about whether to go ahead and notable concerns of whether the internet business would eat up their voice based business. But all doubts were put to rest while they rode the telecom and internet surge to perfection.
- With the big city market now mostly saturated, JustDial now aimed to grab the small city markets as well. Though the idea of a telecom based company entering into web based market was negated by many as they were not a tech based company, the same idea of human assisted search is finding quite a lot of takers in the US market (where talking to actual humans is rare.)
Today JustDial is one of the few such businesses in India to go for an IPO. They have funding over US$103.2 million, from key investors such as, SAIF Partners, Tiger Global, SAP Ventures, Public shareholders. The company is listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange with a valuation of just under US$1 billion. It now has over 15 million listings and employs about 9,000 people.
It has the largest number of reviews and ratings in the world, over 2.5 million. What’s their secret? The company takes real time feedback from customers for ratings/reviews and then uploads the results to their site.
Awards & Accolades
JustDial boasts of several awards and accolades, which they earned over the years. Some significant ones are:
- Ernst & Young Awards – 2013: E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year (Services) Award
- Young Turks Awards – 2012: Jury Special Commendation Award
- VCCircle Annual Awards – 2012: Best VC-backed Media & Communication Company
- Amity Global Business School – 2012: Amity Corporate Excellence Award for Customer Service
- Citi Commercial Bank – Empowering growth of Emerging Enterprises 2012- Award For Innovation In Business Process
- Red Hat and JBoss Innovation Awards – 2010- International Red Hat Innovation Award
Entrepreneurship is Key
The man behind this huge venture has some pearls of wisdom for the next gen business minds and startup geniuses. Mr. VSS Mani says, “Remember, entrepreneurship is different. It’s not like a regular job. It’s a calling. So don’t do it unless you have it in you. It has to come from inside. Not because someone told you, or copying someone else. And remember, there will be lots of failures. And learn from them. Don’t do minor, incremental things that copy someone else’s idea. Do something disruptive. Don’t do coupons.”