When Sanjeev Bikhchandani launched recruitment platform Naukri.com in 1997, he had no clue of what the future held, how far the internet would go because there were no valuations of dot-coms or the presence of venture capital.
"I had a simple idea which was, ‘If we can get 500 companies every month to pay Rs 1,000 to list one job on the site, we will get Rs 5 lakh a month. That is Rs 60 lakh a year’,” Bikhchandani said during a fireside chat moderated by business consultant Vani Gupta Dandia in response to being asked whether he saw himself as a visionary at the time of starting the job portal.
The executive vice chairman of Info Edge, the parent company founded in 1995, recalled running a small company out of the garage in his house in Uttar Pradesh’s Noida, the Delhi suburb, earning an annual turnover of Rs 12 lakh. Sometimes he took a salary and sometimes not. Here, he thought to himself, “If in three years I could reap Rs 60 lakh a year, I could make a profit of Rs 10 lakh and take Rs 5 lakh home. Hence, there was no vision.”
Info Edge now has a clutch of online platforms in the matrimonial, real estate and educational segments, to name a few.
Touching upon the aspect of consumer insights that underpinned Naukri, Bikhchandani explained, “I firmly believe that successful businesses are often built on deep consumer insight. Every time we succeeded, it was because we … were innovating. Whenever, the innovation was based on some sort of a customer insight or some sort of an unsolved problem, we found it slightly easier to succeed.”
According to Bikhchandani—who among other things has had a three-year stint in advertising—Naukri emerged from a very simple observation. Bikhchandani, who was working at the marketing department of Horlicks at HMM or Hindustan Milkfood Manufacturers—now GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare India—as a product executive, each time the office copy of the magazine Business India came in, everybody would read it from the back. There used to be 35-40 pages of appointment ads at the back of Business India in those days.
At that time, Nestle and HMM were the two big FMCG companies and the observed behaviour was that they wouldn’t hire from each other. Bikhchandani had his Eureka moment when he realised that jobs were a high-interest category. When the internet first came in, Bikhchandani thought, “Why not collate all the newspaper ads and put them in one place on the net and call it ‘Naukri’?”
Every week, Bikhchandani would get 29 newspapers and magazines from across the country into Naukri’s office. “The more we uploaded, the more we broke into money,” he recalled.
Speaking of consumer insights, Bikhchandani took it further and stated that when Nestle launched its instant noodles brand Maggi in 1982/1983, he was unaware of the number of times its seasoning was changed. Today, at Naukri, they make two changes a week.
In the first edition of Storyboard18’s Visionaries recently held in Gurgaon, Suresh Narayanan, chairman and managing director of Nestle India, delivered a powerful keynote speech.
The evening also included stimulating panel discussions on key topics. One of them, mediated by Storyboard18’s Delshad Irani included prominent names such as Kulmeet Bawa, president and MD, SAP India; Aseem Kaushik, MD, L’Oreal India; Prativa Mohapatra, VP and MD, Adobe India; Sukhleen Aneja, CEO, Good Glamm Group; Madhav Sheth, CEO, HTECH; and Devendra Chawla, CEO, GreenCell Mobility. The panel shared insights on a rather interesting topic—the relationship between CEOs and their CMOs and if CMOs can be CEOs.
The event also included valuable discussions on the state of media quality in India by Saurabh Khattar, country manager, India, Integral Ad Science, and the promising future of generative AI in marketing by Gan.ai’s founder and CEO, Suvrat Bhooshan, both mediated by Storyboard18’s Shibani Gharat.
Storyboard’s Visionaries was predominantly an occasion to celebrate CMOs who have made a deep impact through their work that has catapulted the growth of their respective companies and brands.
This first edition of Visionaries at Gurgaon felicitated leading lights such as Shashank Srivastava, executive director, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd; Paras Sharma, director and head of content and community partnerships, Meta India; Anita Nayyar, COO, media, branding and communications, Patanjali Ayurved; Sumit Mathur, CMO, Paytm; Sahibjeet Singh Sawhney, marketing head, Zomato; Ruchira Jaitly, CMO, Diageo India; Tarun Bhagat, CMO, India beverages, PepsiCo; and Vikrant Mudaliar, CMO, Dream11, Virat Khullar, group head - marketing, Hyundai Motor India and Saurabh Jain, regional marketing directir & SPOC, South Asia, Reckitt Hygiene; Anoop Manohar, CMO, Axis Bank; Kartik Mohindra, CMO, Pernod Ricard India; Rajat Abbi, vice president, global marketing, Schneider Electric; Sunil Suresh, CMO, Air India; Raj Rishi Singh, CMO and CBO, MakeMyTrip; Rahul Talwar, CMO, Max Life; Rajeev Jain, director, corporate marketing, DS Group; Pooja Baid, CMO, Philips Domestic Appliances; Anukool Kumar, head of marketing, India, Tinder; Ankit Desai, CMO, Hersheys India; Rahul Singh, vice president and head of marketing and sales, SAP; and Ashish Tiwari, CMO, Home Credit India were among the many others also felicitated.
For more on Storyboard18 Visionaries click here.