(Murugavel heads the BharatMatrimony Group as Chief Executive Officer, with the portfolio comprising of BharatMatrimony.com, BharatMatrimony Centre, ClickJobs.com, IndiaProperty.com, IndiaAutomobile.com and IndiaList.com. His Vision to give back to the society through the Internet also spurred him to launch a no-profit corporate social responsibility initiative BharatBloodBank.com)
First, congratulations on the stellar IPO debut. This has been an enduring journey from ~4000 members to being a record-holder in number of marriages over the portal. With close to a dominating 60-percent market share in the online matrimony, what has kept matrimony.com undeterred by competition?
Thank you for your kind words on the IPO. I can attribute matrimony.com’s resilience to a couple of key actions we executed here. First, our strategy to segment the portal into sub-categories with each to cater to a focus community, religion or group. When you think of the diverse culture base in India, one can really appreciate the need for such a segment which help find people belonging to similar groups and beliefs; hence, we started several categories like MarathiMatrimony, HindiMatrimony, ChristianMatrimony, MuslimMatrimony, and so on covering a span of almost 300 sub-portals under the umbrella brand of BharatMatrimony. Next, would be our focus on strengthening product technology along with analytical capabilities. Finally, all in all, we continue to have razor-sharp focus on every function of our business since the last seventeen years.
While many internet companies crashed and burned during the ‘dotcom-bubble burst’,
BharatMatrimony has been a great example of turning challenges into opportunities.
BharatMatrimony struck an alliance with big Indian names like Rediff & Sify at much affordable rates. What’s your take on facing challenges and exploring opportunities from a career perspective.
I strongly believe that every challenge thrown your way is an opportunity for you to get better. Interestingly, in China, the symbol for luck is an exact reverse of the symbol for challenge.
I believe challenges, quite often than not, define turning points in life. One needs to have the maturity and belief to face these challenges and do whatever it takes to overcome it instead of wallowing in self-pity and regret. Every challenge brings along key lessons and these learnings are essential to personal as well as professional progress and success.
~2008, just before the meltdown, BharatMatrimony had diversified into various segments and was burning a considerable amount of cash on the marketing front. What are your thoughts on diversification and focus?
Coming to think of it now, the diversification move was not a very prudent thing to do at that time. But, as the saying goes – hindsight is 20/20. This was not a good move owing to a couple of reasons. One, we did not have sufficient capital to build a large set of diversified verticals. Unlike today, VC money was not very easy to raise. To put things into perspective, we have raised only INR 99 crores over the past seventeen years!
Along with capital, getting a strong management and leadership team in place was also a huge challenge, the absence of which went on to become one of the prime reasons for the diversification strategy to fall apart.
As mentioned earlier, challenges and mistakes are meant to be lessons and we learned quick. We started re-aligning our focus on the brand and started acting in a focused fashion. Soon, we were working hard towards building the brand and it has yielded well. Today, in the last 3 million members that we have added, almost 90% have joined in organically – that is, without spending any money on acquisition. This is the brand that we built with sheer focus.
BharatMatrimony has survived quite a number of events and economic cycles and yet continues to maintain a strong financial position. What is your mantra on managing money?
The difference begins with a few questions – a few questions that need to be asked before incurring any expense. One, do we need to incur this cost? And two, is there a better and more cost-efficient way to address this need?
While one needs to have a maniacal focus on earning more, losing track of expenses is a sure-shot way to negate all the value you bring in.
What’s your piece of advice for the youth to take it from zero to one?
For the youth, I would split my advice into two segments – one for the budding entrepreneurs and next for aspiring professionals.
For entrepreneurs, it is very important to focus on getting the product-market-fit right. Once this is figured out, the next would be to focus on the five principles – getting new users, activating them, engaging them, retaining them and finally, monitoring them.
The three ‘C’s are key to professional success – culture, commitment, competency. Competency can be acquired and learned over time and commitment will develop if you love what you do, but none of these can happen unless you have yourself the right culture- that is, the right attitude.