Anupam Mittal: I would agree with the assessment that we were seven or eight years too early. I wouldn't say in 1996, but in 2001, yes, we were a decade too early. Today, businesses and especially the internet, is all about catching the right cycle. However, when you are too early from the demand curve, what ends up happening is you don't have hyper competitiveness, and you tend to get complacent, and then you take things slowly and start thinking that you're the biggest fish in the pond.
So I think had we started in 2008, we would have probably achieved the same success as what we did in the period from 2001 till 2012. Maybe we wouldn't have learned so much, but overall when there's hyper competitiveness and the entire ecosystem is buzzing with activity, the energy that you get and the speed with which you operate, becomes very different from operating in an industry which appears dead and lacks competitiveness. From that point, we were a few years early, but I personally feel that no other way would have worked for Shaadi.com.
CIO: What have been some of the lessons that you learned along the way for Shaadi.com?
Anupam Mittal: There were many. First lesson was: Momentum is very critical, never compromise on it. When you have momentum, it's the best time to build. Giving away the lead is the worst thing that you can do in an Internet business because it takes a lot of time to recover from it, and sometimes you never even get a chance. So if you're number one, make sure that your next player is positioned at number ten.
As an entrepreneur, we are wired to be distracted because we are opportunists. Distraction is good to start a business but focus is critical if you're going to scale a business--that's was another important lesson that I learnt.
Never compromise on talent. Find good, pedigreed, entrepreneurial, and professional talent if you're going to make the journey and build something valuable. So that was lesson number three.
CIO: How did you manage to fend off competition from other matrimony sites such as Bharat Matrimony? What do you think is your unique differentiator as compared to your competitors?
Anupam Mittal: To be honest, I think we lost a bit of the lead after 2009. We took our eye off the road and got distracted by too many things, and we didn't leverage the momentum like we should have. But I think we bounced back really well. Today, no one can say that capital or technology is a differentiator. Capital will be available to every good product and business, and technology is available to everyone. What differentiates Shaadi.com is our work culture. We are extremely paranoid about user experience and that comes alive in the interactions and feedbacks our users give us. And that's what creates the ultimate differentiator and stays in the long term.
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