When I started off back in 1997, I wanted to do something in the internet space but was clueless about what to do. It took me two years to figure out the opportunity in the matrimony space. Also, it was a one-man show to begin with where I was the designer, marketer, promoter, all in one. So one key attribute entrepreneurs need to learn is 'passion' to do what they want and 'patience' to see it through.
Additionally, I am a very strong believer of the fact that 'unintended consequences will produce far better results than intended consequences'. What I mean by this is that if you want certain things to happen in a certain way, but they don't, you should continue to put 100 per cent effort and you will realise that the very same unintended consequences will reap far better results than what the intended consequences could have produced.
Here are a few instances from my life to support the same theory:
1. While studying, I wanted to do BSc in chemistry but did not get the course, instead got admitted for BSc statistics. Later when I was applying for MCA, I found out that students of BSc chemistry were not eligible to apply for the course, whereas BSc statistics students could. And if I had not done MCA, I would not have been what I am today; I would have been working in a chemistry lab.
2. The dot com burst happened a few years after I started my business; if it had not happened, Matrimony.com would not have been what it is today. The reason is that I did not have any money and it was only because of the dot com burst that we were able to tie up with the likes of Rediff, MSN and Sify (as matrimony channel partners) paying very little money. This ensured that we got a lot of traffic (and were able to monetise it), which we would not have received otherwise.
3. Also, initially I was only working part-time for the business, and was also working as a consultant for another company. I always wanted to join full time but since it was a loss making business in the beginning (like all startups are), I thought it's better to continue a steady source of income. Around the same time I got laid off from my job; hence had no option but to join the business full time, which actually worked in my favour in the long run. If I hadn't been laid off I would have never been able to give the business the amount of time it required and would have probably kept postponing the same.
Unintended consequences like these shaped us to become what we are today.
The next advice I would like to share is never lose faith. If things don't work out, there may be learning from that, or something much more interesting will be waiting for you around the next corner.
In 2006, we raised around Rs 40 crore but in a year blew it all, because we didn't have the understanding of how to use it efficiently. So we were left with hardly any money and were trying to raise the second round. Finally, I had to pledge my house to borrow some money. It was a very challenging time for us. Then when we finally raised series B, the slowdown happened in 2008 and we started losing money again. Also, our valuation became less than even 50 per cent of what it was in Series B; so we couldn't even raise a third round. Hence we decided to rough it out. Those four-five months were a very intense time for us, but it is during this time that the company turned around completely.
This was also the time when I transformed from an entrepreneur to a CEO. Till then I was focusing on only a few aspects of the business like technology and innovation—the things I was good at—and left everything else to others. But as a CEO in those tough times, I also took charge of finance, sales and marketing, in addition to what I was already doing, in the process started handling every aspect of the company for the first time since its inception.
So never lose faith, and always believe in the power of unintended consequences, you never know what they have planned for you.
(As told to Techcircle.in by Murugavel Janakiraman, founder, Matrimony.com)