Interview of Aloke Bajpai Founder & CEO – Ixigo
27 October 2016
Interview of Aloke Bajpai Founder & CEO - Ixigo
- Posted by Awfis Editorial
27 October 2016
19 September 2019
Even as you juggle multiple deadlines through the day, chances are you are checking your phone every other minute to treat your tired senses to a visual euphoria. Over time, Instagram has replaced the office water cooler; it’s where you find fodder for fashion gossip, discover updates about the outside world, and get updates about your colleagues’ personal lives. However, this wasn’t always the case. From a social platform that once best served aesthetic snobs, Instagram has come a long way. But have you ever wondered about what went into its making and how it became an overnight sensation? Read on to know.
The road to entrepreneurship
Instagram founder and CEO, Kevin Systrom, was a child prodigy who got into coding early in his childhood. He graduated from Stanford University in 2006 and went to work for Google as an Associate Product Marketing Manager. However, Kevin always had the itch to do something with the social space and so, in 2009, he joined Nextstop.com, an online travel recommender, as their Product Manager. Nextstop.com is where he realized that entrepreneurship is his calling, and this is where it all began!
Burbn, Instagram’s predecessor
While at Nextstop.com, Systrom took out time to work on an idea that he had in his mind for quite some time. It was a location-based photo sharing app that he chose to call Burbn because of his love for the namesake drink. He got the prototype ready and presented it to Baseline Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz at a party in January 2010. He quit Nextstop.com soon after, leaving the rest to luck, which didn’t disappoint. Within 2 weeks of quitting, he got a seed funding of $500,000 from both, Baseline Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz.
But before he could go full-throttle, he knew that he had to find a co-founder. Mike Krieger, a fellow Stanford graduate, was excited about the idea and the duo built Burbn together. Burbn allowed users to check-in to locations, make plans, earn points for hanging out with friends, post pictures, etc.
The birth of Instagram
Burbn was a failure; people were using the app to just share photos and didn’t want anything to do with the host of other features that it offered. When it came to sharing pics, users naturally preferred already existing apps like Facebook and Hipstamatic.
This failure led to the birth of Instagram as we know it. The duo decided to strip Burbn off every other feature and focus only on photo sharing. They began by studying the competition in the market. Although Hipstamatic had really cool filters, it was a task to share photos on the app, and Facebook’s iPhone app didn’t have a great photo-sharing feature. The duo saw an opportunity here; they decided to develop an easy-to-use app that made social photo-sharing simple, interactive and fun.
After eight weeks of experimenting and prototyping over countless bottles of Red Bull, Instagram was finally born on October 12, 2010.
The overnight success
Within just two hours of Instagram’s launch, its servers started crashing because of an incredible rush of traffic. Kevin and Mike had to burn the night oil to get the servers back up and keep them running. If rumours are to be believed, more than 250,000 people had signed up on Instagram within 24 hours of its launch!
Users loved the entire presentation of Instagram. They got hooked to the way the app allowed them to make their photographs unique without having to give out too much personal information or going through the hassles of building a network of friends. Users just had to follow others and share pictures, which made Instagram an instant hit! Instagram reached a record-breaking 7 million users just within 9 months, including some highly influential celebrities like Justin Bieber and Ryan Seacrest.
The acquisition by Facebook
While most people signed up on Instagram to share cool pictures, they eventually ended up trading likes and comments, making for a whole new social graph. This made Mark Zuckerberg notice the rising popularity of the app. In fact, Facebook saw an alarming decline in the number of people using the app to post photos; they were sharing pics via their Instagram handles instead. This bothered Mark and that’s when he thought of acquiring Instagram. He went to Kevin with the proposal.
Incidentally, during the same time, Kevin received an offer from Jack Dorsey (now CEO of Twitter) to buy Instagram for $500 million. Moreover, Kevin was also being offered a great amount of funds from Sequoia Capital, which he was more inclined towards. But Mark wasn’t someone to take no for an answer and he finally floated an offer to buy Instagram for $1 billion in cash and stock, in April 2012. Even after the acquisition, Instagram would remain an independently managed company.
Had the co-founders not tasted failures initially, Instagram would never have existed, and who knows what the future of Burbn would have been? In the words of Systrom himself, “It’s about going through false starts. Burbn was a false start. The best companies in the world have all had predecessors. YouTube was a dating site. You always have to evolve into something else.”
20 August 2019
The world’s largest democracy, India has seen the rise of quite a few entrepreneurs over the decades. Their passion, vision, and commitment to their dream, despite all setbacks, has inspired and continues to inspire generations. At times when market volatility was at the mercy of a completely different set of socio-economic variables, these entrepreneurs went all in to create history and write the score for the stable Indian economy we know of today. We celebrate 7 such Indian entrepreneurs who redefined the notions of doing business in the country. Read on.
Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata (1904-1993)
Who doesn’t know the pioneer businessman and Bharat Ratna awardee, JRD Tata?His unparalleled business acumen along with his humanitarian works have earned him respect worldwide. He will always be remembered as a benevolent and ethical businessman who put the interests of his company and its people before his self. Not to mention his legendary ability to take risks and think out of the box! Who else would have thought of venturing into civil aviation in 1932 when the world around was reeling under war and the technology market was hot? You guessed it right; no one else did, and that’s how Tata Airlines (now Air India) was born!
Dhirubhai Ambani (1932-2002)
Dhirubhai Ambani, the man behind Reliance Industries, needs no introduction. His commitment to the shareholders’ interests and his marketing vision will keep inspiring generations to come. His keen eye for identifying opportunities, howsoever small, and converting them into hugely profitable ventures at times when the environment wasn’t very business-friendly, hasn’t been matched so far. He literally shaped India’s stock market by bringing in hordes of retail investors in an otherwise monopolised marketplace. His success story is proof of the fact that with the right attitude and a keen eye, every challenge is an opportunity for growth.
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw (1953-present)
One of the first women entrepreneurs of post-independent India, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is a name to be reckoned with. She came in as a rookie in a largely male-dominated business world and pioneered the field of biotechnology in India with her company, Biocon Limited, which she launched in 1978. Despite facing credibility challenges, owing to her young age and an unheard-of business model, her indomitable spirit is what kept her going. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is worth $2.4 billion today and is a living testimony of how unwavering commitment to creating a nichein an otherwise hostile environment can go a long way in crafting success.
Sunil Mittal (1957-present)
The founder and chairman of Bharati Enterprises, Sunil Mittal has scripted one of the most inspiring and enduring success stories. Bharati Enterprises faced several failures in his initial years, but Mittal patiently waited for his moment for almost 20 years to eventually incorporate Airtel in 1995, and the rest is history. His incredible growth, despite the roller-coaster journey, to become one of the richest Indians is an example of the fact that perseverance can move mountains.
NR Narayana Murthy (1946-present)
TIME magazine has described him as the father of the Indian IT sector; need we say more? NR Narayana Murthy’s success story is underlined by humility, patience, and a customer-centric approach. In the words of the man himself, “If we wanted to create a great company, we should be optimistic.”He launched Infosys in 1981, at a time when India wasn’t even an open economy and still made it possible to outsource IT services; that’s the kind of vision and courage he possessed!Not to mention how crucial he was to the design and implementation of the Global Delivery Model of IT services that actually keptthe Indian economy from falling apart.
Vijay Shekhar Sharma (1978-present)
Vijay Shekhar Sharma is the founder of India’s most successful mobile payments company, Paytm. From going bankrupt in 2005 to being named as India’s youngest billionaire by Forbes magazine in 2017, Vijay’s journey is nothing short of awe-inspiring. His belief in himself and his passion for crafting unique solutions is what held him back from calling it quits. In his own words, “There is no fun in doing what others ask you to do, the real fun is in doing what people say you can’t do.”
Bhavish Aggarwal (1985-present)
A tech prodigy, Bhavish Aggarwal launched Ola Cabs in 2011 in an attempt to capitalize on the then nascent M-commerce market. He had the clarity in vision to identify the gaps in the market and release a product that would allay the pain points of the customers in a simple and effective manner. Today, Ola is the most popular digital cab aggregator service in India with a net market worth of $6.2 billion. This only goes on to prove how implementing scalable models is crucial to business success in the present market scenario. According to Bhavish, one of the best and safest models one should adopt is running a business with zero inventory.
The road to success is quite often set with a lot of setbacks and hurdles, and it takes unwavering determination and belief in oneself to make it to the end. As JRD Tata has rightly put, “Nothing worthwhile is ever achieved without deep thought and hard work.”
19 July 2019
Earlier this year, Amazon hosted re:MARS, an AI event for Machine learning, Automation, Robotics, and Space. The event saw eminent personalities from the industry come together to share how these fields will shape the future. While the event featured profound and insightful discussions around AI, the world’s richest man and Amazon founder & CEO, Jeff Bezos,had quite a few nuggets of wisdom to share. “Come to me if you are willing to play the gamble with me on disruptive ideas,” he said. Read on to get a glimpse of what Jeff Bezos considers as crucial to success.
In a freewheeling firechat at the event, Bezos emphasized that he is very stubborn on big ideas. “I’m flexible on the details but I don’t like to give up on things that we’re working on”, he said.
The journey to a successful business is laid with many setbacks and hurdles. We live in times dominated by ever-evolving customer needs, where technology is creating ripples through the market every minute. Amid such unpredictability, it is a firm belief in your idea that holds your business together and motivates you to stay ahead of the market trends. In fact, according to a recent research by SmallBiz, 90% of the new startups fail while 44% hardly survive 4 years.
Your idea may seem unrealistic to you at times. Self-doubt is inevitable, but it shouldn’t give way to quitting on your idea; if anything, it should only motivate you to take your idea to the next level. Take it from the successful people; Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos, they all started with a firm belief in their ideas, and the rest is history.
“If you want to be an entrepreneur, the most important thing is to be customer obsessed, so don’t just satisfy your customers, figure out how to absolutely delight them”, Bezos told the gathering.
Truer words haven’t been spoken. The market is continuously evolving, and customers have more options to choose from now than ever before. In fact, according to a recent report, 67%customers are willing to switch brands because of poor customer service. So just satisfying their demands isn’t going to make the cut anymore; you must go a step ahead and craft solutions and services that absolutely delight them.
Delighted customers are the cornerstones of a successful business, as is evident from the success of companies like Apple and Microsoft.
“The number one thing is passion — whosoever your customers are. You have got to have some passion for the arena that you’re going to develop and work in. Otherwise, you’re going to be competing against people who do have the passion for that. And they’re going to build better products and services”, Bezos maintained at the event.
Passion is what drives you to do what you love; it bestows you with a unique vision of the world that most others miss out on. Steve Jobs, for instance, had the vision to create a phone with just one button on the front. Jeff Bezos was passionate about creating an online store that sold everything. Passion is the fuel that drives you to success, a core belief that keeps you going strong even when others don’t see it your way.
“The good news is”, Bezos added, “at Amazon, we still take risk all the time. We encourage it. We talk about failure. We should be failing.” He further said it is important that risk takingand customer centricity are encouraged at startups.
Nothing is achieved overnight. It takes determination, perseverance, andwillingness to tread the unknown, risky paths. Had Elon Musk not invested his last $35 million when Tesla was facing financial strain during the recession in 2008, the company would never have become worth the $2.5 billion it is today. Same goes for Twitter, which promptly rejected a buy-out offer of $500 million by Facebook in 2008; today it is valued at $26.4 billion!
Every successful business is built on the foundations of passion and commitment, and an unflinching vision, come what may. Take it from the world’s richest man himself: “What we need to do is always lean into the future; when the world changes around you and when it changes against you – what used to be a tail wind is now a head wind – you have to lean into that and figure out what to do because complaining isn’t a strategy.”