Laser sharp focus and passionate commitment have catapulted Deep Kalra’s MakeMyTrip into becoming the largest online travel company and the largest e-commerce business in India
In a world where accountability has often lost its meaning and compromise is used as a rationale for mediocrity, the quest for excellence is often abandoned. But, consider another world. One where excellence and the pursuit of it is the benchmark by which one’s aspirations are measured. One where excellence defines one’s approach to accountability and is the driving force behind one’s collective ambition – the pursuit of an ideal that is a surefire catalyst for progress. It’s a world that Deep Kalra, Chairman and CEO of MakeMyTrip, is most in sync with. In conversation with Today’s Traveller Coffee Table Book 2018, Kalra elucidates on the pursuit of excellence, the world of entrepreneurship and a blueprint of his company’s future. Kalra’s take on excellence stems from his own grounded value system. “I think what drives me in life is being committed to what I intend to pursue, no matter what it is. I get a lot of satisfaction at a job well done, be it personal, official, or in whichever sphere.” He goes on to add, “However, what gives me great joy is to create something out of nothing.” What is the source and process of innovative ideas that has helped Kalra stay ahead of the game? Kalra thinks for a moment before he shares, “You start with some sort of idea, not a precise idea, but an inkling of where you are headed. Then you try to improvise, fine-tune, and when you get to a point when you think you are on to something – then you are willing to risk a lot of time and opportunity to develop it, with the belief that this will create value for everyone: service provider, the organisation, the consumer. That is central to whatever I have done,” says Kalra. Kalra’s impeccable academic background did not necessarily preclude his being a natural entrepreneur. Born in Hyderabad, Kalra completed his Bachelor’s degree in Economics from St. Stephen’s College and went on to pursue MBA in Ahmedabad’s prestigious Indian Institute of Management. His first job was that of a banker in ABN Amro Bank, but Kalra, who always nursed a desire to become an entrepreneur, left after three years. Later, he decided to bring AFC Bowling to India – a concept much ahead of its time. Though the project did not succeed, Kalra never gave up – ample proof of his tenacity and perseverance. Kalra strongly believes that, “Perseverance will beat brilliance any day! As an entrepreneur, you are taking a path less travelled. You will meet obstacles. You will stumble and fall. If you give in and say, ‘Ok, I am done,’ then no one is going to come back to pick you up. The chance of success is the same for every man, but only a handful succeed. So, basically you have to knock on any number of doors before opportunity invites you in. Tenacity is important. Tenacity is critical to entrepreneurship,” discloses Kalra. This perseverance and tenacity paid off for Kalra. In 1999, when the world was experiencing the dotcom bubble, Kalra received a lucrative offer from GE to head their business development. His faith in the Internet was strengthened when he successfully booked a trip to Thailand for a family vacation, and another time when he successfully sold his car for more than Rs. 20,000 online. Thus was born MakeMyTrip, an Internet-based travel company, initially dealing with flight bookings of NRIs. In 2005, the company started its India operations, offering cheap online flight tickets to Indian travellers. Later, it ventured into hotel packages and holiday bookings. From 2011 onwards, the company has been making major strides in technological innovation and expanding the business through a slew of acquisitions. Today, MakeMyTrip is a multimillion-dollar company, which is listed on NASDAQ and boasts a global clientele. MakeMyTrip Limited owns and operates well recognised online brands, including MakeMyTrip, goibibo and redbus. Through their primary websites, www.makemytrip.com, www.goibibo.com, www.redbus.in, and mobile platforms, travellers can research, plan and book a wide range of travel services and products in India as well as overseas. The company provides customers with access to all major domestic full-service and low-cost airlines operating in India and all major airlines operating to and from India, over 50,000 domestic accommodation properties in India and more than 500,000 properties outside of India, Indian Railways and all major Indian bus operators. Kalra believes the company is currently in ‘a good position.’ Using a metaphor, he affirms, “The tailwinds are there behind us in a big way in the travel sector. The last 24-26 months, have shown strong growth.” But, the ever pragmatic Kalra confesses, “But that won’t last forever. We know now that one or two airlines are in trouble. So, things will shake out. But, we have been getting growth at a high ten to 20 per cent. That’s not sustainable. It will come down to 10 per cent. The good news, however is that the aviation and infrastructure sector is developing in a massive way – the opening up of many more new routes and airports, that’s going to be a game-changer.” When quizzed about the challenges he faces, Kalra states, “One is external and macro…The second kind of challenge is internal. It is more at a competitive level, which is good, as it means that it is a good industry to be in,” concludes Kalra.