INDIA KNOWLEDGE WHARTON - May 11 - Anupam Mittal laughs at any suggestion that he is the worst advertisement for his company. At 39, he is founder and CEO of shaadi.com, and he's a bachelor. Shaadi recently celebrated its 15th anniversary. The site controls ~40% of the US$1 billion Indian match-making business.
Q: You started Shaadi at a time when most people in India did not have Internet access. Why?
Anupam Mittal: I was living in the U.S. in the mid-1990s. The Internet was starting to boom in the U.S. While sitting in my father’s office in India, I met one of those traditional matchmakers who was trying to match me off. It struck me that we could put all this on the Internet. In 1997, we launched the first version called sagaai.com. [Sagaai = engagement]. In 2001, I quit my job in the U.S. and moved back to India, and we changed the name to shaadi.com.
Q: When did you get your first round of funding?
A: Mittal: We didn’t need to raise external capital until 2006. We raised capital from Sequoia, Silicon Valley Bank and Intel. By then, I’d also started a mobile application company called mauj.com. We raised US$20M between shaadi and mauj.
Q: What is your revenue model? Is the company profitable?
A: At a basic level the site is free. You pay when you find somebody you want to communicate with. It can range from $60 - $400 depending on the service you choose. We’re profitable.
Q: When are your investors planning an exit?
A: The life of a fund is~10 years. When you’ve invested for six years, you start to talk about what’s the best way to exit.
Q: Who is your typical client?
A: 20% are Indians outside the country, but 80% come from within the country. We see people who make $4,000 a year and those who make hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s why we have services that cater to different people. Our customer acquisition cost is low because we get a lot of direct referrals.
Q: Do you consider Bharat Matrimony as your competition?
A: They're stronger down south; we’re stronger up north.
Q: Shaadi has extended to mobile, television and DTH [direct to home satellite television]. How successful have those been?
A: DTH didn’t work. DTH is for entertainment. Mobile is working brilliantly. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next 12 months, 20% of all our interactions happen on mobile.