In 2006, we clocked revenues of Rs.5 crore. We were generating free cash flows. I was finally free from all my problems. Free from my father! At an alumni meet at Delhi College Engineering, one of my classmates told me I should raise money. Who would give me money? He was from PwC. I didn’t know PwC was this big consulting firm at the time. But I thought why not? He would tell investors to give me 15 minutes, literally 15 minutes, that’s all I got. I pitched to one investor as he walked from his room to go have breakfast in the restaurant! All was said in the elevator and the short walk to the restaurant.
The first question that Ravi Adusumalli, the managing director of SAIF Capital India, asked me when he walked into my office was about the poster of Bono. It had the lyrics from the song Elevation… “You make me feel that I can fly so high”. Ravi was a Bono fan too. We immediately hit it off. Both of us were passionate about music, and we liked the same kind. He has been a co-founder of sorts. He has believed in my vision, my team and me. You need investors, who buy into who you and your team. Ash Lilani is another investor who bet on us early.
SVB and SAIF capital invested $5 million in 2007. Our revenue was Rs.11 crore then, with EBITDA at Rs.5-6 crore. The second round of investment came in November 2008, at the height of the Lehman crisis. We raised around $10 million. In 2010, we decided to go for an IPO — we had revenues of Rs.200 crore and a profit of Rs.100 crore.
The struggle had paid off. We had become significant contributors to telcos’ P&L by selling pre-paid lifecycles products such SMS packs, data packs, roaming services apart from the content and value-added services we started with. But the market was in turmoil, there was an LIC housing scam and the listing of OnMobile didn’t meet with great success. I thought maybe it was not the best time for us to go public. It turned out to be the best thing that could have happened. A big c