It was early 2000. Given the buzz around dotcom, every business plan was getting funding. Neeraj Bhargava from eVentures reached out to me. We met at Crossroads Mall in Mumbai. He liked what he heard. We worked out the term sheet on a napkin! For $2 million, they roughly got two-thirds of the company. It was a fantastic start. I was raring to go. I would stay up through the night combing through Expedia and Travelocity. I wanted MakeMyTrip to be the defining portal for people to book travel to India, from India and within India. I was naïve enough to think that I could do it alone but realised quickly that I needed to get a team in place, and so I did. I don’t believe in luck but I believe that if you work hard, things fall in place and it did, at least initially. Several sleepless nights later, we went live on October 7, 2000.
Much of an entrepreneur’s success depends on the team he builds. You always have to hire people who are smarter than you. I was very fortunate that some of the initial hires were not only incredibly smart, they stood by me through the toughest of times. In fact, how Keyur [Joshi], Sachin [Bhatia] and Rajesh [Magow], who joined as employees, went on to become the co-founders is an interesting story. Six months after the launch, we realised that Indians were only searching but not booking. They weren’t confident of paying online. So one of the smartest things we did early on was to stop our marketing efforts in India. We decided to focus on the NRI market in the US and build a profitable business. It worked out well. We hit our initial milestones and were ready for the next million.
That’s when eVentures decided to pull the plug on us. They told us the LPs (limited partners) wanted their money back. I didn’t even know who an LP was. I was that naïve. They said I could either return the money or buy the company back. I told them that if I had the money in the first place I would have never gone for funding. Anup [Gupta], Neeraj and Sandeep [Singhal] told me that they still believed in me and the business. This was just a business compulsion. They promised to angel fund me to buy back the stake. I had some savings that I had set aside