On a warm Sunday afternoon, Bhavin and Divyank can be seen at the Bombay Flying Club getting into their Cessna Turbo Stationaire, a single-engine six-seater private jet. The co-founders of Directi, a web products company, agree blatantly that buying a private plane wasn’t for business reasons but to indulge in their hobby of flying. Since founding Directi Group in 1998, when they were just 18 (Bhavin) and 16 (Divyank) years old, the brothers have shaped up Directi into a US $350 million (as valued by merchant bankers) organisation today. Buying a private jet was, probably, just a reward for several milestones achieved over the last few years.
Today, Directi focuses on two broad level strategic business units – the web presence services business headed by Bhavin and the online advertising business headed by Divyank. The web presence business includes domain registration, e-mail hosting solution, website builder tools and antivirus software among others. The Internet advertising business competes with the likes of Google in providing advertising solutions to publishers and online advertisers. The brothers continue to be extremely hands on and never shy away from getting their hands dirty – be it in technology product development, sales or hiring. Bhavin says, “I spend a huge portion of my day shaping up our product vision and strategy and a lot of time on hiring people as well.”
Out of every 200 people we interview, one person is hired. We’re that selective and that is what makes the difference.
Directi currently employs over 800 people across its business units, engages with over 100,000 channel partners and has served over one million customers worldwide.
Bhavin says, “Our overall vision hasn’t changed since the early days. Any business we get into will satisfy the following criteria: it has to be on the web, it’ll be a product that will not be customised, it should be global in scope and lastly, it has to be a product that can attract millions of customers.” These four fundamental principles has laid the foundation for what Directi stands for today.
In its web presence business, the company has built products to help small and medium sized businesses with enabling their presence on the Internet. This includes domain registration, website and e-mail hosting, website builder tools and security layers among others. While the underlying offering is the same, the company has established multiple brands under which it sells these products. BigRock is the brand under which these products are sold directly to customers – owners and IT managers of small and mid-size businesses. Through its brand, Reseller Club, the company engages resellers, who’ll in turn sell Directi products to their customers. This is the brand that helps them sell globally and today, the company engages 100,000 resellers in 230 countries. That is not all. The company’s product line includes anti-spam and anti-virus solutions, large scale billing platforms and communication software besides others.
Headed by Divyank, the online advertising business offers a range of products to publishers and online advertisers. Media.net, the flagship brand under this division, is focused on contextually serving advertisements on publishing platforms. This division of Directi has raised money from the UK-based Ashmore Group. Till date, the division has served over a billion advertisements since its launch in 2010.
If there is one thing that stands out in the Directi story, it is the company’s sales-driven culture. For each product, there is a clear-cut strategy to sell directly to customers, to small and large resellers and channel partners across the world. This culture of partner-driven sales has helped the company do business in more than 230 countries. For BigRock, the direct-to-customer brand to sell its web presence products, the company advertises extensively on television and the Internet. For Reseller Club, the sales and marketing team attends events across the globe, engaging face-to-face with resellers. Bhavin simply says, “For all our marketing channels, we go the extra mile in a creative way.”
Founders: Bhavin and Divyank
Year of founding: 1998
Key business units: Web presence products and online advertising
USP: Focus on volume-based web products that have global scope
Investor: UK-based Ashmore Group (in the online advertising business unit)
The sales culture extends to its hiring. Till date, Bhavin continues to attend most campus recruitment drives. Their interviews are elaborate, long drawn affairs and it isn’t easy to get a job at the company. For hiring software programmers, the company established a programming competition, now India’s largest, called Code Chef, and it has helped build the Directi brand among engineering students across the country. Bhavin says, “Out of every 200 people we interview, one person is hired. We’re that selective and that is what makes the difference.”
While launching in new markets, there is an elaborate launch process that is followed. When its web presence business was launched in Turkey, one of the company’s largest markets today, a team of 45 people – in sales and support roles – was setup. The company has systems and procedures in place for new market launches and senior leaders attend relevant conferences and events regularly. It is a sales-driven culture that the company has followed since day one. “In 1998, we clinched 40 clients within the first two months. We probably made just Rs. 4 lakh in revenues that year (founding year), but we made progress in terms of clients,” says Bhavin, about the sales culture in the early days.
Bhavin is tight lipped about current revenue numbers but says the company is growing at over 120 per cent annually. The brothers are convinced about their strategy of building high-volume web products and then going all out to sell them. The 14-year-old company started off building web products for the world in early days of Internet in India. In the last few years, they have focused on deep market penetration, both within India and globally, to sell its products and have also gotten into the online advertising space. The Directi journey is by no means over. Watch out for the next big announcement from the Turakhia brothers – it could be the launch of another business unit for the Web 3.0 world or the purchase of a larger private jet.
Today, Directi group commands an enterprise value of US $350 million according to the company. Since founding the company in 1998, the fundamental vision of the company hasn’t changed. Bhavin Turakhia, founder of the company, believes that it is these basic vision statements that have helped the company scale to its current level. Any offering from the company will satisfy the following criteria:
- It has to be on the web
- It’ll be a product that will not be customised
- It should be global in scope
- It has to be a product that can attract millions of customers