FOR TWO-AND-A-HALF DECADES NOW, one company has participated in at least one of four big decisions in a person’s life: deciding on higher education, finding or changing a job, getting married, and buying a house. Founded by Sanjeev Bikhchandani in 1995, Info Edge (India) is the low-key parent of famous offspring such as job site Naukri, matrimonial portal Jeevansathi, education website Shiksha, and real estate listings portal 99acres.
One of India’s earliest Internet firms, Info Edge has come a long way from taking classifieds from newspapers and pasting them online in the late-’90s to make about ₹10 lakh-₹15 lakh a year. In fact, not even Bikhchandani had envisioned it would be valued at more than $4 billion one day. “I would love to say I had a vision, but it is completely untrue,” he tells Fortune India.
After all, the firm’s first site Naukri was only a job listing portal; it did not even have a résumé database till one of its competitors (JobsAhead, later acquired by Monster) launched a database product in 2002. Today, the résumé database accounts for more than 60% of Naukri’s revenue.
“We thought if we can get to a place where we have 1,000 companies every month paying us ₹500 each we will do ₹5 lakh a month and that will be ₹60 lakh sales in a year,” he recalls. Three years of that, and the company would have grown fivefold, he says. “And that would be success… it was a nifty, small idea.” The numbers were beyond expectations. “Right place, right time, work hard, and [we] got lucky.”
But it wasn’t just luck. Bikhchandani had seen potential in a classifieds website when there were just around 14,000 Internet accounts in the country and a few thousand users, he says, comparing that to the around 500 million users in India now, second only to China’s more than 800 million.
It became the definitive early mover in the Internet economy, taking other essentials such as matrimony (Jeevansathi, 1998), real estate (99acres, 2005), and education (Shiksha, 2008) online as India’s population started discovering the joys of a virtually connected world.
As the breadth of business has grown, so has the company’s fortunes. This year, Info Edge jumped to No. 51 on the Fortune India Next 500 list, from No. 124 a year ago. Shiksha, 99acres, and Jeevansathi are leading players in their respective segments, while Naukri is the clear No.1 in jobs, with about 66 million résumés and 5.3 million job listings, ahead of competitors Monster India, TimesJobs, and Shine. The jobs solutions business (including Naukri, Naukrigulf, Firstnaukri), as it stands, accounts for 70% of Info Edge’s overall revenue of ₹1,887.82 crore.
Sudheer Guntupalli, vice president and institutional research analyst-technology, staffing and exchanges at Motilal Oswal Financial Services, calls Naukri “a classic example of a networking effect playing out… as you have more recruiters on the platform, more applicants will be willing to put their résumé on it”, and so the cycle continues.