Just Dial competes with itself: VSS Mani | VCCircle
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Just Dial competes with itself: VSS Mani 

BY  Sainul K Abudheen
The founder and CEO of the firm talks about new revenue streams, successful listing in India and more.

Mumbai-based Just Dial Ltd, which runs an India-specific local business listing site Justdial.com, has recently added online food ordering feature,  with more new revenue streams in the offing. The company says by the end of 2015, the site will have a clutch of such features, including doctor appointment, cab booking and movie ticketing. In an interview with VCCircle, Just Dial founder VSS Mani talks about its new growth strategy and acquisitions and expansion plans. Here are the edited excerpts:

You recently started providing food ordering service on your platform. What is the idea behind this?

Online food ordering is one of the new revenues streams that we are adding to the site. We started with food ordering, as it is so popular in India. This feature allows users to order food online from restaurants listed on the site and get it home-delivered. The service is currently available in over a dozen cities, including Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Coimbatore, Delhi, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon, Howrah, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Noida, Pune and Thane. Going forward, we will be expanding the service to other cities as well.

What is the fee you get out of the new business? Is Just Dial just a platform for ordering? Are you involved in managing logistics too?

We are just enablers. The delivery is being taken care of by the restaurants themselves. We are not planning to enter logistics services as of now. We are currently charging 7 per cent of total bill ordered online as fee from the partner restaurants.

Currently you have three revenue streams. Are you planning to introduce more or scale up what you already have? How many such revenue generators do you think you can pull out from the existing platform?

Currently, we generate our revenues through paid advertisers. We are now adding online food ordering to this.  We have in store more than half a dozen new revenue streams, including online cab booking, movie ticket booking and doctor appointment, to begin with. The site will see at least two of them going live by the end of this year. We will introduce a pay-per-use model for the customers.

You have been growing for the last few years and had a successful IPO. Are you now looking to grow inorganically by acquiring companies? What kind of companies are you looking to acquire? Are you in talks with any firms yet?

We have been organically growing pretty well and we will be focusing on what we are currently doing. We don’t have any plans to grow inorganically by acquiring companies, at least for the next three-five years. However, in future we will acquire companies which have the same technology as ours.

You have been focusing on the local market all these years but have a presence in the US. Are you planning to enter more foreign markets? Which countries are you targeting?

Our hands are currently full and so we are not looking at expanding the business to foreign markets. We have enough customers and problems to solve in the Indian market. We will not be thinking of expanding to other markets at least for the next couple of years. However, if we expand in future, we will start with the English-speaking countries first.

Your revenues grew 28 per cent and net profit jumped 69 per cent in Q1. How much revenues and profit are you expecting for FY14?

We cannot comment on this, as the close of FY14 is still around seven months away. Besides, we do not typically predict and comment on our future revenues.

In Q1 your firm saw a surge in mobile-based search from 7.9 million to 19.5 million. Going forward, what per cent of total revenues will come from mobile-based search? Any specialised monetisation strategy for mobile?

We don’t have a separate mobile monetisation strategy in place (for mobile), although we saw a jump in the mobile-based search in the first quarter. We are giving equal importance to SMS-based search, voice-based search and PC-based search, etc.

What is the scope of expanding the paid listings’ proportion which is around 2.2 per cent currently? Do you think it can hit double-digit levels in the short to medium term?

In terms of the proportion of paid listings, we are looking for growth to ‘high single-digit’ levels in the short-to-medium term.

How do you feel about taking the company public in India despite the prevailing perspective that tech IPOs should be attempted in the US?

I disagree with the perspective that tech IPOs should be attempted in the US. A company of good quality and products can launch a successful IPO anywhere in the world.

Where do you see yourself five years down the line in terms of revenues, profit and valuation?

Our aim is to have a million customers at some point down the line. We will not share any future numbers. However, we are very optimistic about our future.

Where do you see key competition coming from in your business?

Just Dial competes with itself. We are constantly disrupting our own models by adding and introducing new features. We always want to provide a good customer experience rather than enhancing our revenue figures and competition.

(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)

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