Bhavin and his brother Divyank have bootstrapped Directi, a portfolio of Internet businesses over the last ~20 years. In 2014, they had their first $160 million exit. In 2016, they had a second $900 million exit. It’s a very interesting story of masterful business acumen and disciplined fundamentals-driven execution. Not a penny of external financing involved, by the way.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your personal journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Bhavin Turakhia: I was born and raised in Mumbai. My parents are originally from there. I went to school there. In many ways, the seeds for my entrepreneurship career were largely sown there. I remember in 1989, I was in the sixth grade when the school installed their very first computer room. I’m talking about a time when there was no Internet. There was no Windows. It was just GWBasic and MS-DOS. It was love at first sight.
I had always been passionate about science, math, physics, and logical reasoning. This was a very natural extension. Programming became my biggest passion. I would spend several hours each day after school in the computer room. I would just spend all my time there. My father, who in many ways deserves credit for our success, instilled in us the value of reading a lot early on. We used to devour tons of different books.
In those three to four years, I went through about 40 to 50 programming books. I would teach the students in school advanced programming for several months. I became really passionate about computer science back then. Since then, one of my favorite genres is biographies. In many ways, the entrepreneurship bug also bit me back then. In early school days, from the time I was 10, I was fairly certain that I wanted to start my own company and that I wanted to do it in the tech space. That’s a quick background.
Sramana Mitra: Where did you do all your college?
Bhavin Turakhia: All in Mumbai. I had the goal of taking up Computer Science. Along the way, I decided that it wasn’t for me. I went through all the engineering curriculum and most of the stuff they were teaching, I had already done that on my own. I had already learned all of that and gone significantly beyond that. Then I switched from science to commerce.
My brother and I started our first business together. We were already doing consulting and setting up people’s networks in high school. We were enterprising and doing small amount of business. When I started my undergraduate, I started down the path of setting up businesses.
Sramana Mitra: What time-frame are we talking? What year did you finish high school?
Bhavin Turakhia: In 1994, I finished school. From 1995 to 1996, I was in high school. Then from 1996 to 1999, I did my undergraduate degree. My younger brother is two years younger so he was two years behind me.
Sramana Mitra: We are talking late 90’s. The Internet has happened but in India, it’s still very nascent and very little.
Bhavin Turakhia: Right after school when we were in high school, that’s when Internet, for the first time, became commercially available. Between 1994 to 1996, there was one ISP in the entire country. It was a government-owned company. They would sell Internet connectivity. That was just about the beginning. I used to have the 2,400 modems that would make funny sounds and would get disconnected every five minutes.