Sramana Mitra: How long did you go in this mode of in-person selling? What kind of revenue level did that get you to?
Bhavin Turakhia: In that first set of businesses, which we call the web presence business, I actually did in-person selling for the better part of six years.
Sramana Mitra: There’s no choice. At that time, there was no other way of selling.
Bhavin Turakhia: That, and entrepreneurship is a journey that comprises of getting your hands dirty and doing lots of things yourself. Today, I don’t necessarily do a lot of selling except for really big deals. I have teams that do that and to effectively recruit the right people and mentor them the right way, you need to be there yourself. We’ve done it all from legal to marketing. In many ways, it was a good opportunity for us to gain that expertise.
Sramana Mitra: Six years of selling in that mode, so that brings us to about 2004?
Bhavin Turakhia: Yes. During that time, selling wasn’t the only responsibility. We were very closely involved in product development. We also got something called an ICAHN accreditation in 2001. We were one of the first ICAHN-accredited domain registrars in Asia. We started selling domain names to customers worldwide. Immediately after getting our accreditation, we created this reseller platform. We figured that we had limited ability in terms of going out there and making person to person sales.
Plus, there’s a lot of hassle in terms of collecting money and credit policies. Three years in, we decided that we were going to leverage technology and create a platform that will enable other people to buy our products and sell them in a completely private label way to their customers. From that point on, a large chunk of my selling became signing up large reseller accounts in the world until we signed up thousands and thousands. When we eventually exited the company in 2014, I think we had 50,000 resellers worldwide.
We signed up these companies all over the world for multiple reasons. One is to expand our market. There was no way we could have tackled multiple languages in so many different countries. Within a short time of setting that reseller program, we had resellers in more than 120 countries that were buying from us. They didn’t necessarily have the technical prowess and the infrastructure but had access to the customer base and geographic presence. A large chunk of our revenue then started coming in from outside India. Fairly soon, India became just one part of our market.
Sramana Mitra: You were still selling hosting and domain names?
Bhavin Turakhia: By that time, we had about 20 different products. We had about 20 odd products, most of which we had built in house. We were providing this to a global customer base.
Sramana Mitra: Which geographies were you selling at?
Bhavin Turakhia: Pretty much, everywhere. Within three to four years, we had resellers in 100 plus countries. By the time we exited that business in 2014, we had resellers in over 180 countries. That was the web presence business. It started off as Directi but it became four different businesses in terms of brands and P&L’s which were independently called Big Rock, Reseller Club, Logic Boxes, and webhosting.info.
All four were in the same space and vertical. We exited from all the four businesses combined together. Between 2003 and 2009, that original business split into these four different brands. All are in the same space but each one was catering to a different segment of the market. Big Rock would be direct retails sales. Reseller Club was selling the same product to various retailers. Logic Boxes was powering big registrars. Slowly but surely, we put into place a management team for every one of these business units. By 2010 or so, we were pretty much hands off. Before then, we had started another line of business.
Sramana Mitra: This entire business comprising of four units is all organically funded?
Bhavin Turakhia: Over the last 19 years of our career, we’ve never raised money. We funded everything organically.
Sramana Mitra: You said you exited this line of business in 2014. What was the form of that exit?
Bhavin Turakhia: It was an all-cash sale to a group called the Endurance Group based in Boston. It was roughly a $160 million transaction. They bought out the entire company.
Sramana Mitra: Are they a private equity firm?
Bhavin Turakhia: Endurance is a large hosting and domain name registrar. They were number two in North America then. We were number one in Asia Pacific. We were two and half times the size of our next biggest competitor. It was a good consolidation for them and our people.