When Quikr.com, a Mumbai-based online and mobile classifieds firm, recently raised Rs 550 crore ($90 million) from foreign investors, the company drew attention like never before. No other online company in the listing or classified business had gone in for such a big round of funding ever. But, Pranay Chulet, the 40-year-old founder and chief executive of Quikr, is unperturbed by it all. “It was a revolution waiting to happen,” says Chulet in a matter-of-fact manner.
Armed with, what else, IIT-IIM degrees, this entrepreneur is like many others who have made it big in e-commerce and other online businesses. Only, he spent more years in regular jobs than most others did before chasing his dreams and the big bucks.
Chulet calls the current round of funding led by Swedish investor AB Kinnevik a “small step in the long journey ahead”. Since 2008, the company has raised a total of $140 million ( Rs 870 crore), and the new funds will go into marketing and expanding the talent base in the organisation.
Across the globe, there are examples of online classifieds successes like Craigslist in the US and Trademe in New Zealand, but someone needed to do it right in India. Chulet did it, and he refers to himself as “a made-in-India product”.
Quikr essentially enables people, many without Internet access, to sell things that they may not need. The pace at which such deals take place on the site reflects in the brand of the company – Quikr. The company has endeared itself to users by exploiting a very Indian thing – missed calls. The potential seller is required to give a missed call to the company, which will then contact the caller for the ad to be put on the site.
Quikr’s revenue model is somewhat different from those of others in the same business, such as OLX and Zomato. These companies list for free and make money through advertisements, but Quikr primarily gets its revenue from paid listing and lead generation for small businesses.
While he’s grounded about the present, the Quikr boss is busy planning for the future. Even as an IPO is not in the company’s ken right now, it is “flirting” with the idea of going overseas.
Unlike in the Indian e-commerce world, where the Bansals (of Flipkart and Myntra) rule, his surname does not carry any entrepreneurial baggage, so to say. His father was a government officer who worked as a general manager in mines and his mother a homemaker. Chulet, who is single, spent his childhood in the mining towns of Dariba, Zawar and Maton in Rajasthan. But becoming an entrepreneur was his dream since his college days. “I was the first student from Kendriya Vidyalaya Dariba to take an IIT exam and clear it,” he says with pride. He’s quick to add, however, that he was no geek in school.
After his education, Chulet worked as management consultant in the US for a decade. He has also advised leading newspapers on their classified business, something that may be of great help to him now.
Beyond business, he’s tried his hand at film-making too. A Hollywood movie buff, he made a short feature film called Latent Lava after a course in movie-making from New York Film Academy in 2007. The film was released globally the same year.