This Indian Internet Businessman Believes The Best Time To Be An Entrepreneur is Now
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Ashish Hemrajani is not an entrepreneur who retweets every tweet that praises his platform neither is he the businessman who shares inspirational posts on Facebook for his followers.
Hemrajani is someone who loves to stay focused on his business and away from social media. He says "if I have something to discuss, I have the person on my WhatsApp and that’s a real conversation.”
BookMyShow, the largest online entertainment ticketing platform, is Hemrajani’s baby since the last 18 years. Being at the helm as the founder & CEO has taught him two facts about India – the country is full of challenges, and hence the country is equally full of opportunities.
“A lot of people are surprised by the scale, I am actually not. I have been around for 18 years to know other countries and businesses in other parts of the world, not only scale much faster, but if there is an idea that catches fire, they also end up making revenue as well.”
His primary concern is why after so many years of being exposed to the internet, majority of Indian businesses are usually unable to replicate this.
“Today, a great taxi-hailing cab service in the US makes so much money in there that they can actually use that capital and deploy it for India and that’s because they make money there, but that’s not the case in India,” says Hemrajani.
Massive discounting could be blamed, he says. “You can hide behind the guise that I am actually scaling, but the problem is everyone is just - discounting.”
His company BigTree Entertainment launched a ticketing-aggregating service called www.bookmyshow.com, which boasts of allowing film goers & entertainment seekers to book tickets for movies, plays & live events across its platforms. It’s also among the few companies that were able to report a profit last year.
Hemrajani thinks right now in India, it’s all about who can raise more capital and who can give more cashbacks and discounts, which he finds very unfortunate.
His nearly two decades of experience says there are 3 key reasons why e-commerce services aren’t making profits.
Consumer base for online services low
“There isn’t a large enough consumer-base yet because it’s challenging with taxation, infrastructure, and disposal incomes,” says Hemrajani.
Ask him why India isn’t doing as well as other countries and he adds, “I can tell you in my own sector, the entertainment tax on films and live events is so high that it’s unviable for people to scale and build entertainment venues or multiplexes all over the country including tier-II & tier-III cities and effectively make money out of it. It is only concentrated in the top 6 cities. Even all other internet businesses are focused on the top 6 cities. That is why it hasn’t scaled as it has to the lowest strata, like in the US or in China.”
Poor internet infrastructure
“We need to improve upon internet connectivity. If there are only 250 million Indians who have data connectivity, how are we saying we have a 1.2 billion market? Until you don’t scale and hit 600-700 million data-connections, the scenario will be challenging.” That’s stage number one. Second, consumers will probably surf and consume content. Three is they will get into commerce into some sort of payments, or entertainment or commerce as a service and the fourth is physical growth. With the recent digital boom, we are likely to see a massive infliction of growth in the coming 4-5 years,” says Hemrajani.
Pressure on prices
Why there is so much promise on the ecommerce side is because traffic is one issue. We have 17 per cent of the world’s population with 3 per cent of world’s land mass so there has always been more pressure on prices from a retail perspective. And therefore, e-commerce becomes far more efficient.
Are there any solutions to make the Indian consumer want an online service? Hemrajani says- Aye!
“Indians still like choices. They like going out, for them going to a mall, going for a movie, or eating out and going to a relative’s house on a weekend is still one of the top 4 things to do. So going to the mall and looking at choices is as much entertainment as it is about shopping; and consumers will evolve over a period of time like America did.”
I am not saying it will not happen but I feel people are trying to run before they can walk. I think it needs to be scaled up. I think for them the challenge is, the market is so open and there’s so much competition, and so much infusion of capital – putting everyone in this land grab mode. If you had a visibility that you can make so much money or the luxury of scaling at pace with the market, you will innovate and do things that are consumer centric,” he adds.
The issue is that of the ecosystem. At some level, creating a friendlier environment is something the government could solve. It is then the quality of the entrepreneur to be able to raise capital and to be able to scale very quickly.
But how do you harness that opportunity? How will that business be consumer focused? How will they move consumers? Hemrajani believes the next 4-5 years are going to see a massive inflection point of growth given that the problems related to data and payments will be solved. He signs off by saying that this is the best time to be an entrepreneur, not just in internet space, but in any sector.