I realised that jobs are a high-interest category when I was working with GlaxoSmithKline in 1989-1990, where I was the brand manager for Horlicks. Every fortnight, when the office copy of Business India arrived, my colleagues would run for it and read it, starting at the back. The reason: the back of the magazine included 35-40 pages of job advertisements.
It wasn't as if all of them were looking for jobs; but it was almost a habit to look at the opportunities, discuss the job profiles, talk about the pay package, benchmark it against the jobs we held and so on. Then, every couple of days, at least one of my colleagues would get a job offer from a head hunter -- and these were jobs that had not been advertised anywhere.
I realised that there were hundreds of such fragmented pockets of information relating to employment opportunities -- and if someone could aggregate this database and put it together as a cohesive package, it would be a powerful product.
Naukri.com became the first job website in India and was launched in March 1997. At that time, there were only 14,000 Internet users in the country. From buying a server in the US for $25 a month to working from home, to taking up a part-time job as a career consultant with a daily newspaper, to working 16 hours a day, I did it all.
Hard work and the revenue model paid. We became a paid site in October 1997 and our turnover in the first year was Rs 200,000. The next year, 1998-99, the turnover crossed Rs 20 lakh (Rs 2 million); it was also the year we broke even. Last year, our turnover was Rs 45 crore (Rs 450 million) and we hope to double that this year.
Today, naukri.com has more than 150 million page views every month, 5 million registered users, 100,000 job listings and over 20,000 clients.
However, somewhere along the line, we almost didn't make it. We started off as a website that was meant for job postings. That is, companies paid us to put their job openings on our website. People could access those jobs and then get in touch with the various companies.
All along, however, I didn't even bother to look at the other job websites across the world. It didn't help that there was no competition in India. We were not doing any external benchmarking and were just looking at the consumers back in India. We were happy doing well, doing our own thing.
It took competition to wake us up. Jobsahead.com arrived on the scene in February 2000. And it came armed with an added attraction -- the convenience of maintaining a résumé database as well. All other websites in the world offered this facility. It has several advantages. One, you can apply for a job online, which means you don't need to have a copy of your résumé with you at all times. You can be anywhere in the world and still apply for a job -- anywhere in the world. You get job alerts by email.
Then, your CV can be accessed by any of the thousands of recruiters registered with the website. Jobsahead created a market, and though we were the first job website in India, we were not even a part of that market!
Gradually, my sales people came with feeback about what the competition was doing. We had to do something, and fast.
And here, I was the problem. People in my company were telling me to launch the résumé service, but I just didn't see why we needed to. Ultimately it was a question of them selling the product to me rather than the other way round. I didn't understand the magnitude of the opportunity offered to a jobs site by a résumé database.
We slogged hard to catch up with a rival who had arrived much later than us but was beating us at our own game. Finally, in April 2002, we launched our résumé database -- two years after jobsahead.com, and five years after we had launched our website.
We did manage to beat down our competitor -- despite monster.com's acquisition of jobsahead.com last year. We still get more traffic on our site. But as I said, we almost didn't make it. The lesson I learnt was that while the customer is important, you can't afford to lose track of what your competitors are doing. Never, ever forget to treat the customer better than competition treats him.
Sanjeev Bikhchandani is CEO and founder, naukri.com
As told to Prerna Raturi