Founded in 1998 by the brothers Bhavin and Divyank Turakhia, the Directi Group, a group of businesses that develops mass-market web products, has come a long way. The combined product portfolio of various Directi businesses (ResellerClub, LogicBoxes, BigRock, Skenzo, Media.net and Talk.to) include communication and collaboration apps, social networking software, instant messaging software, context analysis engines, anti-spam and antivirus solutions, large-scale billing and provisioning platforms, traffic monetisation solutions, online advertising solutions, DNS management products, Linux and Windows server management software and Web hosting control panels, among others.
In an exclusive interview with Techcircle.in, Bhavin, founder and CEO of Directi, talks about his entrepreneurial journey, the company and much more. Edited excerpts.
Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey?
I have always been a techie at heart; I started programming when I was in the sixth grade. In 1994, when I passed my 10th, Internet was already making its appearance in India and I got hooked on to it. Before starting Directi in 1997, for around 2 1/2 years, I worked on building some products that didn’t really work out. In late 1998, I borrowed Rs 25,000 from my father and bought my first server in a US-based company called Alabanza and started providing back-end infrastructure as a service.
I made enough money in my first month to sustain for the next quarter and then just kept going forward from there till where we are today.
How many businesses are run by the Directi Group?
Directi as a group focuses on three verticals, these are:
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS): Provides web hosting, Cloud servers, dedicated servers and domain names etc., basically solutions anyone needs to setup and an online presence. It includes BigRock, which is a direct-to-customer offering and ResellerClub and LogicBoxes that are both B2B offerings and Radix FZC, a top-level domain name registry business.
Contextual advertising: Provides solutions for online advertising for publishers. Includes Media.net, Skenzo and Domainadvertising.com.
Real-time communication: Building a cross-platform instant messenger called Talk.to that enables users to communicate across multiple accounts and platforms in real time.
What is Directi’s current valuation?
We haven’t done a recent valuation exercise, but we currently quote that the group as a whole is valued around $350 million. This number is based on a valuation that was done back in 2009. Post that, the market saw a slump, and even though it has improved since then and the actual number (valuation) could be more than the one we quote, we are sticking to $350 million as of now.
What has been your Y-o-Y growth rate? Name the top three businesses of Directi in terms of revenue generation?
Directi as a whole has always seen a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in upwards of 30 per cent. Some of the newer businesses are growing around 70-80 per cent on a Y-o-Y basis, while the established ones are growing around 25 per cent. Our top three businesses would be ResellerClub, Skenzo and Media.net.
How much of your business comes from India?
Even though India is our operational headquarters, 80 per cent of our business comes from outside the country.
Can you share some revenue numbers?
Since we are not a public company, we cannot share our revenue numbers, at least not as of now. But we will most probably share some data on the same in the next fiscal year.
How many domain names have you sold via BigRock? Also, can you share some numbers for the contextual advertising business?
As of now, we are selling around 25,000-30,000 domain names via BigRock on a monthly basis. And if you look at Directi as a whole, we have around 6.5 million domain names that we power, and we add close to 250,000 domain names every month. As far as the contextual advertising business is concerned, we serve close to 24 billion ad impressions every year and have served over 19 million websites till now.
Talking about Talk.to, don’t you think the real-time communication space is already over-crowded?
While there are a number of clients catering to different requirements, there isn’t a single platform that covers everything (SMS, IM, as well as Facebook and Google Talk, etc.). And it doesn’t matter how many messaging solutions exist out there. If users find value in a product offering, they will definitely use it.
Have you raised any funding? Talk about your fund-raising plans?
Although Directi has largely been an investment free and self-funded organisation, in 2008, we had received PE investment from the UK-based investment firm Ashmore Group for one of our business units (Skenzo). Also, ICANN has approved the creation of generic top-level domains (in a process to expand the Internet naming system) and Radix has applied for a number of them. There is going to be an auction for those top-level domains sometime next year, and while we have our own reserves to participate in the auction, we may add to our reserves by raising additional funds. We haven’t decided on the exact amount, but it will lie in the $50-100 million range.
What is your team size? Also tell us about your presence?
We are close to about a 1,000 people now. In India we have offices in Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi and abroad we have offices in the US (Austin), China and UAE. And we are also setting up offices in New York, San Francisco, UK and Germany that should be set up in the next year and a half.
What is your advice to budding entrepreneurs?
My one advice to them would be to hire right. They should take extra pains to make sure that they get people who are the most suited with the kind of product/service that they are providing and their goals.
(Edited by Prem Udayabhanu)