The ixigo’s business surge 5X compared to pre-Covid levels on many metrics. CEO said that mass firing puts a scar on a company’s culture and image, and one should hire only when it’s needed
During The Makers Summit 2023, Bajpai delved deeper into key phases a cockroach startup goes through, how one can survive through them, the key strategies to build corporate culture, and how to hire the right talent
The CEO said the last three months of 2022 saw the highest-ever revenue and EBITDA margins and ixigo has surged 5X compared to pre-Covid levels on many metrics
Online travel startup ixigo’s cofounder and CEO Aloke Bajpai believes that cockroach startups should hire smart and self-aware people. But the key values he looks for are empathy, integrity, and hunger to grow.
“I don’t think degrees matter too much or one should be super skilled at his/her job. But we attach the premium to whether you have empathy and hunger. It is because these things are hard to find and are valuable to us,” Bajpai said, speaking at Inc42’s The Makers Summit 2023.
The ixigo CEO added that mass firing puts a scar on a company’s culture and image, and one should hire only when it’s needed.
Further, offering a piece of advice to startup employees, Bajpai said they should always ask themselves if they are working for a cause or their boss. “You will know the culture of the company the moment you have the answer to this question,” he added.
During The Makers Summit 2023, Bajpai delved deeper into key phases a cockroach startup goes through, how one can survive through them, the key strategies to build corporate culture, and how to hire the right talent.
Building The Culture Right
While speaking about the cockroach startup culture, Bajpai emphasised that everything starts with founders and it’s the top leadership that drives the culture on the ground.
“Founders need to live up to company values themselves. The metrics they obsess about their idiosyncrasies and operating style become their culture,” he said.
Sharing his experience during the global financial crisis of 2008, he said that was the time when their term sheets got stuck in the middle and they were left in the purge.
“We could have been dead in 3-4 months. But we had a candid discussion with our team and some young engineers came out with a solution – to take a salary cut for as long as it takes to bounce back,” he added.
According to him, that moment brought the entire company together, towards a single mission of saving the company.
“We broke even before we raised our Series A round and it was all because of the resilience the team showed during the time of crisis and that’s the culture we have continued so far,” he said.
The founder added that he and his team have made many sacrifices over time for the greater good of the company.
“This is how we were able to build a culture of empathy – by saying it’s not about me but about us. It’s also about understanding the other person whether it’s your consumer or the team member,” he added.
He shared that the hardest thing for most companies is to avoid falling into the trap of chasing short-term goals. This is because founders often forget the vision with which they had started their ventures.
“That long game might involve losing a few rounds,” he added.
Transition From A Cockroach Startup To A Rocket Ship
According to Bajpai, the four key principles that a cockroach startup should abide by are – survival, frugal innovation, swift adaptation to change in markets, and taking bold risks when opportunities are ripe.
“The companies that succeed are not the ones with the highest market share or brand recall, but with the ability to adapt and remain relevant… Start being opportunistic and take some bigger risks to grow from a cockroach to a rocket ship,” he added.
ixigo started as an aggregator and comparison tool for flight, trains, buses and hotel bookings, and took 10 years to become a meta search engine for travel bookings, i.e., fulfilling ticketing on its own. In the last 15 years, the company has built $1 Bn GTV and is a profitable business with just $35 Mn consumed.
Although for ixigo cofounder & CEO Aloke Bajpai, frugality was not by choice but by circumstances. He bootstrapped his way for five years before raising a Series A funding round and ran out of money on four different occasions in the last 15 years. But, in hindsight, that was the best thing that happened to him, the founder said.
The CEO claims the last three months of 2022 saw the highest-ever revenue and EBITDA margins, adding that the travel bounce back has seen ixigo’s business surge 5X compared to pre-Covid levels on many metrics.
After a loss-making FY22, the company posted operating revenue of INR 118.8 Cr in Q1 FY23 (April- June 2022), according to an addendum it filed with the SEBI for its IPO application. The travel tech company reported profits of INR 8.73 Cr in the quarter on the back of revenue from ticketing.
The Gurugram-based online travel aggregator received the Securities and Exchange Board of India’s (SEBI’s) approval for the IPO in December 2021. However, in light of recent global events and fallout in the public markets, ixigo has put its INR 1600 Cr IPO plans on hold.