“When I grew up, I always wanted to do something that touched millions of people,” says VSS Mani the founder of Justdial, a successful multi-million-dollar venture. However, if we had told VSS that his brainchild would yield him this much success 20 years back, he would not have believed us. This is why a journey is far more valuable than a destination; the latter is not in our control but we can visualize the former till a certain point.
The one thing that binds the journey to the destination is effort and of course the package deal that comes along with it; determination, passion, hope, inspiration, prioritization… and a host of related terms. These terms, although sound different, are essentially the same; they are born out of each other. Anyway, motivation is free. So, gather it from wherever you can. This article features the story of VSS Mani, who kept himself hopeful despite the challenges that life made him face.
VSS Mani wanted to become a chartered accountant after his high school ended. He was able to bag an internship in the respective field, too. But due to some financial problems faced by the family, he was unable to complete it. He left it midway and instead joined a company as an accountant which paid him more. Surrounded by business professionals throughout the day, the seeds of entrepreneurship started making their way in his mind. He had a few ideas, but essentially, no money.
For two years VSS worked for the same company. He later quit and started working on the idea of Ask Me, the idea for which was same as that of JustDial. The basic concept behind the product was a phone number that would connect the consumers and businesses on the basis of interest and respective needs.
The idea was amazing and highly potential but Ask Me failed. According to VSS Mani, they were thinking way ahead of time. At that time, Indian telephone users were just 1% of the total population. Also, getting telephone lines was a troublesome task. There were limited distributors. Sometimes the wait for the lines stretched on for a few years! There came a point where the team of Ask Me weren’t even able to pay off their own internal expenses.
Mani also faced personal problems in his life then; his father passed away and he became the sole bread-owner of his family. He had to take care of his siblings and pay for their expenses as well. So, he had to drop Ask Me and instead started looking for more stable options for income.
Also read: MakeMyTrip founder Deep Kalra’s story.
The next venture that VSS Mani started was that of a wedding planning company. Again, the idea was incredible as Indians love to spend on weddings and this business sector is inelastic to any change in the economy. But the venture didn’t work out that well because of issues within the founding partners. Also, Mani was still quite stuck on the idea of Ask Me; he couldn’t get it out of his mind, he even dreamt of it. He thought of giving it another shot. If only he knew then, how fruitful that last try would prove to be for him…
Humble beginning of JustDial
JustDial was launched in 1995 with a capital of just Rs. 50,000 that VSS Mani had acquired after selling his wife’s jewellery, in a rented office space with borrowed furniture. The idea worked well; the time was just right. India was blooming with more telephone users everyday. The easy to remember phone number that JustDial had acquired, 8888888, proved to be the selling point of the product. The team actually started making profits and thus kept on expanding; today it has more than 12K employees with a well-known presence over the internet as well.
If there is one thing that you should take away from this story is, then it would be the never say die attitude. Think about it!