How Just Dial's VSS Mani Pre-Empted Competition

VSS Mani and his Just Dial adapted to changing market conditions and, most importantly, made smart profits in the process

Sourav Majumdar
Published: Sep 5, 2014 07:38:28 AM IST
Updated: Sep 3, 2014 01:49:16 PM IST

While hunting for potential success stories for making investments, smart investors have some basic thumb rules to go by. The business idea should be disruptive and scalable, it should address a major market need and the entrepreneur at the centre of the business must be someone with an instinctive drive for success. Map these qualities with some of the biggest names in the entrepreneurial world across the globe and you will find that if most or all of these boxes are ticked, chances are you will not go terribly wrong with your investment.

How Just Dial's VSS Mani Pre-Empted Competition
Our cover story this time is on an entrepreneur who, over the years, displayed a number of the qualities investors look for. VSS Mani and his Just Dial have become synonymous with the local search and listings business in India, achieving scale, adapting to changing market conditions and, most importantly, making smart profits in the process. Mani, who started his business with voice-based search and then moved into the online space, did so by reading the signs carefully, understanding well that online search would be the future.

Today, Mani’s Just Dial, which he set up in a garage in 1996, is a listed company with investors vying for a slice of the pie. The company clocked a 76 percent growth in net profits at Rs 120.62 crore in FY14, with a market capitalisation of around Rs 12,000 crore and 14.5 million users. Not bad going when most internet businesses, including heavyweights like Flipkart and Snapdeal, are still grappling with losses despite having grown smartly.
But like every successful business, now that scale has been achieved, the next frontier for Just Dial has to be about how it can remain relevant and keep the consumer engaged, not just by way of the core business of hyper-local search options but also by other value added services. And it is here that Mani is likely to meet his biggest challenge. His next big bet—that of moving into the online transactions space and making the jump from leads to deals—will be a deciding factor for Just Dial’s future growth. The markets realise this, and will undoubtedly be keeping a close watch on how Just Dial treads in this highly competitive, crowded space and how it differentiates itself from the rest of the pack.

While the company has established leadership in its core business, ecommerce will be a very different ball game and one that will test Mani’s business acumen to the hilt. The game just got a whole lot tougher.

Sourav Majumdar
Editor, Forbes India
Twitter id:@TheSouravM 

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(This story appears in the 19 September, 2014 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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  • Harsh Panchal

    Awesome company i proud to be work in just dial company

    on Jun 9, 2015
  • Kumar Saurabh

    It will be interesting to know how he created the market when business search engine concept was not even known to us Indians.

    on Sep 6, 2014