Next AMA: Aloke Bajpai of Ixigo on Building Enduring Capital Efficient Business

Fellas
The next #ama is scheduled for Sep 18th (Wed). With Aloke Bajpai, cofounder and CEO of ixigo.

Aloke and his team has built a super efficient business @ixigo and have used a lot of content / inbound marketing strategy to scale. ixigo is one of the few companies who have really lived the product-driven business mantra.

  • Date: Sep 18
  • Time: 8 pm – 9 pm IST
  • Where? This thread itself
  • Format? Go ahead and ask your questions in this thread.

Note: one question per thread / topic please (helps stay focused).

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How do you guys measure the success of your content marketing teams? Am not just referring to that ‘viral video’, but how do you even create/justify a budget for these sort of content?

(1) In a highly competitive market like OTAs, how did you go about identifying your differentiator? I assume you might had to do this multiple times in your journey, if that is true, how did you go about it each time? Do you use any framework?

(2) Unlike an e-commerce/food-delivery/commute apps, the repeat rate is relatively low for ticket booking (my assumption), how do you engage and retain your users? Can you share your current customer repeat rate? And what are your “user engagement” metrics?

(3) How do you go about making decisions and measuring them? Do you follow any models/methods? (ex: mental models by Charlie Munger)

(4) What is your advice to entrepreneurs who have built some base, have some revenues but finding it hard to scale?

(5) What does your typical week look? Can you probably take us through your day?

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How does ixigo make money? I am guessing via the affiliate model - but how else do you make money for train and other apps?

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Who is responsible for growth inside ixigo? As in, whose KRA is it? Marketing ? product? CEO?

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Do you guys follow frameworks like North Star metric? Given that there are quite a few products inside ixigo - how do you keep the team stay focused on core metric and NOT get distracted ?

What are the different tools do you use at Ixigo?

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Hi Aloke, what are the product and business angles that you considered before going ahead with your recent partnership with Flipkart?

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In an earlier interview with NextBigWhat, you had mentioned that internally you allocate zero marketing budgets to teams working on new features/products. Does that approach still hold up at ixigo’s current scale and in a much more crowded market?

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What does ‘Building For Bharat’ (as espoused by Rajnish) entail today for ixigo and what should it mean for startups in general? Considering that many of the technological shackles that held the ecosystem back have been either removed or are on the verge of removal.

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We don’t have a budget for our content marketing team. Most of our videos were made with very little spend - we rent most of our equipment, and most of the actors in our videos are ixigems. Viral videos are an output of a culture of experimentation and understanding the pulse of your audience and what they are likely to share. We measure success by how much our videos get talked about and shared. Many of our videos including the “hotel etiquettes” one have generated as much reach and recall as TV campaigns do. They also result in tons of downloads for our apps that are attributable back to the videos as a source. The joke in our entire growth / marketing is that you have an infinite budget as long as you can prove we are LTV/CAC positive.

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  1. We started out as a meta-search, comparing OTAs with one another and airline site fares. Over time we became a marketplace, and now, considering our scale and reach among next billion users, for many of our business lines we are the merchant / OTA. Our differentiation has been to always start with innovations that saved time/money and anxiety for travelers without trying to sell them something. Turns out once that trust is built, they will buy from you as well.

  2. Well firstly our utility use cases (trip management, PNR tracking, train running status tracking, flight fare prediction and comparison, trip planner etc) bring in a lot of users at the top of the funnel (not only when they are in the mode of booking). When people are not traveling or looking for travel, we engage them through inspiration - that can be led by discovery of new places or by deals (our new “Explore” section does both). We also have content (news/games/videos) in our train app for engagement during the journey as well as after it.

  3. The best decisions we made (at least the most disruptive / innovative ones) were actually not based on any data science, but on instinct / gut developed out of a long time of observing user behavior and pain areas. Data driven decision making is great for iterative growth but never gives you breakthrough ideas, because for what doesnt exist yet, there is never enough data available.

  4. Hustle harder !

  5. There is no typical weeks in growth stage companies or in a founder’s life ! Finding talent, business development, investor relations, marketing / growth ideas, product ideas are whereI usually spend my time on.

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Too many to mention here. I can just say that we wouldn’t be able to run our company as effectively without slack, g-suite and aws :slight_smile:

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When we started out, we earned money on just ads or leads we generated. Most of our revenue now comes from transactions done on/through ixigo.

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Building for Bharat is about understanding the needs of someone from Etawah and Neyveli as effectively as the ones for Delhi and Bengaluru. It is about understanding the pain points of a first time internet user with a Jio device. It is about connecting with someone who doesnt write / speak in English, or even Hindi. So technology can play a big role by localizing and simplifying the user experience, but there is also a psychographical understanding that needs to be developed for this market. Making the next billion users (NBUs) transact and adopt to services made for the first hundred million (FHM) market is a tough task that needs innovative solutions and lots of education.

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How has your understanding of PMF evolved over the last few years ?

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We do not have a CMO for a very long time - but have instead split up marketing in three functions - growth (more product, engg and data driven experiments for managing and improving the AARRR funnel and the right channel mix), brand (owning customer facing brand elements, pr, communication etc) and creative (content, videos etc)

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Most of our successful products created or opened up new markets and so PMF discovery was harder for us. What we found is PMF is not static, and that is a huge advantage for nimble startups who can iterate fast. Once you find it, you need to constantly evolve to maintain it, because the market discovers and moves rapidly to the best product or offering. So, you gotta constantly know where the customer expectations (i.e. market) is moving towards and anticipate and plan product around that to maintain PMF.

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Very interesting. so how do you go about finding + validating customer requirements? At scale, is there a framework / process do you guys use?

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I’m in the early stage of my career. What advice would you give for young PM’s? And how should one enhance their PM skills?