India's 1st Classified Booking Website

In The Press

Go Back What began as a means to supplement family income has grown into a 5 crore advertising venture. The Economic Times Wealth,

I began working 
while I was in college since my family was facing financial difficulty. Starting an advertising business allowed me to have flexible work hours. 

By the time I 
graduated, I had three years of experience in running the business and had expanded my network. So, I decided to pursue it on a fulltime basis. 

It was difficult 
to get a bank loan, and I had to fund all my expansion plans on my own. These included creating a website and opening offices in Delhi and Mumbai. 

My foray in business was not a planned move trigerred by my strong entrepreneurial instincts. In fact, I was compelled to work while I was in college as my family was facing financial problems. However, finding a job was difficult when I enrolled as a 21-year-old student of BSc (Chemistry) at Lucknow University in 1993. So, I began to scout around for opportunities that would let me earn enough to support myself, and starting my own venture was the only option. 

I toyed with various ideas, finally zeroing in on publishing advertisements for clients in various newspapers. Beyond the glamour of big companies flashing massive advertisements, a number of smaller firms and individuals also put up their ads, and I believed this was a big market waiting to be tapped in Lucknow. The biggest advantage was that I could set my own hours and run the business from home. The first advertisement that I put up was, of course, my own. I used 500, which included my pocket money and money borrowed from my father, to carry advertisements in a local Hindi paper about my venture, Advertisement India. The business model was, and remains, the same: for every ad that we get published in the paper, the client pays us 15% of the fee. When I started, I mostly approached small shops to put up their ads along with matrimonial ads. It took me one month to get my first client, a video parlour in Lucknow. I got the ad printed in a local paper for 60 and earned a commission of 9. Over the next three years, my business earned me enough to support myself during college years. In fact, I even hired a person to collect ads from the clients. By the time I graduated in 1997, I was earning about 4,000 a month. It may not seem like a profitable venture, but the fact that I had been running the business successfully for three years was a big boost to my confidence. I had also begun to enjoy the work and was certain that I wanted to pursue this. In the meantime, I had also managed to widen my network beyond the Hindi newspapers to the English ones as well as magazines. 

I could now focus on my venture on a full-time basis and this helped me increase the number of advertisements. Another factor was that a number of small enterprises began to come up in Lucknow in the late 1990s, which helped me increase my monthly salary to about 10,000 within a year of graduating. I also hired five more salespeople, and since I continued to work from home, I managed to cut down on office rent. I also began to pour some of the profit back into the business. During those days, getting a bank loan for a business was very difficult, especially for a business like an advertising agency. This is the reason I had to fund the expansion plans with my own money. The most critical move was to create an online presence, so I set up a website in 1999, and also hired a few more sales representatives.

Though I had established myself on the Web and could have handled the business easily from my Lucknow office, I decided to expand to Delhi and Mumbai to gain credibility. Another reason was that most of my clients’ businesses had expanded to other cities and they wanted to print ads in other editions. Besides, I wanted to be taken more seriously and compete with the bigger advertising agencies. Often, the clients who had worked with us in Lucknow were surprised to find that we could get their advertisements printed even in the national editions. Most of them assumed that since we were based in Lucknow, our sphere of operations was limited to that area. This is the reason that in 2000, I spent 3 lakh to open offices in Delhi and Mumbai. 

We also started tapping an important market within online advertising: matrimonial ads. When I had started, ads for recruitment were the biggest draw, but after 2000, matrimonials began to dominate and now these form the bulk of our revenue. About 10 years ago, when we would average 100 small ads in a month, we have grown to manage 700-800 ads a month, and these range from 2,500 to 25 lakh.

As the business has grown—we have 18 employees and about 70 clients—we’ve had to innovate to ensure growth. We have started a doorstep cash pick-up facility, where you can book an advertisement online but pay in cash to our executive, who will collect it personally. What prompted us to launch this service was that most people, especially those in smaller towns, do not trust online payment options. We are now building a team that focuses exclusively on tapping the small and medium enterprises for advertisements. I believe this segment will emerge as the main source of revenue generation in the future.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Sign up to receive special offers and promotions from