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Bhavin Turakhia: The young entrepreneur for whom the world is a playground

Today, Bhavin Turakhia (pictured) and Divyank, his sibling, are regarded among the most successful tech entrepreneurs in the world, with a combined net worth of $1.6 billion, according to Forbes’ 2018 list
Bhavin Turakhia comes across as an average joe entrepreneur -- slender, sporting a tee and a stubble, and someone who carries his office in his laptop. But, apart from an almost insatiable thirst to launch and scale up multiple companies at the same time, what also differentiates Turakhia is the ability to see the entire world as 'one' market and create global products.

Turakhia, now 38, is based in London, runs companies in India and Dubai, and manages their customers in the US. “I have clients across the world, so London is like a good central place for work from the time zone perspective,” says Turakhia.

A hugely successful start-up entrepreneur, Turakhia’s wakes up as early as 5:30 in the morning, which gives him an entire day to support his companies located in India. When India goes to sleep, he starts his second session supporting clients located in the US, especially in New York and San Francisco. “I spend one week every month in India, two weeks in the US and one week in London. I am in a plane at least nine times a month,” says Turakhia, sitting at the Bengaluru headquarters of Directi, his holding company that manages four technology start-ups.

Turakhia started building his first company when he was 17. He dropped out of college (only to complete it later) and launched a bunch of web hosting businesses with his younger brother, out of their parents’ home in Mumbai. Today, he and Divyank, his sibling, are regarded among the most successful tech entrepreneurs in the world with a combined net worth of $1.6 billion, according to Forbes’ 2018 list.

How did that happen? The duo made fortunes selling their businesses on two occasions. In 2014, both brothers sold four business units, in the domain of web hosting, registry and ancillary web services, to a Nasdaq-listed US firm, netting $160 million. Two years later, they sold Media.net, an ad tech company they had founded in 2010, to a consortium of Chinese investors for a staggerring $900 million. The company was then managing the advertising engines for Yahoo!, Microsoft’s Bing, AOL and MSN. 

The journey to his latest exit -- and starting new ventures along the way -- has given Turakhia a deeper understanding of global tech, products and customers, and the need to build solutions that push the limit of innovation and product design. With some of his products, Turakhia competes directly with those built by a Google or a Microsoft. “If a product has value, it will get its own users,” he says. And being on the move, especially with one leg in the US and the other in India, helps him have a pulse on innovation (US, Silicon Valley) and the needs of growing markets like India.

He currently manages at least four tech companies, one of them being Flock, an enterprise communication and work collaboration platform. Flock is a direct competitor of Slack, a SoftBank-backed US start-up now worth over $7 billion, apart from tools from global giants such as Google and Microsoft. Turakhia says, Flock has gained over half a million users, across the US and the UK, despite spending very little on marketing. Turakhia is said to have put $45 million of his own money in Flock. 

Besides Flock, the portfolio of Directi includes Zeta, a payments start-up that was founded in 2015. Zeta offers a platform to companies to manage employee reimbursements, payments to vendors and so on. “The goal for Zeta is to eliminate all costs, all paper and all delays that occur in any transections that a company has to do,” says Turakhia adding that Zeta is the largest such service in the country supporting between 1.5-1.7 million employees working with around 13,000 corporate clients.

Turakhia, who has thus far managed his businesses with his own money, believes that the availability of excess capital often stifles innovation, as founders invariably use it to gain new users. “I am not saying cash (tapping external funding) is bad. But the problem is if you have too much cash, you don’t tend to innovative,” he says. “If the product has real value, I will get the users.”

With his global outlook and a belief to keep away from VC money, it will interesting to see how Turakhia’s various bets play out, before the jet lag gets the better of him.

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