Venkatachalam Sthanu Subramani Mani, or as known as V.S.S Mani, is one of the most remarkable Indians entrepreneurs in the digital world. He founded Ask me in 1989, and Just Dial in 1996.
Full Name: Venkatachalam Sthanu Subramani Mani
Nick Name: V.S.S Mani
Date of Birth: 1966
Zodiac Sign: Unknown
Place of Birth: Jamshedpur, India
Current Residence: Mumbai, India
Parents: Names are unknown
Marital Status: Married
Wife: Anita Mani
Education: Chartered accountancy
University/College: the University of Delhi- no completed
Position: Founder/CEO/ Director of JD (Just Dial).
Net worth: around Rs 2,200 Crore.
V S S Mani was born in the year of 1966 at Tata Main Hospital in Jamshedpur, and he grew up in Calcutta with his family.
His parents wanted him to be a chartered accountant to secure his future. So, he decided to be a practising AC, and he passed the entrance exam. He studied Commerce and Chartered accountancy at the University of Delhi, and he went into an article ship under the institute of the chartered accountants of India for 3 years. He had to drop his study due to financial issues.
His father passed away at the age of 23, so he had to take responsibility for his family (mother and 3 siblings).
Under the article ship, he was a chartered accountant intern, and during this time he learned a lot about financing, commerce, revenues, profits, and balance sheets. This knowledge as he believes helped him in his entrepreneur life.
After he completed the article ship, he had to work in sales. He worked in a phone company.
The Idea of being an entrepreneur
During an interview with Mani, he was asked how did your entrepreneurial skills grow? “I always had this idea of doing something to help people, and make their life easier, and I always dreamt of a self-employee life, I guess this what is called the spirit of entrepreneurship.”
He also added, “studying to be an AC helped me a lot to picture my future as a self-employee, but unfortunately, and due to family issues, I had to start a job at sales.”
The Foundation of Ask me.
In 1987, Mani made his dream comes true by establishing his first firm “Ask Me.” The idea of this business came out as a result of brainstorming ideas on how to distribute information easier among people. It was about phone directories or a telephonic information system.
The service provided by Ask me was over the phone and on a 24/7 base. They had an updated database, from which they can find the business needed by its name or category.
Reasons of Failure
Mani faced some difficulties in financing and getting phone lines. As at the time of Ask me, getting a phone line was a long procedure.
The Wedding Planner in 1992
After the failure with Ask me, Mani thought of something more secure. During the early nineteens, India faced some economic problems. Therefore, Mani thought of the idea of a wedding planner, as he believes no matter how bad the economic situation is, people will still spend money on weddings.
His partners and he launched a wedding planner bi-annual magazine to market and promote for their business.
Although this was a successful business and managed to cover for family needs and expenses, Mani never felt attached to this business, as it does not describe him.
The Big Jump: Just Dial
The idea of starting Just Dial started by the year 1994/95, and so was the planning for. Mani secured the phone number of Just Dial, the phone line, and the office.
The actual start of Just Dial was in 1996. This start was very humble with a capital of 50,000 Rs, and everything was rented, even the computer systems.
He conducted a very simple search as well, his employees used to collect information about business, services and products, and update this information in their system.
Just Dial deals with services for B2B market as well as B2C. What Mani used to do is to meet the business owners and requesting for an update for their companies. Then offering his services at the same time. In This way, Mani grew his customer network.
In 1999, he received a financial support offer from an Indian entrepreneur in the US. This offer was of a huge jump to Mani, as he became a millionaire.
In Mid-2002, mobile usage was penetrating the Indian market. Therefore, Mani decided to improve JD services, and to be provided as an SMS, and e-mail messages.
By this way, he increased productivity by 3x and eliminated human errors.
During the years, Mani depended totally on his talents, and he did not have any investors support. In 2007, he received one opportunity by ED fund from New York Tiger global.
The crisis of 2008
Mani never thought that during the economic crisis of 2008, his business would get affected. But unfortunately, it did.
The company was still growing but at a slow pace. For Example, instead of growth of 55-60%, they had 27% growth.
The investors doubted Mani’s ability to manage the company during this period.
The survival of the 2008 Crisis.
Mani changed the selling strategy as well as the payment strategy. He changed the upfront payment policy to a monthly payment plan policy.
In this way, he did not only survive the crisis but also, he had increased the profitability.
The idea of Just Dial application came into the surface from Mani’s wife. Mani narrates while watching my wife, who was never fond of the internet, searching for her doctor’s number to get an appointment, ordering grocery, etc… I asked her: what do you think if you will have one application that will assist you in your grocery shopping and setting your appointment by only one click. She replied: for the first time I understand what you do.
Trivia and Interesting Facts
- The official website of Just dial was launched in 2007.
- In 2012, Just Dial went public.
- Just Dial provided a free fast service over the phone.
- Just Dial website has over 55 million users’ reviews.
- According to Mani, the secret of his success is focusing on service, product and customer
- Just Dial can compete well due to the fact that they had no real competitors most of the time, and the customer-product focused strategy.
- In 2000 Mani decided to go on Sabbatical leave for a year, and he travelled to different places, practised yoga meditation and other types of spiritual meditations.
- The Word of mouth marketing strategy was the most effective way to promote for Just Dial.
- He wanted to be a Yogi.
- The Mani couple produced the comedian Bollywood movie “Baanky ki crazy Baraat” that was launched in 2015.
- Mani had given his inputs in the creative and marketing side of Baanky Ki Crazy Baraat movie.