“What’s the story behind the name?”, I asked the CEO of KyaZoonga.com - who was in Bangalore earlier this month to oversee the ticketing of the second test match of India – New Zealand Series 2012.
“One man – Prahlad Kakkar! He wanted to tell people that it was an African Mating call…. And I asked him not to say that out loud on the radio and other media platforms.The name has no meaning. He must’ve woken up one morning and said Hey! KyaZoonga! But we decided to go with it anyway. Its unique, it stands out and people stop to ask what it means and what it is all about. It has two Os (not by design) so we were hoping that the Google and Yahoo! effect would wear off on us. Frankly we’re quite happy with it because at the end of the day, not calling ourselves a ticketing platform is the smartest thing we’ve done”, says Neetu.
Neetu Bhatia – one of the three co-founders and also the CEO of KyaZoonga speaks about how a simple thought of building a service around the two greatest passions of every Indian – Cricket and Entertainment, transformed her from a seasoned Investment Banker into an Entrepreneur. Tracing back to the days when this idea had crossed co-founder (and brother) Akash Bhatia’s mind, Neetu states that entrepreneurship happened purely by accident. “The idea of KyaZoonga came up when we were just visiting family over a short vacation. We wanted to go out and get some entertainment and honestly there was absolutely nothing that was available to tell you what was playing. It dawned upon us that the need of the hour was a platform like KyaZoonga. Yet no one was servicing it the way it should’ve been. And that’s how we came into picture”.
Back in 2007, Multiplexes were springing up everywhere and they had their own websites and ticketing solutions available on their portals. What exactly was the validation for you to venture into space like this? Do you think the market was ready for the kind of solutions you wanted to offer?
“I think the market had been ready for a while. It was just a matter of someone understanding the needs of the consumer and offering up a solution. However, I must say that the demand and supply are two things that of the equation of which in the middle we sit. Consumers pull the demand and the supply is given by the inventory owners and our value proposition for the consumer first was definitely convenience. You know – Jump the Q – which is still our tagline and get what you want, when you want, how you want and where you want it. For our clients - whose inventory we sell, the value proposition was that we’d ensure their revenue is maximized, attendance is boosted, the process put in place is technologically driven and also ensure that every investment they have made has commensurate return as far it relates to people coming to watch whatever we are serving them to watch. So those were the things that we absolutely wanted to focus on”.
How did you conceptualize the suite of services that you would be offering?
Ticketing is not a simple exercise - more so in India because ticketing as a concept didn’t exist in India earlier. Our suite of services has also evolved overtime because the market has evolved at that pace. What’s being rolled out now is what we’d envisioned a few years ago. Starting from online, to on-ground, to retail, making sure everything is running off of a central system; Today - I can log in right now and tell you which ticket was sold from which location counter, by whom, what type of ticket was sold can be figured out from this system. The level of information is so granular, even security agencies have been wanting to get access to the way we track and maintain data. When we ticketed the world cup, we worked with all kinds of security agencies - be it the local police or the cybercrime branch to ensure that security is not compromised, data is collected and a complete track of audience access is maintained from a security perspective so as to avoid threat perception to such high profile events. This is something we’d never imagined when we started out.
What was the first event that you ticketed and how was the experience?
First and foremost we got all the movie theatres together on one single platform - PVR, Inox, etc. PVR for the first time in its 10 year history back then, signed up with a third party for their inventory as they could tell the value add that we held for them. Our first real big event was the India-Pakistan Cricket series back in 2007 for which we had a mandate to sell online and we filled almost 30-40% of the stadium through online ticket sales in Jaipur. One thing led to another and we did the IPL season 1. We’ve done massive concerts like the Bryan Adams tour, Akons multi-city tour, the Jaipur literature festival – which we took on as their key registration and accessibility partner. Our crowning glory of course, has been the Cricket World Cup.
How did you go about resolving credit and debit card payments online back in 2007?
See the issue was not about the payment so much as it was of the kind of service we were selling. People wanted to avail our services and there is a huge demand for tickets - be it for movies or other entertainment events and sporting events – particularly an India-Pakistan match at that one. We kept the customer experience foremost in mind and ensured that that experience was delivered seamlessly. Customers were not hesitant at using their cards – which we noticed as long as they could trust the service. So you have to deliver it. So the first time you deliver, ensure that the customer knows that they can come back for more. We’ve had people calling us from outside the country willing to share their number just to block tickets. So we’ve seen those extreme situations too.
How did you manage procuring funds for your venture? Was it easier for you since you were an Investment Banker having connections in the United States?
We’d bootstrapped it when we began and we never pitched to anyone. We had a bunch of inbound queries in 2007 – we raised our first round of capital - Series A round when people who’d heard of what we were doing were interested in investing in on the business. They bought into our vision and mission. We broke even a couple of fiscals back. I think any investor primarily looks for two core elements before investing. One: the idea and the business plan. Two: the team. My history was never running a business. Although Investment Banking has been my background, Entrepreneurship was completely new to me. But I think my background has prepared me to don many hats and manage anything well.
So you moved from betting on a horse to being a horse yourself?
(Laughs) Yes I did. And interestingly, we are now ticketing horse races too.
What are the top 3 priorities for any internet company to tackle?
First of all, really figure out what you stand for - is it a product, is it a service, is it a name or is it something that you are delivering, that you stand for. Once you've figured that out, you'll get your operational priorities right.
Second - Make sure you can reach out to your target market as efficiently as possible; there are various ways of doing it. In a country like India, you cannot stick to just the online medium, you may have to go offline to get to the folks offline.
Third - Make sure you use the power of Search and Social. Use them as much as you can to build very powerful communities and make sure your audience can reach you when and where they want.
KyaZoonga may not stand for an African mating call (wink, wink) or much else in any other language but the name certainly stands for a brilliant example of how online ticketing and event accessibility can be turned into a serious and successful business in India. The website auto-plays the audio clip of one of Aamir Khan’s most celebrated performances as a black ticket salesman mouthing ‘Dus ka tees, dus ka tees’ - from the movie Rangeela - which is an amusing yet harsh reminder of how tickets used to be sold prior to online ticketing. Having ticketed major events such as the Bryan Adams Concert, Akon’s Tour of India, The Jaipur Literature Festival, several key cricketing events, such as IPL season 1 to begin with and as of last year – the newest and the most beautiful feather in their cap – The Cricket World Cup, 2011, KyaZoonga has developed a rock-solid image in India in the online ventures space.
Author of the article, Poonam Kulkarni
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