Harsh Pamnani
Guest Article

How brand BookMyShow was born

An excerpt from Harsh Pamnani's book 'Booming Brands'. It is about the inspiring journeys of 11 'Made in India' brands, including names like Zomato, Paper Boat, Byju's and Shaadi.com. This excerpt is about BookMyShow.

The beginning of the journey

This journey started in the year 1999. During this period, people in India used to stand in queues for hours for movie tickets. Sometimes, they used to miss movies because of shows getting houseful or used to get tickets at a very high price due to black marketing. Also, there was no organized platform to market movies, events and plays.

How brand BookMyShow was born

Booming Brands front cover
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These were the days, when a young MBA graduate - Ashish Hemrajani had started his career with an advertising firm in Mumbai. He wanted a break, and took off for a holiday in South Africa. During his road trip in South Africa, he was sitting under a tree and happened to listen to a radio commercial promoting tickets for rugby. Listening to this commercial, he thought, he could also replicate this model in India and thereby solve a problem that many people like him faced. He immediately sent the most expensive text message of his life worth Rs. 186 then to his boss, and said he was quitting his two-year-old first job.

How brand BookMyShow was born

Harsh Pamnani

After coming back to Mumbai the next day, he started working on his business plan and along with his friends Parikshit Dar and Rajesh Balpande, he co-founded India's first entertainment ticketing company - Go4ticketing.com. Those were the days of the dotcom boom and soon, private equity firm Chase Capital Partners JP Morgan invested in the company and it became a sub-brand belonging to Hindustan Times' portal Go4i.com. Later on, News Corp. bought the previous investor's stake and the company became Indya Tickets, a sub-brand belonging to STAR Network's portal Indya.com.

The business growth, however, was short lived. By 2002, the dotcom bubble had burst and Ashish's business was almost shut. The period of 2002 to 2007 was a rough phase for the company and it managed to survive by selling ticketing software and providing back-end ticketing services to cinema theatres. In 2007, seeing the growth in multiplexes, increased credit and debit cards adoption and internet penetration, Ashish and his team planned their comeback and launched BookMyShow. It took the market by storm and over a period of time brought on board investors like Network 18, Accel Partners, SAIF Partners and Stripes Group.

Birth of the brand name - BookMyShow

BookMyShow is one of the most popular names among Indian internet brands. You might imagine that this iconic name would have been coined by some advertising or branding firm. But you'd be wrong if you thought that. In reality, this name was coined by an intern in BookMyShow's engineering team.

In 2007, the company organized an internal contest to coin a name for the new brand. In this contest, every participant was supposed to share 3 to 5 names meeting a few criteria such as URL should be available with .com extension and others. The prize for the contest winner was an iPod touch.

Interestingly, an engineering intern came up with the name BookMyShow.com. This name connected very well with what the company did and everybody liked it. This is a good example of how every person in the company can be important, and how little efforts can ultimately pay off in very big ways.

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There are many important business lessons that could be learned from the evolution of brand BookMyShow. A few of them are as follows:

Obsession for customers is better than that for competitors: Many companies keep an eye on competitors and try to follow their seemingly good strategies. Watching competition is good because it keeps you aware, but obsession for competitors is not a great formula as it limits your mindset. Rather, if you focus on customers, you would come up with new ideas to wow them.

In 1999, Ashish started his first venture with a focus towards customers who wanted to watch movies and events but didn't have a hassle-free ticketing option. Establishing this concept in India was no child's play. During this period, the Indian market was not ready for internet based businesses, payment gateways were not available and credit card usage was almost negligible. Also, within a short span of time, 21 competitors emerged and the market became highly competitive. Rather than worrying too much about the competition, Ashish and team focused on enhancing customer experience.

Selling tickets may look like a business of selling commoditized products as customers don't need to look at and feel the product before buying it. But it's actually a business of providing differentiable service. The experience of buying a product was a key differentiator and the company focused on improving its service to delight its customers.

(Published by TV18 Broadcast, the book has 239 pages).

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