The year was 2004. MakeMyTrip was a struggling 4-year old company and Deep Kalra, its founder, hadn’t taken a salary for nearly 18 months and had exhausted all of his financial savings. His co-founders had already taken salary cuts ranging from 50-70%. That’s when they got an offer from a much larger company to buy MakeMyTrip out. After discussing between themselves, they decided that they’d sell if the offer was $10 million. The first offer from the potential buyer was $5 million. Which Kalra refused, of course. Then the haggling started. Over a few hours and price inched up bit by bit to around $7 million. “And the meeting ended. And I was actually very relieved,” says Deep in episode 11 of First Principles.

He says his single biggest advice to young founders is to “just hang in there and don’t give up too early because so many businesses haven’t seen the light of day because someone gave up too early.”

MakeMyTrip went through long periods of struggle, often existential, before it became the online travel giant that it is today. And Kalra has been part of it all through.

In a reflective and wide-ranging conversation, Kalra covers a two decade span of evolution of India’s internet and startup space, including his own journey as an entrepreneur. It’s a masterclass on not giving up, staying in the game, and building to last.

And if you have any questions, thoughts, suggestions, or tips, please email them to [email protected]. We might not be able to reply to all of them but we do read every single one of them.

Full Episode Transcript:

Rohin Dharmakumar

Deep, welcome. 

The first time we spoke officially for The Ken was the month The Ken was launched, which was October 2016. And Make My Trip had just announced its merger with GoIbibo. And, of course, like here we are in 2022, almost 2023.

If you were to go back to October 2016 when the merger happened and when you were looking forward, what do you see now that you possibly didn’t see back then?

Deep Kalra

Yeah, and firstly, thank you for having me here. And before I answer your question, so obviously I’m your good luck charm then.

So, I was among your first interviews. So Ken…I’m happy to see Ken do so well. So actually, it’s wonderful to see your startup. I know the risks you took. So, someone should do a podcast on the entrepreneur that Rohin is, which is great.

So I guess it would be fair to say that our hand was forced to do that M&A.