A visionary, pacesetter and out of the box thinker, John Kuruvilla, has successfully launched some of the most widely held campaigns. These include:
- Humara Bajaj
- Maruti Omni
- Toyota Qualis
- Air Deccan.
He has also been the mind behind bringing many big brands to India. Name tag of John Kuruvilla is associated with many esteemed names such as:
- Air Deccan
- Oberoi Group of Hotels
- J Walter Thomson and Lintas (Lowe)
He was born in Jamshedpur. He gradutated from the University of Singapore. He has seen many good as well as bad days of life and each time, he has up with flying colors. He has been battled through Steven Johnson’s syndrome to found his entrepreneurial venture taggle.com. He is a star of 24 years having arduous experience, courage, will-power and also knowledge of sales marketing, revenue management, customer relations, brand building, and pricing.
The rise of his first venture- Propmart Technologies Ltd.
In the year 2002, he began with his first ever venture – Propmart Technologies Ltd. It was an idea to revolutionize the way real estate services were being offered to in India to professionalize it. It was a blend of both leverage and technology.
The business flourished. It is evident from the fact that in a very short span of time, it became the largest provider it that region. This was also first time Propmart brought together big names like Leo Burnett, Wrigleys, HSBC, ICICI and many other real estate businesses under one roof. In 3 years the company had offices in 6 cities and also functioned in 5 Middle East countries – Dubai, Muscat, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The company being sold- Fall of the venture
In 2003, everyone was thrown aback when the news of the business being sold to an unknown real estate developer in India came into light. The reasons are unknown till date. And thereafter, he moved back to employment for a while.
His most ambitious venture – taggle.com
In 2010, he took a U-turn back to his entrepreneurial journey. He started one of his most ambitious ventures- taggle.com. It was started with a fund of USD 1 Million from Battery Ventures and Greylock Patterns.
As soon as he recovered from his ailment, he saw taggle.com as a venture way ahead of his times. At that time, it dealt with online group buying and was one of the earliest group buying start-ups in India.
At first, their website offered contracts related to services and products. But as soon as they comprehended that the service contracts were not proving to be productive, they sidetracked their focus to deals related to only products. And this change reflected in their revenues too! Their revenues grew 10 times in just 3 months.
With a heavy heart, he shifted to the role of an advisor in August 2011 and hired a new CEO for the company. This decision was taken chiefly due to differences with the management in relations with the business strategy.
There were many other aggregators in the market, apart from Taggle. These included:-
- Groupon India (Crazeal.com) and many more.
It became equivalent to The Last Man Standing Game! To survive in the market, they had to sell the products below the cost price thus ending up in a price war with others.
This definitely would have produced a winner, but then they would have nothing left to lose.
Hence, in 2012 the company together decided not to get into the war and to pull the shutter down would be a better choice.
Increment in his work experience
He has extended his horizons in terms of his professional experience. It ranges from accounts, finance, dot com, real estate, and marketing. Moreover, he has a work experience of 14 years in the sector of advertising alone. He has been acclaimed by many for his out-of-box advertising techniques.
Ammirati Puris Lintas
After 5 years of completion of his Bachelors in Science, he started his vocation in the year ’89. His first job was ‘Ammirati Puris Lintas’. He managed accounts like Bajaj Auto and Bajaj Electric for roughly 2 years. Although the job was pretty run-of-the-mill and was nothing in comparison to what his abilities were, it helped him build his base.
His experience of contract advertising
As soon as he felt he was ready to go to the next level, he moved to one of the best businesses in his life to gain the much-needed experience of Contract Advertising in 1992. It is a subordinate of J Walter Thomson, one of the largest advertising agencies in the world and the biggest in India.
Bringing down the losses faced by the Bangalore Branch
The contract was made across many cities in India. Their Bangalore branch had been suffering losses for a long time. He was hired for the primary but difficult task of turning the tables around in Bangalore. Hence without much delay, he started the task of bringing down the losses in that branch. Within a time period of fewer than 5 years, he got this department to start making profits. But things didn’t end there. His organization went on to become the first company to start a retainer based model. Also for the first time, an advertising agency started a consultancy wing to provide brand advisory services to businesses who could not afford the higher prices otherwise.
They used to provide advisory services to some of the brands. These names included:
- Reva (electric car)
- Carbon (branded jewelry)
- BPL US West (telecom)
- Oberoi Group (Hospitality), etc.
They received many awards for creativity.
Joining the Leo Burnett
After 5 years of tremendous hard work and commendation, it was time for him to put his abilities to the benefit of another firm. Hence, in 1998 he joined Leo Burnett as Sr. VP. Leo Burnett was a Chicago-headquartered advertising agency at a reputable position across the globe.
Launch of the Orchard advertising
This was a going to be a test for his talent and experience. In just 20 months, he turned the losses of Bangalore into profits. Meanwhile, he also created a subsidiary in partnership with one the world’s biggest private agencies, Dentsu of Japan. Thus, he launched Orchard advertising. During that phase, they did something which was even more praiseworthy. They started India’s leading brands Toyota and Hitachi in our country. Also, they won bronze at Cannes for TV Films.
Joining the Air Deccan and uplifting it
He took the biggest leap of his life in 2003 when he joined Air Deccan as their new Chief Revenue Officer and Head of Marketing. At that time, air Deccan was on the verge of dying. But under his mentorship and guidance, it became the second largest airlines of India in just a period of 3 years. Apart from his above-mentioned accomplishments with the airlines, the airlines also reinvented commercial aviation in the country. A team of young but inexperienced enthusiasts helped him to achieve all this and to create aviation history in India. Although, later the business was bought over by Kingfisher Airlines, but their accomplishments were so commendable that they were mentioned in ‘Simplifly’, the Biography of Capt. Gopinath – founder of Air Deccan.
Joining the Oberoi Group- A dream company for many people
He joined The Oberoi Group as an Executive Vice President – Marketing in 2006, after leaving Air Deccan. The Oberoi Group is like a dream company for many people. It is considered to be one the most respected brands in the world. 3 of their hotels are listed among the top 10 hotels in the world by the travel and leisure magazine. This group also reached heights under his headship but due to some unavoidable reasons he had to leave this group after a period of 2 years.
Working with via.com
The very famous via.com was the second last company where John worked. He was their new CMO. Via is an online travel and deals site. It is a Bangalore-based Flightraja Travels Pvt. Ltd. It has a grid of 20,000 travel partners in 2,400 cities and towns in India with 4 crore clienteles and 20 lakh footfalls at its 50,000 offline outlets. And it was none other than our own Mr. Kuruvilla to make all this happen in reality.
But, to everyone’s surprise, he left the job in just 5 months itself. As per techcircle.in, he stated that he was hired by the company for an assignment – concrete and time-bound contract. Also, he was recruited to widen and upscale the B2C section of the Via.com which also involved branding, marketing, and customer procurement. And so he decided to move on to the next step as soon as he delivered what he was asked to.
Working with GenNext Ventures
Lastly and presently, he is working with GenNext Ventures – a Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) backed venture capital firm. It capitalizes in modernization driven start-ups and growth stage companies. RIL takes a 50% stake in GenNext ventures.
He heads the early stage investment initiative at GenNext Ventures. Under his headship, the company has launched the GenNext Innovation Hub. It is an accelerator programming partnership with Microsoft ventures.
His servicing as a COO for the Deccan Charters
He also served as a COO in commercial and revenue for the Deccan Charters during 2008-09. There he successfully helped the company grow over by 30% during the recession phase and turned it lucrative.
Handling US Restaurants while going through a fatal ailment
There also came a time when he was going through a fatal illness, called Steven Johnson Syndrome. This was the result of wrong diagnosis by the doctors and poor medication. At the same time, he was handling US Restaurants (US Pizza) and 20 north Private Ltd. (www.20north.com) where he was a Director on the Board.
Nevertheless, being the warrior he is, he succeeded in all.
Usually John hides himself from the limelight for being shy but when he came in the limelight, then people came to know that besides being the best and most heard speakers in TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs), he has achieved a lot that many can learn from.
TiE is a non-profit organization which nurtures entrepreneurship across the globe through mentoring, networking, education, incubating and funding.
His best achievement
One of the best examples of his achievements comes from many years back when Air Deccan airlines were on the verge of being closed. Many business enthusiasts came up with the idea of selling the airline tickets at INR 500. Despite being regarded as fools and facing all the critics for their idea to no limits, they were satisfied with making the dream of small-town people to fly in airplanes real. Within no time, the airlines became the headlines of every newspaper. The reason behind this was that the Air Deccan server crashed with the enormously large number of bookings. Surprisingly, in the next three years, airlines moved from nobody to become the second largest airlines in the country. And all this became possible under the headship of none other than Mr. John Kuruvilla.
The dying Kawasaki Brand was saved
The memorable “Hamara Bajaj” tune was the idea of Mr. Kuruvilla. He, using advertisements, saved the dying Kawasaki Brand by focusing pan-Indian appeal instead of their technical proficiency. As a result, Kawasaki is one of the most loved brands in India. Moreover, the commercial too has become one of the most popular commercials of Indian television.
Lessons to learn from John
- India is a nightmare for marketing and is one of the most multifaceted markets. It’s not at all possible for each and everything to prove itself to be the best everywhere. For instance, it is not at all possible that every person is going to choose that particular thing only; some might have a different choice.
- Novelty is the key to success; else it is just existence.
- Recommendation is the best form of advertising as 1 satisfied customer is going to share its testimonial with others, thereby bringing 10 more customers and those 10 if satisfied, will return And in this way the number gets integrally multiplied.
- The bridge between success and failure in today’s business world is revenue management.
- Never obfuscate things while making any decision. Just keep them simple.
- To understand the basics of the business, just stick to it for at least 2 years.
- Give first priority to your company and second to your growth. You automatically grow along with the growth of your business.
Going through his entrepreneurial journey, one might think that he is not a successful businessman but this is not the actual fact. In reality, he is one of the most beautiful minds.
Both his undertakings were born out of an out-the-box idea, profligate promotion and marketing techniques, the intelligence and most importantly the experience. Also selling a company or bringing the shutter down to a business is not always failure. In reality, those were the wisest and the bravest decision taken by him to avoid unreasonable future damages.
Eventually, it’s not where you reach that defines your success but what decisions you take during the most difficult times.