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Name: Ashish Hemrajani

Occupation: Founder and CEO, Bookmyshow

Father’s Name: Om Hemrajani

Occupation: Raw material trader

Partition brought Ashish Hemrajani’s parents from the new Pakistan to a new India. Both had been from well off families in Sindh. But as refugees, they were forced to stay at camps in Delhi and then in Uttar Pradesh, where they met, got married and moved to Mumbai to start a small business in pharmaceutical raw materials.

Photo by Sanskrit Kumar/Mint

Ashish Hemrajani is today the founder and chief executive officer of Bigtree Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. The company owns the website, which offers ticketing services for cinemas, plays, concerts and live events such as the Indian Premier League. With seven-eight million transactions a year, Bookmyshow is one of the top five online transaction websites in the country.

“My father never permitted me to bunk classes. He ensured that I would complete my education without a break. I finished MBA (master’s in business administration) when I was 22," says Hemrajani. Afterwards, he joined advertising firm J. Walter Thompson (JWT) as a management trainee.

Now 36, Hemrajani says that like Buddha, his moment of enlightenment came under a tree in South Africa while visiting a friend. “I was listening to a radio programme promoting tickets for football. The idea struck me then; I did not sleep that night." The seeds of Bigtree were sowed.

Shortly after, Hemrajani quit JWT, and persuaded fellow MBA students Parikshit Dar and Rajesh Balpande to give up their jobs as well. In 1999, at the height of the dotcom boom, the three started selling movie tickets through the telephone and the Internet. The same year, private equity firm Chase Capital Partners handed over Rs2.5 crore to Hemrajani, based on a business proposal he had sent. The trio set up call centres and visited cinemas across the country to facilitate the new business proposition.

“We were the first to deliver a movie ticket home, like pizzas," Hemrajani says. In 2001, Chase Capital sold their stake in Bigtree to News Corp. But then came the dotcom bust. “Suddenly, we were down from 150 to a six-member team. But we believed in the business model. Twenty-two competitors cropped up immediately after we launched. But nobody survived the bust," Hemrajani says.

Between 2002 and 2006, Bigtree tied up with almost all leading cinemas or, by this time, multiplexes. In March 2007, Network 18 invested in it as the company expanded its presence to 62 cities.

“We are looking for the next round of funding to scale up. The initial public offer is an option," Hemrajani says. But, he adds, if managing a listed firm comes at the cost of serving his customer, he would rather keep Bigtree a privately held company.

P.R. Sanjai

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