Forbes, on Thursday, announced its annual list of India’s 100 Richest People. While there was little doubt about who would end up on the top spot, the list saw six new entrants, including Mumbai-based serial entrepreneurs, Bhavin and Divyank Turakhia.
Their company, Media.net, was recently acquired by a Chinese consortium in an all-cash transaction of $900 million. The Consortium was led by Zhiyong Zhang, Chairman of Beijing Miteno Communication Technology, a technology, media and telecom (TMT) business listed on the GEM Board of the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.
Following the sale, Bhavin (36) and Divyank’s (34) net worth rose to a staggering $1.3 billion, earning them a place in the Forbes India’s 100 Richest list. The brothers were ranked 95th on the list.
Bhavin and Divyank Turakhia founded Directi in 1998 when they were still teenagers. They sold their web presence business, which included four brands, to Nasdaq-listed Endurance Group in 2014 for $160 million.
The money earned from the Media.net sale will reportedly go into a diversified pool of global investment funds and other businesses co-owned by the brothers.
Meanwhile, Flipkart’s founders, Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, who had debut on the Forbes 2015 list, are no longer a part of this year’s list.
With a net worth of $22.7 billion, Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani retained the top spot on the list for the 9th year in the row. Sun Pharma’s Dilip Shanghvi was ranked a distant second with a wealth of $16.9 billion.
The minimum amount required to make the list was USD 1.25 billion, up from USD 1.1 billion in 2015.
Divyank Turakhia is the owner of Media.Net and it was as a 16-year-old that along with his elder brother Bhavin, 18 then, he set up Directi in 1998 by borrowing Rs 25,000 from their father. The two have degrees in Commerce and came from Mumbai when Bangalore was India’s technology hub. Bhavin however says they were onto technology far before most others; they self-taught themselves. “I started coding when I was 10, before the internet or Windows,” he says. Divyank was precocious with technology and when the internet came to India, he began consulting for companies that wanted a web presence, selling them both software and hardware. When they got into business, the brothers made a key decision. Servicing a small number of clients meant a limit on growth, so instead they would go for volume play: creating technology products whose USP would be intellectual property that would sell in a global mass market.
“In 1997-98, when we started off, the internet was just booming. One of the first services we started off was providing domains and hosting web servers, etcetera, to various customers in India and worldwide. In India, it was just catching up and people needed a web presence. It did allow us to scale up to a certain extent,” says Bhavin. Within a few years, they had made their first million.
Since then ,they have been nimble footed, staying at the top of tech trends. Media.Net was started by Divyank in 2010 because online advertising was becoming huge. “Before that he was running this business called Skenzo, which was in the advertising space but a niche area. Then he expanded that into Media.Net. Much like any other area, it is about how big the market is—over $150 billion worldwide. Second, how much difference technology can make in that market. From that standpoint, Div started investigating the contextual advertising field and felt like we could make an impact and started down that path,” says Bhavin.
Bhavin manages Directi, which has over 1,500 employees, in India, while Divyank is based mostly in North America and Dubai with his online advertising business. He will continue to run Media.Net after the sale. They had several offers for the firm and the valuation didn’t surprise them. Negotiations began a few months ago, but most of it took place over a two-week period. Bhavin flew down to China for a week, sitting across “almost 18 lawyers and bankers, negotiating minute points of the 250-page legal documents”.
They are yet to decide how the money from the sale will be put to use, but considering their ages of 34 and 36, they are in no hurry. “We are still young, so we have a long way to go,” says Bhavin.