He Turned His Horrible Travel Experience into a Rs 600 Cr Business Idea- Redbus


Phanindra Sama who is from a small district Nizamabad in Northern Andhra Pradesh never planned on becoming an entrepreneur. He was working happily with a Bengaluru based company after his post graduation from Indian Institute of Sciences.

He regularly took a bus to Hyderabad to visit home. In 2005, there was a fateful day where things didn’t go as planned. It was around Diwali and he wanted to go home to meet his parents to spend the festive weekend. However, he was stuck in traffic and reached late at his regular travel agent to book tickets to Hyderabad and by then the tickets were all sold out.

He was unable to get hold of a ticket from a second travel agent and returned empty handed when a third agent also couldn’t help him. He was unable to acquire a ticket to Hyderabad from any travel agent that evening which left him frustrated. He went back to his apartment sulking and spending the weekend alone wondering why no one came up with a solution for this.

The same night he emailed his flatmates explaining what he had just experienced. He visited his regular travel agent over the weekend and inquired all about the process of booking bus tickets. Such a problem was very complex and the travel agent had seen many enthusiasts just like Phanindra who failed terribly at finding an efficient solution. The travel agent asked him to forget the incident and go back.

He decided to find an answer and solution to the issue in technology even though he didn’t know coding or programming. However, Phanindra wanted to better understand and clear his doubt about how travel agents worked with bus operators. But he was shooed from every travel agent’s office. It was a breakthrough when he came across a young travel agent who was an engineer as well. He clearly perceived Phanindra’s intentions and happily gave him insights about the bus ticket booking world.

Now he along with his flat mates and clear understanding of how things worked decided to build an open sourced and free platform for the travel agents. He did not consider not knowing programming as a problem but he passionately pursued finding a solution. He purchased books and learned coding and programming.

The friends worked for months and finally came up with the first version of the software. However, it was a challenge as the travel operators absolutely refused to use it by saying they saw no value in it and they wanted to increase their sales, sell more tickets. This made Phanindra develop a product for consumers allowing them to book tickets and he launched Redbus.

With a lot of convincing the travel agents used the product and witnessed growth in their sales. This marked a significant achievement for Redbus. Even illiterates who didn’t know how to operate a computer became experts of this product by its usage and benefiting from it.

Initially, Redbus was expected in the next five years to have 100 bus operators logging on to it. However, in the first year itself, they had 400 registrations from the travel operators. In 2014, Ibibo bought Redbus for Rs 600 crore. This has allowed Phanindra have more money in his bank account than he could ever imagine spending in his whole lifetime. The simplicity of Phanindra’s business idea makes it unique. He just wanted to find a solution that could save people from the troubles he faced.

(Photo Credit: Foundora, The Economic Times, Tech Asia, Yourstory)