What does being an OG mean?
Merriam-Webster Dictionary says it means someone or something that is original or an originator.”

The OGs have the hard-earned secrets that no one else has because they’ve seen it all — the ups and downs, the trials and tribulations, the smiles and tears, and the hellos and goodbyes. They set the standards and are the backbone of any community.

They lead by example and pave the way for others. They’re the Pathfinders! Welcome to Pathfinders! 🌟
A brand-new video series where we present to you candid conversations with the OG founders from Blume’s first fund.
These founders began their journey over a decade ago, when the Indian startup ecosystem was in its infancy with a handful of venture funds, a small community of peer founders, and a high-potential yet modest-in-size Indian market. Nevertheless, they’ve persisted and are now ready to share their stories with you.

For the first video, we have NCR-based mobility giant IntrCity and their founders, Manish Rathi and Kapil Raizada. IntrCity is India’s fastest growing bus operator focused on providing comfortable and reliable travel between cities. Their flagship brand IntrCity SmartBus provides safe, trusted, and standardized travel options, operating across 630+ routes and serves nearly 1 lakh travelers every month.

What are some of the key milestones of your journey?

Manish Rathi: According to me, one of the biggest thing I think, which we have done around, I wouldn't call it a pivot, but at least trying to look few years ahead of us, how the industry was shaping across, not just looking at how it is today, but based on today's data, how it would be looking across in 2-3 years down the road. 

So for example, when we started our journey on the train side, identifying that bus travel will become an integral part of long distance travel in India, was a little bit of a forward looking step from us. So, for us that was one of the big pivotal points.

Which is the most difficult near-death experience you have faced?

Kapil Raizada: I think we did 2-3 experiments on the way. Once we started getting traffic, the first thing, how to best monetize it? So, we did food on train. We tried to do an OTA model, when we realized that there's a margin gap over there. And that actually gave us the insight that buses is the one we should go. So, I think before we do the pivot, there are typically a few experiments that are going on leading to the pivot, which give you the data that finally give you the confidence that you can now take the jump. So, the road is perhaps the biggest pivot, but I would say, it was preceded by a few experiments before that we could do that.

Manish Rathi: I don't know if anybody would be there across who would say that going through the COVID phase wasn't the biggest event of the century in some sense, and we had to cause to that. So all other events really kind of fall a little bit shorter or smaller than we looked at. And not just one event, two or three iteration. So, if I look at it, how to survive business was down to zero making sure that the things were motivated around in that way. 

But I think we saw it as a good opportunity for us to kind of rethink and relook across this model. So, some of the things which Kapil talked about across came around from there. That was a time we could look at and think about it much more on a bigger perspective. And I think as where we are standing today, we came out stronger from those phases.

Kapil Raizada: The good thing about the near death is, if it doesn't kill you, I think you have a much greater chance of success if you come out of it. But yes, I think we would have gone through more than one episode.

That's what make you stronger. I think COVID was certainly one of the examples of that and I am glad that you all definitely came out stronger out of the entire endeavour. 

What’s been your proudest moment at IntrCity?

Kapil Raizada: Two in my mind. I think one was when we achieved critical mass of traffic on the train side. We were not expecting it to happen that fast. 

But the second one was, I think, when we saw business profitability. I think that, in my mind, it takes the company to a different level altogether. And I also think that it just changes the way you look at externalities. Once the business turns profitable and independent, then suddenly it allows you the freedom to focus on certain things, not get distracted by a few other things. So, of the two, I would perhaps push the latter as number one in my list. I don’t know if you have a different one.

Manish Rathi: No, different. My personal one across is that, and I'm not saying it with any touch of arrogance or something crosses in that sense that we changed the bus industry. The idea I take across is saying that when we came across, how a bus industry was run before versus how we would look at it. 

Now, certain parameters have been set, now the next 10-20 years, certain minimum expectation from a bus industry or a travel experience on a bus has been defined. People will start expecting that. So that's a new foundation, new baseline, which we have set, and that just to kind of bring in that new thing in the industry suddenly is a proud moment for all of us at IntrCity.

Kapil Raizada: So, somebody who's been running a bus for the second generation, last month called me and said, Sir, batiye ki, what is the best place to put a toilet inside the bus? Okay. Now, that coming from somebody whose grandfather has been running buses, calling me with four years of experience. I mean, it reflects kuch toh hua hai where they say, ki inse puchte hain.

Tell us a fun anecdote about your meetings with Blume.

Manish Rathi: I have a very, very interesting story to say about Blume. 

Blume was our second investor. In fact, we came to know Karthik through a part. We were meeting Karthik. Not me, but one of my other angel investors who had invested in us, said that let's go and try pitching it to Karthik and say that, why you should invest in Railyatri. In that meeting, what it turned out was that Karthik was telling them why Railyatri was an interesting story to switch across in that way. So, the tables were changing and the other two guys were saying, isn't he supposed to put money in us or are we supposed to put money? So, that is Karthik for you. 

Karthik, in some sense, you get everything straight from heart, everything in Blume you get straight from the heart. There are no ifs and buts in there and I think Blume ever since that day, just the belief into all of the things we have done and those things around have been there. Every Blume event, we've never missed across. We started the Blume event from where there were about 15 people sitting in a bar. That was the Blume Day and look at here.

Kapil Raizada: I would also maybe link back. You asked the near death experience and how do you come out of it? I think to come out of the situation is important that you have a bunch of people who still believe in you. And I think that's one of the remarkable traits I see. That things may be down, but you always get a sense, hang on, there's going to be a turn pretty soon. Things will go around. And Blume has been there and they've seen us. And I'm sure they've seen many more like us. But to come out of that near death experiences, I think every startup needs at least one or two backers who believe you to be able to pull it out. And I think having Blume with you, could be a matter of life and death in some cases.

Manish Rathi: All the best. All power to Blume.

Part of Pathfinders

Welcome to all our new series, Pathfinders!

We’ll take you through quick conversations with tenured entrepreneurs from Blume’s Fund 1.