In a crowded e-com market, ShopClues has carved a niche for itself.
A huge Buddha statue, fountains and tranquillity welcome one at The World Spa—a high-end residential enclave nestled in Sector 30, Gurgaon—where Sandeep Aggarwal, co-founder of ShopClues and Droom, lives with his wife Radhika Ghai Aggarwal. They have for company elite residents such as author and publisher David Davidar and honchos of Bharti Airtel.
The large living room at Aggarwal’s flat is minimalistic in design, but tastefully done. Classy paintings adorn the walls, and a small aquarium sits pretty in a corner. Most of the embellishments were flown in from the US, where the Aggarwals lived till 2011.
In 2010, MakeMyTrip became the first Indian internet company to get listed on Nasdaq. That was an eye-opener for Aggarwal. He was making oodles of money as a Wall Street analyst in Silicon Valley, but he had always nursed an entrepreneurship dream.
A couple of visits to India firmed up his mind on starting ShopClues, along with Sanjay Sethi, the company's current CEO. Back then, Aggarwal could see a change in the digital landscape, and the likes of Flipkart were just trying to gain a foothold in the market.
“You must have heard about the Californian gold rush. About 1.5 million people participated in the gold rush, but only 7 per cent of them could find gold,” says Aggarwal. “You have to be at the right place at the right time.”
In a crowded e-com market, ShopClues has carved a niche for itself. The venture's forte lies in being the most popular marketplace for small and medium businesses and unstructured categories. ShopClues is reportedly valued at Rs 4,600 crore, and is the fourth largest e-player after Flipkart, Snapdeal and Paytm.
Aggarwal, however, remains grounded. “I went to a Hindi-medium school and could barely talk in English when I went to the US,” he recalls. “I have achieved all of this through real sweat and blood, slogging as much as 19 hours a day.”
Even today, work is supreme for him. He, however, rues the lack of time to pursue other passions. His breaks are usually reserved for squash, golf and yoga.
“I take out the yoga mat right here [in the living room] and practise with my family. I enjoy doing it with them, but it’s not a regular regimen because of my work schedule,” says Aggarwal, who hails from Chandigarh.
Work, he concedes, affects his fitness. One can spot a treadmill in the foyer, but Aggarwal says he hardly gets time to use it. “Every year, I make ten promises, but I am never able to keep them,” he says, with a smile.
Having got used to the high life as a Wall Street analyst, Aggarwal loves travelling to exotic locations. Bahamas, Mexico, Hawaii, Bali and Kovalam in Kerala are his preferred destinations. In 2013, he took the entire ShopClues team on a tour of the Maldives.
Besides travelling, Aggarwal loves music. There are about 5,000 songs of different genres on his iPhone, and he owns a collection of music systems from across the world. At his workstation in Droom’s office, he proudly shows a Bluetooth speaker that works using magnetic fields.
Good music goes well with good wine, and there he is! Aggarwal has been collecting wines for 15 years. And in his living room, a wine cellar finds pride of place. His favourites include single-malt tequila from Mexico and wines from Napa Valley.
Aggarwal has a fine taste for art, too. Works of Yashwant Shirwadkar and Yogendra Chauhan grace the walls of living room and the foyer. Aggarwal talks about how Shirwadkar has used a palette knife and oils to create scenes from Varanasi’s ghats.
Aggarwal's love for aesthetics is reflected especially in the choice of furniture at his home. There are shelves from the US, sofas from Turkey, tables from Italy and so on. While building a penthouse nearby, he was deeply involved in choosing the flooring, doors, furniture and upholstery.
A people’s person, Aggarwal frequently takes colleagues out for parties, and hosts impromptu bashes at home, too. He calls colleagues for a meeting, and they end up partying after work.
“I believe in the maxim ‘Work hard and play hard’. That is why I don’t restrict myself from enjoying,” he says. “We used to host really big New Year parties in the US, and we continue to do that here as well.”
One of his latest acquisitions is a red Porsche Cayenne. Thanks to the poor condition of roads, he rarely drives it around.
“With my middle-class roots intact, I sometimes regret buying it,” says Aggarwal.
SANDEEP AGGARWAL, 43
Company: ShopClues.com (started in 2011)
Valuation: Rs.4,600 crore
Hobbies: Travelling, wine collection
Quote to note: I believe in the maxim ‘Work hard, play hard’. That is why I don’t restrict myself from enjoying.