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Bootstrapping a Robust SaaS company from India: Rategain CEO Bhanu Chopra (Part 5)

Posted on Friday, Mar 7th 2014

Sramana: What year was it when your OEM partnership went south?

Bhanu Chopra: In 2010 and 2011, there were a couple of major products that were contributing significant revenue to us. Our partner bought all of our competitors during that same time-frame, so we had to make some transitions in order to survive, and it took us about 2 years to do that. The revenue did not diminish immediately because it took them a couple of years to transfer all of their clients away from our platform. We had to restart our focus on the hotel segment.

We launched our own direct brand three years ago. I am happy to report that even though three years ago the hotel brand represented 80% of our revenue, we have never experienced a drop in revenue. We were able to grow faster than we lost clients due to our partner’s strategic shift. More importantly, not only were we able to keep our revenue up but now we also have our own brand, and we are not reliant on anyone else for that revenue.

Sramana: How much revenue were you able to achieve before your OEM partnership calamity?

Bhanu Chopra: We were still below $10 million.

Sramana: And 80% of that revenue was coming from your OEM partner who decided to ditch you?

Bhanu Chopra: Yes.

Sramana: Let’s explore your recovery strategy a bit more. You started your own brand and started selling into that same customer base. How did you do customer acquisition since you did not have an OEM partner anymore?

Bhanu Chopra: There was a customer segment that we were selling to directly, and that customer segment was the online travel agents. That was a good thing, because it meant we knew how to sell. We had a brand out there for that customer segment. We expanded our sales leadership and we got very aggressive in that marketplace. So the first piece of our strategy was to expand further into our online travel agent business, because that was our stronghold.

We also got into another customer segment with the car rental companies. That segment was tremendously successful. We basically were able to use the car rental companies and the online travel agents as a foothold while we pursued the hotel segment. We basically fired all of our vendors in the hotel segment and we put together an inside sales model based out of India. We also did a lot of online activity and started to attend every major conference and trade show.

We also hired a bunch of sales people in the regions that we operated in. We started doing webinars and started writing thought leadership articles. We did everything under the sun that we could do to grow that business. This was suddenly very important for our company especially since the future was so uncertain. We worked hard and just made it happen. Some things worked very well and other things did not work. However, we were able to recover from the shock. Again, we were very fortunate that our OEM clients were transitioned off of our platform slowly and not all at once.

This segment is part 5 in the series : Bootstrapping a Robust SaaS company from India: Rategain CEO Bhanu Chopra
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