Sramana: What are the techniques that worked really well for you?
Bhanu Chopra: The fact that we focused on expanding in an area that we did well in was very important. We expanded our online travel agent business and got a lot of new customers. The other major key was moving into strategic new areas such as the car rental market.
On the hotel side, we have now realized that it depends on who you sell to. You must have a customized approach to each segment. If the hotels are tech savvy, then you can make deals with them over the phone. Many hotel chains require relationship building. You have to meet them, face-to-face. We need feet on the ground or have reseller and partner relationships in the geographies that we work in. We have decided that we do not want to do OEM deals anymore.
Sramana: Are all three segments of your business yielding revenues at this point?
Bhanu Chopra: Yes. We have completely emerged from the OEM debacle last year. Our OEM arrangement is completely terminated and as a company we have recovered. Even though we were growing very fast on our own standalone business, it did not reflect in the overall story because we were backfilling the revenue that we lost from our OEM deal.
Sramana: The moral of the story is that it is OK to do OEM deals in one segment of your business. However, you still have to build your other segments where you have a defensible position or you need to maintain multiple OEM relationships. That would reduce the risk of getting blindsided.
Bhanu Chopra: Exactly. You are absolutely right.
Sramana: What has been your team building strategy?
Bhanu Chopra: Early on, I realized that it is important to get people focused on key areas that they are extremely good at. We have created silos around people based on the customer segments that we operate in. We have a hospitality unit and the entire organization from sales to engineering to product management is focused only on hospitality. It is extremely important to understand the issues and challenges that our customers have. We must have an appreciation for our customer’s domain.
There is a serious need to hire senior talent. We are looking for people who can lead these business units as they mature themselves into several million dollars of business for our customer segments. Right now, we are at our peak as a company. Now that the whole OEM deal is in the past we are looking at significant growth. I was told by one of the bankers who claims to be #1 in the SaaS marketplace that we are among the top 5 SaaS companies out of India today. That was heartening to know. I still see a huge opportunity ahead of us. All of the hard work that we have done is returning to us now. We are in a position to establish market leadership.