“..Heads down execution and a laser-like focus on our core business” – Hrush Bhatt, ClearTrip

Continuing with our series on Recession, Downturn and Startup Survival, here is an interview with Hrush Bhatt, co-founder of ClearTrip.

How are you adapting your business model to the current circumstances. How are you now thinking about revenue and monetization of business?

At Cleartrip, we’re putting much more emphasis on the things we can control as opposed to those we cannot.

Revenues in the travel industry are always heavily impacted by the macro environment, so rather than focus our energies on more growth, we’re focusing on controlling costs and optimising margins.

That said, there are a few things we’re doing on the revenue and monetization side-we’re taking a much closer look at ancillary revenue opportunities through targeted cross-sells, online advertising sales and, as you already know, we recently launched our trains product and it’s off to a big start.

What are you doing now that you were not doing previously – has anything in your execution changed?

The biggest change is in how we’re approaching costs. It’s an area where we’re being much more cautious and demanding much greater measurement. Costs and margins are both currently under the microscope and we’ve made some good progress, but we’ve still got a few more things identified on both fronts to improve things further.

Is hiring getting tougher – how will you convince potential candidates to join you when they want the certainty of a secure job in a large company?

We’re not really looking to hire much right now, so I can’t really answer that. We have two or three open positions, but that’s it. We’re quite proud of the team we already have-most of whom have been with the company for a long time now and are some of the most talented people in the space.

What are you doing to manage attrition?

Our attrition rates are negligible. We’ve seen a few people leave, but it’s usually for personal reasons and not because they don’t believe in the future of Cleartrip. We have an amazingly committed team. Personally, I regard that as one of our biggest accomplishments. You can literally see the team’s commitment every time Cleartrip launches a new product. Trains or our international flight search or our hotel map search, for example, each set new benchmarks for the online travel experience; and that’s down to the DNA of this team. People here believe in product excellence, there’s no detail that’s too small.

How have your growth plans been affected by the current market situation – are being more aggressive or cautious.

We’re erring on the side of caution, but we’ve always been big believers in building with a long-term focus as opposed to thinking short-term. There’s a couple of key initiatives that you’ll see us being extremely aggressive about in a few months, but I can’t talk about them in too much detail right now.

What activities do you wish you could engage in right now in the current climate?

Heads down execution and a laser-like focus on our core business of online travel, which is exactly what we’re doing.

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