The Business travel management space was buzzing in 2019. Tripeur, like other SaaS companies, were on a steady path of growth, with very good funding, and exciting innovations. Then the pandemic hit.
Tripeur and its founder Thiagarajan Rajagopalan’s story is one that has a lot of valuable insights for other entrepreneurs. It’s a narrative in three parts: the hero out sailing in fair weather, the trials and tribulations they face (with the pandemic acting as the perfect storm), and how they finally came to break through to calmer waters.
It’s a story with elements of endurance, adaptation and resilience. Let’s get into it!
Optimising for a better runway
Right from the start, Tripeur had hired for growth. When the pandemic hit, Thiagarajan says it was clear they had to run the organisation at a fraction of the cost.
So they reviewed all their cost headers and took some hard calls to optimise costs across tech infrastructure, tech stacks, office spaces and talent. The organisation came down to its bare bones: even outsourced services like legal and HR were let go.
If the pre-pandemic time was a time of plenty, Tripeur was abruptly forced to switch to a frugal mindset. And the lessons of making do with less have stayed with the team since then.
Tripeur took the chaos of the pandemic to turn inward and closely align themselves with their customers. They worked with the existing customers more closely, to build a good product.
Thiagarajan illustrates this with an example. Employees are the intended end users for Tripeur. But when one customer’s admin team came back with concrete feedback, Tripeur listened closely and addressed their concerns. These changes to the interface helped the product overall.
Intentional or not, this was a great example of critical listening — where you really listen to analyse and evaluate your actions.
Founder’s perspective: “Listening to customers also helped design many add on services, again strengthening their product offering. Sometimes, we take users for granted, but when you make some small changes, it has a compounding effect,” Thiagarajan says
The buffalo and the storm
There’s two ways organisations could have approached the storm of the pandemic and lockdown. They could’ve shut shop, cut their losses, waited for the new normal to dawn, and then start afresh. This would’ve been like running with the storm.
Then there’s what Tripeur did. Like the American Buffalo which charges right at the passing storm to reduce pain and effort, Tripeur took the challenge head on.
They reorganised, doubled down on existing customers, refined their product and hustled to keep things going. This meant a lot of honest conversations – with employees, investors and customers.
Founder’s perspective: We changed that during the pandemic. We came back to basics – listening to customers, refining the product. We just focused on our business, and everything fell into place”
After two years of struggle, the first signs of hope shone through in March this year. Tripeur had a record month in terms of revenue, exceeding their pre-pandemic numbers. They were EBITDA positive! They had 1/3rd of their original strength, but now they are finally building for growth again.
Now that’s a ‘buffalo’ worth backing!
Until next time,