December 12, 2022

Episode 127: Prasad Gundumogula, CEO of Mondee Inc.

Prasad Gundumogula is a successful Entrepreneur and Operator since 1999, with an excellent track record for founding multiple transformative ventures and nurturing them from startups to Multi-millions in businesses spanning the Travel, Logistics, Retail, and Auto industries. Built ExploreTrip, Metaminds, Logixcube, and POD Technologies from the ground up and evolved them as technology leaders with path-breaking innovations in the respective business area with successful exits.

In his current venture at Mondee Inc, as a Founder and CEO, he crafted its vision, was instrumental in raising Multi-hundred Million dollars PE investment, and helped it become the pioneer Travel technology company and the World’s largest Air Consolidator. Played a vital part in the strategic acquisitions of Mondee and led the effort to acquire ten (10) top-notch travel technology companies and air consolidators.

Visionary Architect with an uncanny knack for leveraging cutting-edge technology in solving core business problems. A natural leader and team player with a unique capability in motivating people to accomplish impossible missions. A versatile and multifaceted personality can engage in a deep-dive technical session with Architects and Developers and shift gears the next moment to participate in strategic meetings with top management to provide thought leadership. Endeared for his Leadership and genuine concern in welfare of everyone around him and his problem-solving skills, is considered the Go-To man by all strata of the organization.

Julian: Hey everyone. Thank you so much for joining the Behind Company Lines podcast. Today we have Prasad Gundumogula, CEO of Mondee Inc. Which is a marketplace for global travel experiences. Essentially, a group of leading technology services and content companies driving disruptive innovation. in change, in leisure, corporate and retail travel markets.

Prad, I'm so excited to chat with you. As I mentioned before the episode, really excited about your background and not only your evolution into the different companies you've run and built but also the more recent kind of acquisition, kind of the whole process around when companies start to look at either competitors.

Areas of disruption that they want to get into and start going through this. I think it's interesting and I'm curious to hear your perspective on, whether it's more efficient, whether it's kind of, overall a long term goal and what are the different decisions that come about. But before we get into all that stuff what were you doing before you started Mondee? .  

Prasad: So I'm a serial entrepreneur. I did my masters in computer science and then started my first venture in automobile space. And, I exited that successfully and then moved on to logistics and retail side of it and , another exit, then started Mondee in 20.

Julian: incredible. And so what got you into the first role? Was it, did you see a problem in the market? Was it through a friend of a connection? What got you into starting the, your first company?  

Prasad: mean, it's always, it takes me with the, the industry when you look into each of these industry from the outside everything is great, advanced, and you know it, it's all good. But if you can into the details of it, there are a lot of inefficiencies and, Yeah. Tech debt and, and we see a lot of process breaks and all. Yeah. People like us look for those opportunities and see that how we can make.

life better in each of the options that we work on. So yeah.  

Julian: When you, so you essentially, you're evaluating companies or evaluating areas in the market that need improvement, and then what is your next step? Do you offer or kind of discover some kind of solution that's just either more efficient or more techno technologically advanced, or has a particular need that is not being fulfilled in the market?

What do you kind of look at and what's the evolution of that? .  

Prasad: So we definitely look for the need, yeah. Need for, the change in each of these industries and the companies. Yeah. And then, how the technology platforms and technology solutions can, solve those needs.

Yeah. And how that we can bring it to the company. . Yeah. And with the right set of people and mindsets , to solve those problems, that's where we look for  

Julian: Yeah. It's fascinating and I like to ask founders this, who are in a similar experience or who have a similar experience of kind of seeking out the different needs in the market and then attacking it from a very strategic point of view versus.

Having an epiphany type of product that they think is disruptive and innovative in a different way. But what is I. When do you know to dive into a particular project? Because I think with a lot of entrepreneurs, they have a lot of great ideas and maybe great kind of gut initial feelings of where they might want to pin their attention to, but what in particular do you think, or would you say is your, y your moment where you think everything aligns up and makes sense to then invest, time and energy and effort into actually building something.

Where, when is that decision made?  

Prasad: It's actually very personal, right? Yeah. I mean, some entrepreneurs, they have these ideas, they have plan, and they just execute on that. The other entrepreneurs, they see the opportunity and it, it clicks that and they move. Yeah, no.

For me when I started the company, I did not think that, this is going to be, like this and just wanted to solve the problem and get some satisfaction of solving an issue and jumped into it. And then yeah. We built it. And then once that, the formula of making it successful, then you think about, okay, how can, how else that, what else you can do, how else that you can make it better and bigger.

Yeah. And then you look for the opportunities and you jump on it. Right. Yeah. So that's all happen.  

Julian: Yeah. And what in particular about travel interested you? .  

Prasad: So the travel leader is a big industry and it's, there's a lot of tech debt and, if you see the, you know the history of it, you're still using, 20, 30 years old, yeah. Systems and, websites still doing in the same fashion. And as the market is, improving and market is, evolving. So the travel experiences makes a, big difference and, see the opportunity there and, jump on, jumped on it.  

Julian: Yeah. What in particular, in, in terms of as you've grown companies and gone through successful acquisitions, is there.

I guess is there kind of a playbook for the different ways that companies can be successful? And then, so what are the main kind of important pieces within that playbook that you have to consider as a founder? If you were to give your, your previous self advice. Now that you have this experience, what are those key components that you have to be aware of and what's the playbook in terms of the different priorities that you have to set for yourself?

Because, a lot of founders, either they focus on building or they focus on, customer or use user interviews to get more idea of the product, or they're focusing on client acquisition or fundraising. What is in, yeah. What for you is, are the key components and what are the what's the playbook?

Prasad: So everything that you said, is the, the stuff everyone looking for is, but for now, for me the most important thing is that, am I, satisfied with what I'm doing and, am I. Making, bringing any change, right? Sure. First that it comes from inside, okay, I'm all up for it. And then, when we start the business, they're all ups and downs. And how can you survive and to sustain in the environment where you always work towards, your next step and towards. Your goals. Yeah. mindset is very important for the entrepreneurs.

Yeah. And from that point, building a great team, the success of, the great any companies is to have the right team and teamed up with the right people. Yeah. And and everything happens from that point. So that's another thing. And of course the, the technology edge, right.

Especially I'm coming from this technology, tech area. I always look for tech, edge and how we can solve the problem through the technology and solving, finding the needs and solving it and all the combination of these things, in my view is for the success for any company.

Julian: Yeah. What, what helps you distinguish what to focus on?

Prasad: So, I mean, the, you have a goal of whatever you're trying to do, but you know, when you have a point A to point B, there's never a slight line, right? Yes. . So you always going into problems and how do you solve it? So there's, there is not one thing that need to focus on, but you should not miss your end goal where, how you want to do it.

And during this process, how, how dynamic you are and how, how you can change the your pace and your form to be able to adapt to the change and be able to get to your end point.  

Julian: Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. What inspired you to, I guess go through the acquisition of the last company and then essentially spin into a new project with Mondee and then kind of be, become the acquirer?

What, first of all, what inspired you to start Mondee? After, two successful company exits and and from those exits, what, I guess new motivation or what in particular was exciting about Mondee that made you focus, more, more so of your attention on it.  

Prasad: So once you're an entrepreneur, you're an entrepreneur, right?

So if you you start business and you make it successful, then you look for next. Yeah. And what problem that you are trying to solve next, right? Yeah. So when I'm doing that from, Whatever the, previous ventures, see that Mondee not moni. The travel industry is very intriguing and look into the details of it.

It requires, , some changes in the, in a technology, transformations could happen. So, know, keep the ideas open and, looked into it and like quite few companies to see yeah, learn what's happening. and it, and then from that point, building the technology platforms and, bringing these ideas to the market to transform the pla, industry from one place to other place. So, yeah, it all happened that way. .  

Julian: Yeah. Well, so in particular, what is Mondee solving? Is it, you said it's a marketplace to explore different travel experiences for global travel experiences. Is it like an out-of-the-box travel solution? Is it like a Shopify app store for companies that are looking into being a part of a travel or leisure?

What in particular is Mondee solving and how does it help solve that? .  

Prasad: Yeah. So we are a marketplace. So, there are a lot of marketplace in the past. But however, as we evolve, we see the travel is being done, in order, if you, if I'm a user, if I'm a traveler, if I want to make a trip, I have to go to, four different places.

Yeah. A on one side hurdle on the other side, things that I can do on, I have to curate the everything. Yeah. And yet the best, experience is not guaranteed. and the decisions that drives your, the are, the, are the things that you drive, your decisions are the prize and the value that you get from the prize and all that stuff.

So what we have done is that, we have taken, we have done a transformation, one of the subset of the whole travel industry first in the B2B travel agency side. , of it then we use those assets to solve the problem, that, matches with the ongoing trends. So today, the travel, the people who are making the decisions are more of Gen Z and millennials, and they're buying pattern and their experiences, what they're looking for are very different than how it has, how what has.

The experiences that you know there in the past, so taking, matching the needs of the current, traveler needs and then, building the platforms. To get to them where that they're more conversational commerce, using the FinTech and providing them the, not only the price advantage, but also bringing the experience, the travel experiences in one single, place and connecting them, through a platform of our marketplace and, doing the self servicing, but at the same time when they want something to connect with the local.

And connect them with our cloud sourced in our local expert hub or service concierge desk or influencers through our market pla marketplace platform is what we solved.  

Julian: What what have you seen change in the travel trends now from previous incumbent? Obviously technology and solutions have changed and maybe are becoming a little bit more sophisticated, but in terms of the consumer behavior, what have you seen change that is particularly interesting to you?

And will it continue to say the same way or is it going to kind of come back to some kind of right. E equilibrium? .  

Prasad: Sure. So the leisure travel, primarily I'm gonna talk about it from the leisure travel and corporate travel side of it. Okay. The leisure travel side of it, the pace of the travel is being set by the Gen Zers and millennials now.

Right. Yeah. So obviously, looking into that, they are more tech savvy, mobile centric . Yeah. And looking for, value for the money and the time and the experiences they get. So, so they're, buying habit and, decision making is very different compared with all the other players.

Same way with the intermediaries, if you're talking about, some people used to use travel agencies, now they're moving into influencers, who is making the influence over their decisions And yeah. Going into the influencers, going into the local expertise, going into the, content creators. Yeah.  

And there are new generation of these intermediaries or gig agents we call it, or being no developing. So that's a big change. And then from the corporate travel point of view, this work from home scenarios. Now, business is never a business travel. Now it's a blazer.

We call it a business leisure. So they always want to take the business trips with the leisure. Yeah. And there's a big change in the trend that, that we are seeing it. So, considering this from the travelers point of view and the risk providers point of view and the, the industry point of view, there are big change that is happening, but unfortunately, there are not enough right platforms out there to support these trends.

So that is where we see an opportunity and build our marketplace for this gig world. Connecting the travelers to the, this intermediaries such as the local experts and influence and so on and all, and with the suppliers and providing them the right price with the right experiences through this platform.

Julian: Yeah. . Yeah. It's so fascinating to, and you're so right, kind of seeing the trend of, like millionaires and then Gen Zers who are kind of pushing the initiative to travel more and it's kind of the, those who have access to means, but also those who have the curiosity and insights for seeking out more.

And with everything becoming more accessible it, it's, you're not. , you're never too far from where you want to go. Once you make the decision, which is so amazing how that's kind of being more enabled. I would love to learn a little bit more about this acquisition strategy that you've deployed with Mondee.

And rarely do we have founders on here that are kind of in this phase where they're looking to acquire technologies and kind of use that strategy to build out kind of a very, successful and kind of, One stop marketplace. What, what made you decide that you wanted to invest in other technologies that were already being built?

And when you're investing in them, what are you looking for? As it competitors, as it companies that have an advantage in their area that's adjacent to what you're working on? So yeah. What decide what made you decide to go with the acquisition strategy and what are you looking for in companies that you're looking to acquire?

Prasad: To start with. Mondee we have acquired 14 companies in the last 10 years and some of them are in the travel, domain. Yeah. Some of them are in the technology domain. . So, we acquired these companies for getting access to their content. Some of the companies and we acquired the companies for the, their distribution and geographical.

Footprint . And we acquire the companies to, bring the right technologies into our overall, platform that, so solving, bringing a big transformation. So taking, looking into these areas and and of course and whatever that we do, it's all around the people.

We've looked into multiple companies and and who are the, we want to bet on the winners, right? I mean, how, what we think that is the people who can actually works with our wisdom and, part of the vision to take it to the next level. And, who brings this, the value of, being this technology edge and the travel experiences.

So we, we have deployed our strategy around this premises.  

Julian: How do you structure that from a a company standpoint? Do you acquire the business or technology and then integrate them within your team Or have them essentially run as a satellite kind of project or product? That, that. , I guess, relays information to Mondee, right?  

Prasad: We always integrate into our platform. Yeah. So, whatever the, whether it's a technology expansion or a product expansion or a geo expansion, the companies that we acquire, we have a roadmap that we created , and it's a footprint and we put it there and we execute on.

That brings value for overall in both the companies and taking the best assets of both the companies to see that, how we can leverage it to, build a new breed of things.  

Julian: Yeah. Do you set kind of company goals or is each company you acquire have their own goals that, that they set out?

Which one of the two, or is it a mixture depending on the technology or company that you acquire?  

Prasad: Yeah. I mean, so we have one goal as a company, right? Mondee. As one goal to become a global, marketplace, right? Yeah. And there are, everyone contributes into that and everyone has a job to do it.

And we set the goals for them to take care of their job to, contribute into our overall goal. So the top thing is that, , what is our main goal of, being out there in the market and bringing the transformation and each of these brands and people in the groups, contribute into it.

Julian: Yeah. How do you keep everyone aligned on that goal now being that, the, it's one entity, obviously it's Mondee, but all these other technologies and companies, and they kind of have maybe some incumbent philosophy that, you know Yeah. Now needs to be adapted into what the general focus is.

How do you reinstill that as a. Are there certain, check-ins that you do offsite? Is it during standup meetings? How do you kinda reinvigorate that? That's the overall goal. Despite what the micro goals are for each company or each technology that's building.  

Prasad: Right. So actually some of that work, we do it before we even acquired.

So we try to, understand that what's their culture, what's their, the goals and what problem that they're trying to. And how it fits into our thing. Yeah. Then, if we're able to show them the future with what, that we are trying to solve here, it actually makes our life easy.

They wanted to be part of that and to really do that and stuff. Us trying to, have us to be aligned and it's. It's the need and opportunity out there that binds all of us to, go towards too. So, no.  

Julian: Yeah. That, that that's I, so that, say that again.  

Prasad: Yeah. Carry on.  

Julian: Oh, no, I was gonna say that's that, that seems right, that all that work would have to come beforehand versus it's like making this acquisition versus Right.

And then trying to figure it out from there. Outside of, kind of aligning on mission and goal during the due diligence process, and I'm sure assessing where the company's success is, maybe the revenue, the profit, the exposure. What else goes into the due diligence during the acquisition pro process?

Are you looking at their competitors? Yeah. I guess strategically, what do you go through in terms of information to, to validate the or I guess put into action the acquisition? .

Prasad: Yeah. The strategic value and the meeting of minds. Yeah. Right. And the people, and we look for it. And the, technology and financial, additions that we want to see.

Yeah. And most importantly, are we sharing the same goal? Are we sharing the same vision? . Yeah. And once that diligence is completed, once that we, the acquisition is completed in the integration space, it's a continuous process. It's not one thing. Right? Yeah. How do we make sure that we preserve the cultures of these companies that we acquire and get that comfort to, integrate ourselves, learning from them, and, giving our experiences to them. It's not one-way street, then it's a two-way. . Yeah. How do we respect the people and their skills and they, have been working for all these years? Yeah. It's more of a, people job and once the people get it and things will happen despite all these things.

And we may run into some problems, but that's life. But it's okay. And, and even that, we have a plan to see that, how we can do that and how we can align, realign ourselves to get into the, the primary goal.  

Julian: Yeah. Have you ever had an unsuccessful acquisition? And I guess if so, what what was unsuccessful about 'em?

What did you learn from that experience?  

Prasad: I don't say that it's unsuccessful acquisition, but I learned so many lessons. Yeah. Right. For sure. We learned the lessons of initially no, no matter how much, whatever the plans that we have until that you get into. The no, the actual, execution, you will not learn.

Yeah. So, there, there are, cultural fits, the people, the mindset, the alignment, and the integration. We think that everything is easy, but it's never easy. But once that you have one or two acquisitions done successfully, so now you know the formula. So it's being, developed or a period of time, you cannot expect that to happen day 1

yeah. And learned it and bond on it and, improve it better to get better and better results.  

Julian: Yeah. Tell us a little bit about the traction. How many you said you went through 14 acquisitions in the last 10 years, which is so exciting. Tell us a little bit more in terms of your growth, your user base.

Do you look to acquire more companies in the near future? Where is Mondee now and where is it headed to?  

Prasad: So Mondee, we are continuing to, grow. Both organic way, we are in expanding. So we have been growing at 60% year over year. Both on top line, bottom line, for all these years, barring the covid 19 years and and we are profitable.

So it is very important. So , we are growing and profitable and as we are going with that, we have organic growth in, expanding our platform globally. And bringing this marketplace to this live world now in the most efficient way. That's all the things that we are working. But at the same time, the drivers for that is that some of the areas that we want to do the m and a that fits into our overall vision.

And we are continuing to invest in making some m d acquisitions, that fit that matches with our goals. So we are working both the organic side of it and in organic side of it. And we. Even this year, until q3 and we have been growing at one 70% of 2019 levels, now I'm talking about pre pandemic and growing at that level.

And and although the industry has recovered only, 65, person, but we. Cost or, one 70% in our growth. And that's, and we hope to continue with that.

Julian: What are some of the biggest challenges that Mondee faces today?  

Prasad: Yeah. I mean, see there are challenges related to the market use. Covid 19, the res and all of that stuff, and and there are execution related challenges, right? . Yeah. But now the market driven challenges, I see that as an opportunity then a challenge. Yeah. Because every, challenge that is thrown upon anyone, if you look into that and there's always the opportunity just behind.

Yeah. And, we work on that and execution related and it's learning, constant learning, and how do we make ourselves better and to, execute the things better. So challenges, really in our world is opportunities.  

Julian: Yeah. Long term wise I think I know the answer to this question, but if everything goes well, what's the long term vision for Mondee?

Prasad: So we want to be the global, the marketplace for the gig and global world. Providing these travel experiences and, in a big scale. So we are basically, essentially transforming the industry from this state to the future state with the, with the help of technology platform and the right, connections with the, various stakeholders.

Julian: Yeah. Incredible. What is particularly hard about your job?  

Prasad: I enjoyed the job and, there's nothing, challenging and, you know, been working on this and always managing the people and expectations and achieving the things, and achieving this growth and what your passion, converted into some results is always challenging.

But, we love those challenges. That's where, that's what differentiate the people. Yeah. And the entrepreneurs from the rest of the group. Right. .  

Julian: Yeah. It's seeking out and finding excitement about the challenges and so many different things.

Even there's also things that you don't want to do. But the finding, the necessity to do them and the lightness of heart to just pursue it, I think are a couple things I've at least learned in, in building companies, is that it. Once you kind of lighten it up a little bit and start taking on different tasks with that kind of mentality and that it's necessary and it's not gonna be as difficult or maybe it will be, but it's part of the process.

Then the stress kind of diminishes a little bit. But I guess, yeah as a founder, what what kind of keeps you sane? What kind of keeps you motivated and refreshed to continue push. And, building companies and going through this process time and time again because it's not easy and it takes a lot of time, energy, effort a dedication.

What helps you get through it. .  

Prasad: I mean, solving the challenges gives the immense pleasure anyways. Right? So entrepreneur every day, you come into work or you are in the work 24 by seven. Yeah. A lot of decisions that you make, there's only 50 50 chance. And, how do you make sure that it's, your chance of winning is one person better, right?

Yeah. Yeah. So, and, solving those problems and, making it progressive and, and bringing. If you are talking about the size of the business, how can you take it to the next level? If you're talking about the number of people that you know you offer the jobs, and how can you increase that and how can increase your footprint and how do you solve the problem?

So it's all. , it's all exciting and, we live in that, the world of excitement, , yeah. All the times. And, and challenges are never challenges when you are into that mode.  

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I agree with that. I always like to ask this question as kind of my, follow my final question, but what books or people have influenced you the most, whether it was early in your career or now?

Prasad: I'm influenced with everyone that I meet. I'm influenced with you today talking, learning something, right? I mean, yeah. This is a continuous learning. There is never one thing or one person or one book really influenced the people. I don't believe in that in a learning and talking with the people.

Facing the situations and getting influenced, with that is Yeah. A journey that, we have been doing.  

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. I like that. I like that. It's like you the way to learn more is to meet more people and do more things. Absolutely. Yeah. . Well, Prad, thank you so much for being on the show.

Last little bit is always like to give my guests a chance to give us your plugs. What are your LinkedIns, what's your website? What are your Twitters? Where can we find you, be a part of it? And if we're an interested partnership, where can we get in touch to be a part of the mission and support Mondee?

Prasad: So we are we is our website and we have, all the presents on all the social media with. and we have I team, now the details of the teams are there on our website and our, all of our social media accounts, so please feel to reach out and see that, there's something that, we can learn from each other.


Julian: Yeah. Well, I hope you enjoyed yourself, and thank you again for joining the Behind Company Lines.  

Prasad: Great. Thank you so much, Julian. And it's a, it's a pleasure and an honor to join here. Thank you to you and to your audience.

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