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SPARK OF THE CORPORATE

The hardest thing for us is to build is lasting consumer loyalty...

Dara Khosrowshahi’s story is one that could have inspired Mario Puzo to, perhaps, craft another Godfather-like character, had he been around today. For this Iranian-American, much like Puzo’s Italian-American (Don Corleone), has turned everything he has touched into gold, in his own way: again like Don Corleone! This mild similarity apart, Khosrowshahi’s career would appear like one helluva roller-coaster ride. But, if one observes closely, it’s not difficult to notice the hard-work, the skill, and perseverance he has put in to be where he is today.

Right from starting off with his job at a small boutique investment bank, a digression from his chosen field -engineering- to now helming one of the world’s largest online travel companies, Expedia, Khosrowshahi has demonstrated the vision, eye for opportunity which are wonderfully complemented by his shrewd sense of timing: the hallmarks of champion entrepreneurs.

Leadership seems to be the forte for this Ivy Leaguer – for, except the initial three years of his professional life, Khosrowshahi has willingly assumed roles demanding greater responsibility and accountability – and he has shouldered all of them with consummate ease!

Early Life & Education

Dara Khosrowshahi was born on May 28, 1969, in Tehran, Iran. It is reported that owing to the internal strife in his country of birth, the Khosrowshahi family decided to move to the land of dreams and settle there for good in 1978. Dara was only 9 years old when this happened. It was actually a regular annual vacation to southern France but which turned out to be a long, long vacation for the family, and especially Dara, who has never looked back and treated it as a vacation since.

Khosrowshahi completed his bachelor’s in bio-electrical engineering from Brown University (one of the Ivy League colleges), Rhode Island, in 1991.

Professional career

Right after completing his graduation, he joined Allen and Company, the media investment bank, as a junior banker. He then went on to become its Vice-President in just about 4 years i.e. in 1995, in which position he served for three years, upto 1998.

This was followed by his acquaintance with Barry Diller the Chief Executive of InterActiveCorp, which association was to grow as time passed by, as he joined his company (then called as USA Networks Interactive) as vice president of strategic planning, eventually becoming its president.

Consequently, Khosrowshahi joined AIC travel, a division of InterActiveCorp, as its CEO. When IAC acquired Expedia from Microsoft in 2005, Khosrowshahi assumed the responsibility of its CEO.

The chance rendezvous with Barry Diller

Until Expedia happened, or should we say until he met Barry Diller, the Chief Executive of InterActiveCorp, Khosrowshahi wasn’t involved with the travel industry. As we know, up until then he was working with Allen & Company as a junior banker and plying his trade in the financial industry. The meeting itself was by chance. As it happened, Allen & Company was advising Diller (who, at the time, was the head of QVC shopping channel) on his attempt to take over Paramount. That is how the two of them met; and the rest his history, as we know it. Dara was instrumental in the initial expansion of IAC's portfolio of travel brands, which now comprises Expedia, Inc.

The association

In the initial years, Khosrowshahi teamed up with Diller and worked with him in financial matters and advising him on take-overs. One of his first projects was to buy a company called 1-800-hotels. Khosrowshahi oversaw the successful completion of 1-800-hotels, which is now called ‘Hotels.com.’

This was followed by buying the controlling stake in Expedia (created and then owned by Microsoft), and a spate of acquisitions including HotWire, the deep discount travel site in 2003, and TripAdvisor.com – a site with extensive travel reviews, in 2004.

The association is one of mutual respect and understanding – they agree to disagree on matters that matter to the company and its future.

Expedia

When Expedia was acquired by IAC in March of 2003, it would have been anybody’s guess as to who would take it forward, despite Diller having a greater say. But, when IAC completed the spin-off of its online travel businesses into Expedia, Inc, there was only one man – Khosrowshahi, to take the independent entity to greater heights.

Thus, it was announced in August 2005 that Dara Khosrowshahi would be its CEO.

No looking back

Ever since, and under Dara Khosrowshahi’s leadership, Expedia has gone truly global and extended its presence to more than 60 countries worldwide through the Expedia, Hotels.com, and Hotwire online booking brands, and the travel community sites of TripAdvisor Media Network. Expedia operates over 70 Hotels.com booking sites and 20 full-service Expedia-branded booking sites, thus by June 2010, it had become the largest travel agency in the world.

His able and visionary leadership has seen the company achievement many milestones as under:

  • November 2005, UN Foundation and Expedia, Inc. launched the World Heritage Alliance.
  • October 2007, Expedia, Inc. added to the S&P 500.
  • Acquired CarRenals.com (now part of HotWire Group) and Venere.com (Europe-based) in 2008.
  • Formed an affiliate network, Expedia Affiliate network (AEN) in 2008.
  • Introduced Passport Ads and launched StorePoint Expandables, through Expedia Media Solutions in 2009.
  • Named the largest travel agency in the world by Travel Weekly, in June 2010.
  • Decided to support ‘Doctors Without Borders’ in 2010.
  • Acquired mobile travel apps leader, ‘Mobiata’ in 2010.
  • Joined hands with eLong.com and Tencent to provide online travel services in China, 2011.
  • Formed a joint venture with AirAsia with the aim of revolutionizing online travel in Asia, 2011.
  • Completed the spin-off of TripAdvisor, 2011.
  • Extended the global travel partnership with eLong, 2012.
  • Acquired majority interest in Trivago, the leading hotel metasearch company, 2012.
  • Entered into a strategic marketing agreement with Travelocity, 2013.
  • Purchased AutoEscape Group, 2014.
  • Acquired Wotif Group, 2014.
  • Acquired Travelocity, 2015.

Today, Expedia, Inc.’s numbers read something like the following:

  • 18000+ employees
  • 150+ travel booking sites in over 70 countries
  • 140 plus mobile websites catering to around 70 countries and supporting about 35 languages,
  • $53 billion gross bookings, $6 billion revenues
  • 45% of its revenues from international bookings
  • About quarter of million bookable properties
  • Encompassing 400+ Airlines
  • Covering 5000+ activities
  • Association with dozens of rental car companies and cruise lines

Family

Dara Khosrowshahi is married to Sydney Shapiro and has two daughters.

Other affiliations:

Served as a member of the Fanatics.com board of directors since November 2013.
Elected to the board of directors of the New York Times Company, May 2015.

Awards & Recognition:

While Khosrowshahi himself has won the Ernst & Young ‘Pacific Northwest Entrepreneur of the Year’ award (June 2013) and figures among the U.S. State Department's "List of Prominent Iranian Americans,” his truly value to Expedia can be assessed through the following awards that the company has received:

Expedia, Inc. tops the 2014 Travel Weekly Power List, an annual ranking of the leading travel companies.
Expedia, Inc. ranks on Fortune Magazine’s list of Most Admired Companies in 2014, ranking #7 in the Internet Services & Retailing industry.
Expedia is named the World’s Leading Online Travel Agency Website at the 2013 World Travel Awards.
Expedia, Inc. tops the 2013 Travel Weekly Power List, an annual ranking of the leading travel companies.
The Seattle Times names Expedia, Inc. to its annual list of Top Pacific Northwest companies, a compilation of the best-performing public companies in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
The Hong Kong-based Hotels.com team receives the Caring Company award from the Hong Kong Council of Social Services. The award recognizes companies that show they care for the community, employees, and the environment.
Expedia, Inc. ranks #20 on the 2013 Bloomberg Businessweek 50 list, an annual ranking of the top 50 companies in the S&P 500 with the best recent performance and outlook for the future.
Expedia, Inc. is honored with the Outstanding Volunteer Program of the Year award at United Way’s Spirit of Caring Awards.
The Puget Sound Business Journal names Expedia, Inc. the 2013 Health & Wellness Corporate Champion at its annual Corporate Citizenship Awards.
Quotes
 I like to think I've been on vacation ever since." Referring to his family moving to Tarrytown, NY in 1978.
 No travel company has cracked the social nut: maximizing Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc.
 It was a multi-year effort, and we learned from it. So we are able to shorten the effort this next round. We have bigger development teams and we have a more versatile platform to work on.” – Referring to the re-platforming of Expedia & Hotels.com
 We want the same, delightful easy-to-use experience that you see on consumer tools in our supplier tools. So hoteliers don’t have to train anybody in how to use it.
 There are a number of areas where we’re good but we could do better. I would say globalization is one of them, a huge opportunity for us. We are totally passionate about being global.
 Our investment in the breadth of hotel supply and in the breadth of our hotelier tools – is another huge area of opportunity.
 We have about 365,000 hotels available on our marketplace, more than 100,000 vacation rentals through our partnership with HomeAway. We think there’s a long way to go.
 The Trivago guy is even more famous than we ever expected. Outside the US, Trivago is the fastest growing scale metasearch player out there. It’s in 49 countries. It’s the biggest meta brand in Europe and we want it to be the biggest globally.
 The hardest thing for us is to build is lasting consumer loyalty. The average consumer shops at three sites; we want to be two of those three sites.

Hope viewers caught up the spark…

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