TravelBiz Monitor

Inbound / Domestic News

Thursday, 01 October, 2020, 11 : 00 AM [IST]
Survival strategies: How Indian travel start-ups are navigating the pandemic
Asmita Mukherjee | Hyderabad

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) organised a series of webinar sessions for guiding travel start-ups in association with the Startup Mentor Board yesterday. One of the sessions named ‘Success Stories of Startup’, attempted to throw some light on the survival strategies of various travel startups amidst the pandemic. The session was moderated by Aloke Bajpai, Co-Founder & CEO, Ixigo.
While mentioning the fact that it took Tripoto several months to reach 30% - 35% of the pre-COVID level business, panelist Anirudh Gupta, Co-Founder & CEO, Tripoto said, “We started seeing the signs, in early March.  We realised that the denial in numbers which we were seeing then was going to be significant. We have completely shut down our marketing wing and made our team lean. COVID-19 made us understand the virtue of leanness, as a lean team can get things done on a quicker note. Sometimes a lean team can outwork a bigger team. COVID-19 has given us the opportunity to pause and rethink.” Gupta also mentioned that due to COVID-19, Indians are going to experience the depth of domestic travel. He also mentioned that newer forms of travel are emerging, such as, caravan tourism, and along with it new travel business opportunities are also emerging.
Chitra Gurnani Daga, Co-Founder & CEO, Thrillophilia, informed that COVID-19 made them realise the fact that cash is king, and bad times don’t inform before coming. “We started cost cutting early on. I didn’t lay off my team. During these difficult times my team has shown agility. You have to trust your team and the most important things are transparency and clarification. The efforts which we have put in our team are now paying us back. We are able to ramp up quite quickly. One needs to maintain a runway for sustaining 18 months in order to be a successful company.”
Thiagarajan Rajagopalan, Founder & CEO, Tripeur, said, “This is the experience of a lifetime. We had to take strict measures to sustain, such as, cost cutting and we did it in two phases. Also, other than our usual products, we tried offering different products to our customers, such as, GST reconciliation for corporates. The situation made us realise the value of introspection. It helped us to understand and prioritise our needs. In my opinion, business has started coming back slowly. We are now at 10% of what we were in the pre-COVID level. As we mainly serve the corporate travellers, we see the recovery happening in a longer time period; it will take at least one year to get the business as pre-COVID.”

Varun Gupta, Founder & CEO, MeTripping, said, “In my opinion, empathy matters from both ways. We didn’t force any pay cuts on our employees, but they themselves came up with the idea. We have also added five people within the team during this crisis. We are now focusing on technology investment, as this is the need of the hour.”
Sibasish Mishra, Founder & CEO, BookingJini commented that adoption of technology will be increased. According to Mishra, “Constant communication with my employees helped me to cope up with the situation. We have to invest more on building an agile team. Some of my employees have been volunteering from the last few months to not only cut their pay, but they also forfeited their salary.”
Dharamveer Singh Chouhan, Co Founder & CEO, Zostel mentioned that after a long lull, “September gave us hope and we are reaching 20% - 25% of the pre-COVID level business now. As a start-up we have to make sure that we don’t die. It is indeed important to make sure that you have a long runway and along with that a pretty good cash-flow. COVID-19 has changed the whole aspect of technology. As remote work increases, it is imperative to build the right technology.”