Imagine the weather right now, what it would be like skiing in Shimla, boating in Ooty, and swimming in Goa! But to our dismay, the pandemic has taken a toll on all of our much-fantasized travel plans. Although most of us are drenched in our weekly ‘work from home’ conference calls and our daily doses of Netflix- How are the people behind the scenes of our dream vacations coping up with the effects of COVID-19?
This month’s Startup Saturday, conducted by Headstart Hyderabad and moderated by Srikanth Soni features the Hospitality and Travel Industry. The webinar conducted on 8th August explores the tripartite panel discussion on Technology- An Enabler for Travel Industry, Travel Experience- The Deal Breaker, and Hospitality- The Buck Stops Here.
The panellists, Purav Shah, Co-Founder & CEO, QuaQua and Hari Ganapathy, Co-Founder, Pickyourtrail both have innovative travel tech companies. They reflected on the following before they started their ventures:
i. There is no go-to app for travel
ii. There is no end to end travel app
iii. Travel tech is not reliable
iv. People have packaged experiences, how to make it better?
Mr. Shah’s innovative virtual travel platform capitalises on AR/VR to give travellers a unique experience. It operates on two elements: creative content and technology as an enabler. In Mr. Shah’s words, “We are not a VR company. We are a travel company that uses VR.” He emphasised on how content is portrayed primarily on YouTube as an individual 2D story. He felt the need to make content more interactive- that is where the 360° video came in.
The company used Unity as a medium for interactivity initially, but due to its limited mobile compatibility, it currently uses 3D Vista. Similarly, it used Angular earlier, but because they would have to rewrite Angular 4 from Angular 2, they opted for java to be more scalable. It also uses Spring Framework, Google ARCore and Zoho for CRM.
Advice to new Start-Ups
On their advice to new startups, Mr. Shah believes that instead of focusing on reinventing the wheel, focus on reusing what already exists; and that investors are looking for revenue when they search for traction. He also advises deciding on the principles before taking decisions. For example, QuaQua decided on autoscaling, leveraging AWS, and focusing on current
Mr. Ganapathy advised not to go for the ‘newest thing right now’ because it is a waste of quality focus and energy, something which he calls ‘fall for the shiny new object syndrome!’ Furthermore, he suggests that a mobile website is better than an application in the initial stages, reiterating the focus on the pre-establishment of principles.
What customers want
Customer perspective is essential to a company. According to Mr. Shah, a business should continuously communicate the roadmap to customers. They should obtain market feedback- inclusive of understanding analytics and motivating coders and include the technical architect from the start. QuaQua has Product Architect Technical Architect (PATA) in practice.
As per Mr. Ganapathy, it is essential to think about how we would react if we were a customer. There are technical tools to help understand the customer perspective, such as Hot Jars, AB Testing, Sigma that prototype an experience without the need to write code!
A business should also interview, study behaviour, obtain feedback, and test a hypothesis while testing the market. It is also vital to fix anything that comes to light immediately.
Two areas are currently not crowded: the Offer online booking system and the B2B market for content sharing. On his perspective to the B2B model, Mr Shah believes on two key elements: ‘Passion’ and ‘sufficient backup from investors looking for returns in the long term.’ The existence of a strong network is essential for a B2B. It all depends on how fast one is from the market and the constant thought of monetising one’s product. It is also crucial to build a reliable team and invest in a good architect right from the start.
Mr. Shah responded that although it is challenging to predict the market and consolidations may occur shortly, there is always a scope for Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality. He also added that it is essential to find a niche rather than investing in all channels.
Industry experience as a prerequisite
Mr. Ganapathy replied that experience is important for B2B solutions. However, for a B2C model, it is not required as the industry context is not necessary. Regardless, already having been in the industry for some time will make it easier due to the connections built.
- Start small with the necessary technology and shift when complexities in the operations increase.
- Have a unique product, not a new product
- Come up with a set of principles to help the business maintain its original aim.
Technology is a narrow ladder. It is essential to keep climbing it to reap its benefits. The travel industry is no exception. The application of technology has made hassle-free travel possible. From booking flights, hotels, and tourist spots to sitting at home watching 4k videos while reminiscing about the trips you have taken before the pandemic, technology has been pivotal to the travel industry.
Our second panel included the super fun Arjun Majumdar, Founder & CEO, Indiahikes; Shalini Jain, Travel Curator, Click2travel; and Tejaswini Gopalaswamy, Co-Founder, Unventured Expeditions. Here, they were part of a panel discussion titled, ‘Travel Experience- The Deal Breaker’- read about that session here!
V. Aishwarya Singh