Technology in a pandemic

 

Creativity and ingenuity can often shine through when we least expect it. Despite the turmoil that our industry has been witnessing, we are seeing many start-ups being conceived and often take centre-stage. Can we learn a few tricks of the trade from them? This is part two of the start-up series.

Hazel Jain & Manas Dwivedi

Binitha Sreejith, Business Development Head StreetGooser Tech, StreetGooser Tech

What is it?

A new entrant in cloud-based hotel management software domain, StreetGooser focuses on small to mid-sized properties to provide them with technology that won’t break their banks. Most tech providers focus on big hotels and may have features smaller hotels don’t need. So it tweaks its technology based on the clients’ needs. It is a one-stop shop that integrates several platforms into the umbrella.

‘Travellers are changing their planning & execution’

How important is technology for the tourism sector today?

Technology has become the integral part of our life and in the present world technology has reframed the way we think, communicate and approach. This has also influenced the tourism business. There is a tremendous change in planning and execution of travel concepts by travellers who have adopted technology and made travel easier and more convenient.

What challenges did you face while procuring funding?

There were no such major challenges to procure funds. StreetGooser is a tech firm which has unique concepts that are going to be a next level trend-setter in the travel and tourism industry. This distinctive feature has always attracted our investors. Though the pandemic had made a difference in the scenario, we still can find the ray of hope. So those people who always foresee the future trends in the travel market have shown interest and are ready to invest.

How does your technology help your clients?

We tweak our technology based on the clients’ needs. The centralised dashboard offers a state-of-the-art, built-in front-desk management system, channel manager, POS functions, housekeeping supervision, rate shopper, reputation management, website builder, payment gateway, booking engine, reports, analytics and more. Accommodation providers can manage multiple properties, operations, business relations, guests, travel agents and corporate clients from anywhere 24X7.

Jigyasu Joshi, Co-Founder, Carvaa Travelers

Carvaa Travelers

What is it?

It is a caravan rental start-up based out of Delhi. It was launched in October last year with an aim to offer comfortable travel experience within the country at an affordable price. The plan was to introduce these caravans in March 2020 but it is kept on hold due to the pandemic. The venture is a brainchild of four friends. Their caravans are equipped with all the essentials including a well-stocked kitchenette, washroom, camping tents, a sofa-cum-bed, and a bunk bed. Bookings can be made for anywhere in India at a nominal additional charge.

‘Caravaning needn’t be a luxury product’

What was the idea behind starting this?

As per an analysis we did in terms of market demand for Caravans before the pandemic and once the Unlock phase started, we saw a good increase in the number of people wanting to rent a Caravan. However, in this current phase, things have come to a standstill. There is confusion about which places to visit and the restrictions in place. But once the pandemic situation gets better, we suppose things will get back on track.

What about the cost structure or funding for this?

After months of research, we found out that building a caravan is not so
costly and it doesn’t have to be in the luxury segment. Travelling in a caravan is the most sustainable way of travelling. Anyway, while we were hesitant as to how people would receive it, to our surprise, there was an overwhelming response to caravans and the caravanning culture in general.

What are your plans going forward?

Ours is not an asset-light model. We’re currently operating with two caravans and both of them have been designed by us. In the coming few months, we will set up our own manufacturing unit wherein we will be making caravans for sale. We are currently looking to potential investors for the same.

Prashant Kumar, Founder & CEO, zingbus

zingbus

What is it?

Established in May 2019, zingbus is an intercity bus aggregator and has secured an undisclosed pre-Series A investment from Venture Catalysts, Titan Capital, AdvantEdge founders and Arora Ventures. It has expanded its services in West India, Maharashtra and Gujarat. With extended trip designs and hub and spoke models, zingbus model offers a much higher number of connections with a smaller fleet.

‘We have specially-designed routes’

What is your differentiating factor?

As this network expands, the customer gets more options and flexibility which in turn drives direct sales and builds a strong differentiator for an operator looking for a wider network and connections. zingbus has built tools for audits, boarding and demand management. We run buses on specially designed routes which enables them to increase the utilisation of assets and cater to more travellers per bus. Despite the travel industry severely impacted due to the pandemic, zingbus has emerged better and leaner and has helped struggling traditional fleet owners in coping with the operational challenges with minimum manpower investment. With 10 mn daily intercity bus rides in India, the market is US$15 bn in size and is growing at 18% CAGR. About 25% of this market is semi deluxe, air-conditioned buses.

How important is technology for you and the tourism sector at large?

Our technology gives it a much better online presence as compared to traditional bus operators, and also reaches the end-customers digitally in a more effective manner. Travellers can book a zingbus to their next destination through our app or via our w ebsite. Alternatively, users can also book through all major OTAs or through 1000+ offline sales partners.

Your plans for the next couple of years?

In the next three years, zingbus plans to run 2,500 buses across all major corridors in India. We have extended our services in West India and plan to gradually enter South India.

Kartik Gaggar, Founder and CEO, Rajasthan Studio

Rajasthan Studio

What is it?

With over 250 artists, this start-up is providing an experiential art platform to art lovers from around the world. Rajasthan Studio is a start-up focused on offering personalised, hands-on, long-forgotten art experiences specially curated by master artists of Rajasthan at their workstations. Launched in 2018, it is a one-stop place for tourists looking to experience Indian art forms. It has another vertical, a non-profit, free-for-all artists platform called ‘The Circle’, which is now virtual due to the pandemic.

‘We want to build a global community of artists’

How did you use technology during the pandemic?

The pandemic led us to take our operations online, and it has now grown to over 2,500 artists from around the world. The focus is to give artists a free-flowing platform for learning and networking. Through Instagram Live, we made sure to connect our followers with the ones who are making an impact in their fields. We also introduced curated virtual art experiences for corporates and individuals. We also organised live performances on our YouTube channel on pay-as-you-like models remunerated directly to artists via online payment channels.

In what way has the lockdown opened new doors for you?

With our virtual platform, Rajasthan Studio has been able to offer online art experiences globally, not just in India. In June, we held a one-of-its-kind virtual art experience festival, and since July 2020, the growth in terms of the number of artists, the reach, and all other KPIs have been 2x on a month-on-month basis.

What are your plans going forward?

When tourism fully opens up, we aim to curate art experiences in other states too.The start-up is completely bootstrapped as of now. We are working on a long-term plan.With Rajasthan Studio, I had a 10-year vision, but the pandemic has impacted it greatly because it has just taken away two good years to make it a model that is investment-pitch ready.

 

 

 

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