When I came to know about Jovago, I was excited probably because I’ve been through the hassle of hotel bookings and IN season and OUT season fares while on my visits to Northern areas of Pakistan. If you’re travelling for the first time and with family too, its tough to fight for best hotel room on best price. Jovago provides hassle free hotel booking options from the ease of your home with pay later option. How cool is that?
For a reality check, I’ve compared rates of hotels where I have already been in past one year and I am surprised that Jovago is offering them for less than what I’ve paid. 😦
I’ve spoken to Fatima Naqvi, PR manager of Jovago about this exciting new venture and her experience during a recent conference, TieCon 2015 which was about “EnterpRISING Pakistan.” It encouraged entrepreneurs to actually go out there and start their own businesses. Here’s what she had to say about initiating a startup in Pakistan and the fear of risk factors with viability and hope that it will encourage people to pursue their passion.
Pakistan is a developing country, and there is a lot of room for growth. To encourage young entrepreneurs to start their own businesses, I will share my own personal anecdote of working at Jovago, a startup formed in May 2014 to improve the tourism industry of Pakistan.
When Jovago was formed, the concept of booking hotels online (in Pakistan) was not common. The average Pakistani has access to the internet, but doesn’t trust it. There were a lot of reservations and questions raised regarding online payments, how Jovago.com could be trusted with credit card information, if the hotel is actually legitimate and so on. Instead of feeling overwhelmed with these problems, our team decided to tackle each problem one by one, and to go ahead with the business strategy before boggling down with the issues.
First and foremost, we needed to add hotels and guest houses to our online database. To do so, we had to visit our potential clients and educate them about Jovago. A sales team was formed, who went out and visited different hotels and guest houses located all over Pakistan and personally educated them about what we do. Once they learned about us, and our services (which they didn’t have to pay for), they instantly agreed to sign up with us. This process is still ongoing as there are so many hotels and guest houses in Pakistan, and so many different cities that our portfolio on our website is constantly being updated. Currently we have successfully uploaded 1600 hotels and guest houses spread across 150 cities of Pakistan – more places than any travel agent can offer you and in all locations, rural and urban.
Secondly, because we were new we faced issues regarding credibility. How do we convince users that we are a credible source and they should book through us? For this, we needed to encourage people to use our website and give reviews for future customers. The task to change consumer’s mindsets from replacing travel agents with an online agent was definitely a struggle. However, thanks to our motivated team, we made this possible. When we made our first booking, there was a celebration in our office, and it further encouraged us that we had the right business model so could not give up right now. Slowly, as more and more people learned about us, the number of bookings done through our website also increased. To further add credibility to our website, we encouraged all customers to write reviews (positive or negative – we upload them all!), and also sent our teams out to take real life pictures of the places on our website (Jovago doesn’t believe in Photoshop). Furthermore, our teams would personally fill out forms when visiting these places to add to our website – we have a standardized ‘facilities and amenities’ form which is an accurate representation of our portfolio, so what you see is what you get.
Still a startup we are constantly looking to grow and evolve. Yes, selling the business idea and generating leads is still a challenge but that goes hand in hand with every startup. What matters is the team we have is extremely dedicated, and strongly believes in Jovago’s business idea. We are not only trying to reinvent the tourism industry in Pakistan, but are also trying to provide a platform for small hotel and guesthouse owners to showcase their businesses, which will help improve the overall economy of Pakistan, as more tourism means more money entering our market. Jovago wants to make travel possible for all, and therefore on our website we have places starting from PKR 250 per night to PKR 25,000 per night. By providing people with so many options, we hope to encourage them to travel because if done right travel is affordable.
The reason I chose to share my personal experience with Jovago is to show to readers that anything is possible. As I learned at TieCon, when businesses are not seeing growth they usually give up but they shouldn’t! It takes years to start making profit and constant efforts. Yes, it is definitely a risk and is scary, but if you have the right team, and strongly do believe in your business idea, the chances of success are very high.