Babak Sohrabi of JAJIGA tells us how to rent a beautiful villa in Iran.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Babak Sohrabi: Fortunately we had no infection in all of the family, at least the ones that I know or I have aware of myself actually so busy with the JAJIGA (my startup) and have no time to think about such a little thing. This is my motto: embrace your virus!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded JAJIGA.
Babak Sohrabi: Before founding JAJIGA, I worked in an international Petrochemical company as a sales and operations manager for 10 years. Later on, I decided to start my business in the tourism industry. I resigned and returned to Gilan province in the North of Iran, besides the Caspian sea. I started to build the team in the Summer of 2017.
How does JAJIGA innovate?
Babak Sohrabi: The idea to build a marketplace which people can give their homes and houses and villas to be rented by travelers came to my mind when I read about a villager person named “Abbas Barzegar” who hosted many foreigners in his small house in a faraway village about 200 km from Shiraz. I met him and after that, I thought there should be more people like him all around the country who I can present them on a website for anyone who likes to experience such a simple and real-life … one year later I was still an employee and I got introduced to Airbnb website and I got so angry from myself not dong the thing I should. That was a turning point for me and I decided to execute what I knew how to do that and I believed to it… now on, more than 6000 listings operating in JAJIGA and we are covering almost all the country for all kind of vacation rental houses and villas and we hosted almost 200,000 travelers.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Babak Sohrabi: When the pandemic hit the country in January 2020 actually has shutdown everything’s including the tourism industry, after 2 our 3 months we gradually started and as we focused on the market inside the country we survived and step by step and by reflecting the situation on a daily basis and by launching new features like “disinfected houses” or “travel to near” we tried to keep up. In fact, we experience around 200% growth in our sales figures in this year compared to last year (Persian year) but as we were in a sharp growth phase and we expect around 800% growth rate, these numbers are not satisfactory for us. I should mansion that we have succeeded to raise our first round of found in this harsh period for the tourism industry (we have started the negotiations before the pandemic) and it was a big surprise for everyone in the ecosystem.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Babak Sohrabi: No, we at JAJIGA had a small and very efficient team compare to our competitors which in this period become our Competitive advantage. We kept all the team and from 3 months ago we started hiring more talented people which right now we are in the middle of a process to expand the team getting ready for the coming months and demands we expect in the market.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Babak Sohrabi: In fact, we just continued our way to support our customers (hosts and guests) with one vital approach which got even more important in this stressful situation, and that’s: Honesty.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Babak Sohrabi: Not at all, actually the country was and is under the heavy suctions of US and so the government could not help even if they wanted, although my startup and I never wanted financial ides, and all we expect from the government is to facilitate the business in the country and to not disturb and got his hand out off the market. That’s the best help any government can do to its people.
Your final thoughts?
Babak Sohrabi: Coronavirus pandemic is not a rare tragedy in human history, and we people always could go through them all…so we should just focus on the new way of doing the things and to new solutions.
That’s all we should do to overcome all of the hardships.
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