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Travel in the Time of Covid

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Hemant Albert Soreng Rustik Travel

We talked to Hemant Albert Soreng of Rustik Travel about the travel and tourism industry, and he had the following to say:-

First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times? 

Hemant Albert Soreng: These are tough and challenging times for all of us. Fortunately, my friends and family are safe and healthy. While the number of infections is declining here in India, we are still taking the necessary precautions till the pandemic is over. 

Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Rustik Travel.

Hemant Albert Soreng: I like to wear many hats. I am a social entrepreneur, digital professional, author, blogger, diver, mountaineer, IronMan Triathlete, documentary filmmaker, podcaster, wilderness medicine first responder.

An early entrepreneur, in 2000, I co-founded eDeltaC Communications, one of the first digital marketing agencies in India, which was bought by Ogilvy, a top advertising agency worldwide, after two years of profitable operations. I then moved on to work for various companies in leadership positions for the next decade or so until I plunged into entrepreneurship yet again with Rustik Travel.

I am also a guest faculty in various Business Schools, a speaker in various forums, and regularly advise young entrepreneurs in the Internet space. I have graduated as an Electronics & Communication Engineer from Delhi College of Engineering and with an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.

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How does Rustik Travel innovate? 

Hemant Albert Soreng: We are extremely customer focused, and therefore it is the customer’s requirements that prompt us to diversify, expand and innovate. While we are a travel company, we are not focused on any one service or product, but we are involved in anything and everything in travel, based on customer’s feedback or requirement. We are lean, technology-savvy with close relationships with customers and partners that help us to pivot and move fast. 

How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?

Hemant Albert Soreng: Travel and Tourism as an industry is the worst hit because of the Covid-19 pandemic. And since we are in the middle of it, we have been affected really badly from a revenue perspective. We are treading very cautiously with regards to expenses and reserves to stay afloat. 

Having said that, this situation has enabled us to focus on other aspects of the business that we were not able to find much time before, viz. planning, marketing, diversifying, and strengthening customer relationships and partner network. 

Also, the support from the community – customers, partners, and well-wishers has been amazing, and that is the only thing that is keeping us going.

Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?

Hemant Albert Soreng: Yes, given the adverse impact on the business we had to make difficult choices with regards to expenses and growth plans. However, since we are very lean as an organization we were able to absorb the impact and the overall morale has not been affected. 

The biggest lesson that has been learned is to regularly plan for such exigencies and shocks in business cycle planning since travel and tourism is a sector vulnerable quite often to such macro environmental incidents. 

What specific tools, software and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?

Hemant Albert Soreng: Can’t say much about tools and softwares used to navigate this crisis. However, keeping an open line of communications, that is being in regular touch with all the stakeholders including customers has helped quite a bit. We are able to map out a pipeline and predict business for the future as and when a bit of normalcy returns in the travel and tourism sector. We are optimistic with the overall situation and future business.

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

Hemant Albert Soreng: Travel and Tourism is a fragmented industry with many players big and small alike. The competition is fierce. Having said that we are trying to stay differentiated from the rest by the brand that we have created along with the customer base we have built and the close relationships we have with them and finally the strong partner network we have. We will continue to strengthen these as we move forward in or journey.

Your final thoughts?

Hemant Albert Soreng: Inspite of the challenges we are facing and not so strong outlook in the near future, we are very optimistic about our future in the long term. This confidence comes from the values we have defined that is based on the philosophy of sustainability and our mission to create not just greater wealth but greater impact for all stakeholders.

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