We talked to Ridwan Hafiz of Go Zayaan on how to think like an entrepreneur, take ownership and get creative with a holistic approach and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ridwan Hafiz: Good. However, I lost a family member due to COVID-19, which was very hard. But I am optimistic about better days ahead of us.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Go Zayaan.
Ridwan Hafiz: I am born and brought up in Bangladesh. Academically, a computer engineer but by profession a marketer. I started my first company 12 years back, which eventually became the country’s most extensive digital marketing agency. Although most of my family members migrated abroad, I stayed back because I want to do something for my country. Hence, I chose to build a Go Zayaan. The goal was not to become a unicorn but to change the government’s entire infrastructure by making it a global travel destination.
How does Go Zayaan innovate?
Ridwan Hafiz: People of Bangladesh travel both internationally and domestically. Lack of a proper ecosystem, there are so many pain points for someone who wants to travel. We change that by bringing all things travel in one platform with flexible payment options and most comprehensive coverage.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Ridwan Hafiz: We were mostly doing outbound travel, so yes, pandemic hit us hard. But when your back is against the wall, that’s when you become the most creative. We pivoted our focus to domestic travel and started solving the domestic market problems, both at suppliers’ ends and customers’. When people began travelling after months domestically, the revenue started coming back. We are very hopeful to have a decent month on month growth on domestic travel in the next 12 to 24 months. Honestly, COVID-19 became a blessing in disguise for us because otherwise, we wouldn’t have focused this much on domestic travel, making our business profitable.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ridwan Hafiz: Yes, we had to. We didn’t go for mass lay-offs, but we had to initiate pay cuts, which was one of the hardest things to do. But my team stayed positive, we always hustled for innovation, and finally, we started getting results over a few months. The biggest lesson for me was never panic when there’s a problem; instead, think of a solution. If you have a family like a team, you can overcome any obstacles coming your way.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Ridwan Hafiz: Being busy at work always helps. On a personal level, I read books, avoid Facebook, watch TV shows, play the piano and do a lot of kickboxing.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Ridwan Hafiz: Our market is too big for 3-4 players to co-exist. There are few players like us, but it’s too early a stage to think of someone as a competition. We don’t react to what the competitors are doing, but we always try to be proactive and innovate new solutions to stay ahead. So far, this approach worked very well for us.
Your final thoughts?
Ridwan Hafiz: Every business has its highs and lows, and for the Travel business, COVID-19 was probably the rock bottom. Once you hit rock bottom, the only way from there is upwards. All you need is the grit to fight back. This deadly virus can put us down, but it can’t keep us down.