We talked to Vervotech’s CEO, Sanjay Ghare, about how his company is helping Travel Businesses to move forward during these unprecedented times.
1. First of all, Sanjay, how are you & your team doing during these COVID-19 times?
Sanjay Ghare : Well, every day is definitely not the same during COVID-19, there have been days when things were quite tough. However, as you know the famous saying goes – when the going gets tough, the tough gets going! Nothing much to complain about though, all of us are safe and doing well and that’s what really matters. We all have been quite vigilant when it comes to maintaining social distancing standards and have done our best to motivate our peers to the best of our abilities. We believe that a strong, positive and progressive environment goes a long way towards ensuring a safe and secure environment for all our employees during such challenging times.
2. Tell us about your journey, career, and how you founded Vervotech?
Sanjay Ghare : I have worked in the travel technology space for the last 13 years and while working in the industry, I realized that there are certain problems or challenges that are common for small and large businesses alike. With that thought process in mind, we started out in 2018 with Vervotech to solve problems for all entities involved in the travel business. You see, there are presently more than 200,000 travel businesses worldwide and if we are able to solve one small problem for all of them, it kind of pushes the industry forward. Vervotech started with the vision of organizing the world’s accommodation data. We launched our first product UNICA that tackles hotel mapping and room mapping in a progressive manner by leveraging the power of technology to solve problems efficiently.
3. How does Vervotech help travel businesses? What are your products and why are they relevant?
Sanjay Ghare : As stated earlier, Vervotech started with the vision of organizing all of world’s accommodation data. In order to achieve this, we launched our first product, UNICA, a hotel and room mapping software that leverages the power of AI and ML to consolidate data from multiple suppliers and display it accurately on any given marketplace.
Any entity that you can think of that is selling accommodation in the travel industry such as hotels, resorts, apartments, villas, condos, etc. – it is necessary that each one of them has access to a platform that provides accurate and precise accommodation data. In order to offer the best possible prices to their customers and ensure accurate listings, these entities have to work with multiple suppliers in the back end. While working with multiple hotel and room suppliers, there is a need for a solution that unifies the incoming content across all suppliers and provides one with unique listings that are both accurate and consistent. So, in essence, our product UNICA provides a solution to a problem that is faced by all entities involved in the travel industry.
We believe UNICA has become more relevant in these challenging times of COVID-19 as regular hotels are not maintaining their schedules and are shutting down their services from time to time in order to comply with local standards. Therefore, there is an increased need for suppliers to not only update their listings at regular intervals but also provide additional information regarding safety measures to customers when making their choices. UNICA makes this extremely easy as one is able to update their inventory virtually overnight.
4. What makes UNICA Hotel Mapping different from your competitors?
Sanjay Ghare : We believe there are 4 key factors that set UNICA apart from the rest. First of all, UNICA delivers an overall mapping percentage of 98% across 175 suppliers with an unmatched accuracy of 99.999% with an extremely easy to use interface. Secondly, UNICA is capable of mapping 3 million properties a day thus ensuring updates almost in real time. Therefore, updates anywhere in the ecosystem reach travel businesses and in turn to customers, within a day. When it comes to competitors, the speed of delivery can range from anywhere between a month to a couple of months at best.
Thirdly, UNICA provides its users with a self-service portal that promises transparency and visibility to any case related to business operations. This helps users sort out their issues related to everyday business operations right on the spot thus reducing overall cases of complication arising from erroneous data. Lastly, we handle alternate accommodation like apartments, villas, condos, etc. with equal effectiveness when compared to regular accommodation such as hotels whereas the platforms provided by competitors are targeted more towards just hotels. This allows the accommodation providers of tomorrow with the same benefits that are provided to hotels by the competitors.
We believe these are the four key factors that sets UNICA apart from the rest!
5. Did you have to make difficult choices during these times and what are the lessons learned?
Sanjay Ghare : To be very honest, the initial period of the pandemic was quite scary as none of us had faced such circumstances in our lives but things definitely did get better with time. When it comes to difficult or drastic choices, we did not have to make any per se – we did have to cut down the overall salaries of all our employees by 20% for three months at one point but we were able to make up for the same and pay back the dues to each entity within six months of the cutback. As a matter of fact, I am quite glad that we were also able to do our appraisals in January of 2021 that saw increments in salaries for all our valued employees. We also managed to sign up more than 36 new customers during the pandemic and as a result, we are aggressively hiring to meet our goal of expanding our team to three times the size that it was during the onset of the pandemic.
One of major lessons that this pandemic taught us was financial discipline – mainly our cash flow. Of course, being a start-up, we were quite lean when it came to our expenses but definitely there were spaces for optimization on second thought. Secondly, we realized that increasing efficiency and transparency with our existing clients is way more important than acquiring new clients. Lastly, we realized that our people are our biggest assets. Working with them even if we have to make difficult choices goes a long way during such times of crisis.
6. How did you manage to onboard more than 36 clients and partners during a pandemic?
Sanjay Ghare : I think this is a very interesting question! The amount of work, effort, calls and enquiries that we are handling at sales are definitely much more subdued than what it used to be before the pandemic. However, the overall number of conversions are really amazing! As you know, the travel industry is one of the industries that have been hit the hardest during the pandemic and as a result, a lot of travel businesses have been in a state of a ‘pause’ where they are not really investing in their products and technology. However, we also noticed that there are a growing number of businesses in the industry that are utilizing this time and are making the most of it in order to improve their systems and launch their product once conditions go back to normal. To give you a sense of numbers, if we were talking to ten potential clients before the pandemic, we are probably now talking to three. However, as numbers go, two out of those ten possible clients were the right customers anyway, so now, we are basically talking to two out of three potential customers. Therefore, I believe that this growth has been possible by targeting the right customers – the customers that understand the complications and the challenges that are inherent with such crisis periods and are able to allocate their resources towards the proper technologies that will ensure their viability and sustainability in the long run.
In addition, to work with more travel businesses, we realized that it is essential for us to collaborate with all leading tech companies in the travel space to make data flow between the suppliers and the end users more efficient. With this thought process in mind, we have initiated partnership programs that has not only added the accuracy and the credibility of our data but also enabled us to increase our speed exponentially. These, according to me, are the key strategies that enabled us to increase our reach even during a global pandemic.
7. What is your message to the industry?
Sanjay Ghare : As you know, travel as an industry was affected by the pandemic in ways one could not really fathom. For example, countries where domestic travel are prevalent have been able to still garner some revenue through essential services but certain other small countries where domestic travel is nonexistent, business has been completely brought to a stop. I think this is the time that travel businesses not only need become more efficient by leveraging the right technology but also need to support each other by sharing all relevant information regarding the latest developments concerning COVID-19, extending solidarity to each other whenever possible and building the industry from the ground-up once this pandemic passes!
8. Where can people find Vervotech?
Sanjay Ghare : Visit our website: https://vervotech.com/
You can learn more about Vervotech’s mapping platform here: UNICA Hotel Mapping
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