Get set to fly
BW HOTELIER got in touch with S.N.M.D Sarkar, CEO of Travelkaroo to understand the challenges faced by the travel and aviation industry, and how air travel can be made affordable for all.
Air travel was completely brought to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic in the month of March 2020. Domestic aviation operations resumed on May 25, 2020 at one-third of pre-Covid level. From May 2020 till now, aviation operations have continued to soar with Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of Civil Aviation, tweeting that over 3.10 lakh passengers took to the skies across the country on February 13, 2021.
At present, the passenger capacity is at 80 per cent of the regular pre-covid days and will continue to remain so till March 31, 2021. In a recent development, as reported by TOI, Domestic airfares have been hiked up to 30 per cent. While minimum fare has been increased by 10 per cent, maximum fares are up by 30 per cent.
Covid-19 pandemic led to the loss of millions of jobs and created financial insecurity for many. People started depending on financially viable options like buses and trains for travelling from one place to another. During such times, S.N.M.D. Sarkar decided to launch Travelkaroo with the intention to make air travel affordable to all.
“According to a RealTime study, people at large are habituated to travel by bus and train as they feel satisfied. While some people are bound to travel by bus and train as they think that air travel is not affordable. This notion made us to develop a financial product- Travelkaroo. It is a finance partner, FLI (Flight Loan Instalment) that aims to make air travel affordable even to the middle-class by breaking down the cost into easy instalments,” Sarkar said.
He explained that the idea to start Travelkaroo was conceptualised in 2019 while he was travelling to Delhi. Sarkar overheard a co-passenger’s conversation about not attending festivities due to the shortage of money, and that is where it struck his mind. People who cannot afford the flight ticket either borrow money from friends or relative, or opt the short-term loan.
“Travelkaroo is a supportive financial tool that benefits both travellers & travel planners.” Sarkar said. “There are a number of online competitors, who offer tickets with EMIs on credit cards but how about those who do not have one? Travelkaroo has always strived to offer solutions for travellers. With some simple documentation to process, travellers can avail EMIs,” he added.
He went on to explain that earlier people relied more on travel agents to book their travel tickets but online ticket booking has revolutionised the scenario in the industry. Many agents have suffered due to the digital shift and Travelkaroo aimed to strengthen travel agents to revamp their business, while simultaneously offering more flexibility to travellers.
On being asked what set him apart from his competitors, Sarkar said, “What sets us apart from others is the leverage to avail 50 per cent loan on the actual cost of a flight ticket.”
A customer has to pay only 50 per cent of the amount i.e. only half the price of their charges in getting the flight tickets. The remaining 50 per cent they can pay in Easy Weekly Instalment (EWI).
Sarkar explained, “EWI (Easy Weekly Instalment) is a fresh addition to travel financing, introduced by us. With the EWI, the flight ticket costs, which range between 5000 and 10000, reduces by 50 per cent. This means paying half as down payment and the rest will be divided into 3 instalments. A traveller has to pay one instalment every 15 days. Coming to calculations, first instalment will be—30 per cent of the actual loan amount + 250 domestic instalment charges. Second will be—30 per cent + service charges. Following the same, the third—40 per cent + service charges. This is how a traveller is benefited.”
As the customer is paying only 50 per cent at the time of receiving the ticket, a question arises on who will pay the remaining 50 per cent? Travelkaroo will pay for the remaining 50 per cent ‘in advance’ to the travel agent, so that they can issue the tickets to the customer by taking only 50 per cent from them.
Speaking on the current situation of travel and aviation industry and how the company plans to overcome the challenges, Sarkar said, “We believe, the industry is gearing up to meet the seasonal demand and will reorganise, restructure and realign in its own way to bring out the best and will restart with more zeal and determination. Initially industry suffered badly but gradually the airports resumed adapting new health and safety norms and deployed risk management measures in association with operators. Today, air travel has begun and the air fares registering new highs, Travelkaroo plays a crucial role for travellers. Benefits to avail the FLI (Flight Ticket loan) and in easy instalments will definitely matter.”
Asking about TravelKaroo’s expansion plans, Sarkar concluded, “Currently, we are introducing it across nine metro cities in India, while each state will have 50 plus outlets in sync with travel planners & agents. With the new solution, we have developed a huge job opportunity for young population.”
Around The World