Kathmandu, February 27, 2017: A newly found travel startup company called Off2holiday has started operation aiming to revolutionize the way Nepalese travelers stay in the hotels across the country. The aspiring team of the company is determined to list budget hotels from the major places of Nepal, and provide services at cheaper ratesÂ than the available standard hotel price.
In an interview with Glocal Khabar, Dipesh Poudel, CEO & Founder of Off2holiday.com shares about the newly found business, and the journey so far. Excerpts:
Glocal Khabar: Tell us about Off2holiday.com and the services it offers.
Dipesh Poudel: Off2holiday is the trading name of Off To Holiday Pvt. Ltd. Its service includes Himalaya Trekking, Tours, Adventure activities for foreign tourists, and Air Ticketing and Budget Hotel Booking for domestic tourists.
What was the spark that led you to start the company?
The idea of starting such a travel company was born during my studies in London around late 2011. After a thorough brainstorming with my class teacher, I came to a conclusion that a travel company is the best to hop-in, and registered a company in Companies House UK, in January 2012 to start the business. But, due to legal difficulties mainly because of my status in the UK being a student, it had to be kept dormant until I could work on it full time. Like an unfinished painting, after graduating in business studies, I came back to Nepal and began working on its development with my co-founder Prakash Dahal.
How different is it from other operators working in the tourism sector?
We are different in a way that all the budget hotel rooms with us have the same quality standard from one hotel to another as we are very careful while selecting and listing hotel in our website. It is designed by Nepalese for the Nepalese, and challenges the Nepali habit of looking at the last minute to find quality hotel rooms at a budget price during travel.
There are various BIG international players, including TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet working in the same market space. What do you have to say about these companies, and how are you planning to compete with them?
The way we operate is quite different than these companies because we are targeting budget hotels from all around Nepal to the middle class Nepalese themselves. Most of our hotel rooms have similar facilities, and only some hotel rooms do not have some facilities like Air Conditioning and Wi-Fi because of climatic conditions or geographical location.
As Off2holiday is a startup company, it cannot be compared directly to big international companies in some areas because firstly we funded our idea ourselves so had to work on a very tight budget. Similarly, consumer behavior is not pro-technology especially among general Nepalese. So, we are testing the waters at the moment and building aÂ basic platform. After we see the business growth, and get good support from customers, our investment will also increase ultimately takingÂ the business in a much better way.
How can the users pay for bookings? Can they pay online?
Considering the current market in Nepal, and the lack of public trust in online services, we scrapped the idea of processing payments online. So, for now, guests can pay upon their arrival at the hotel, after making bookings from us.
What are some of the challenges that entrepreneurs in this business have to face? And, how do you see the future of online business in Nepal?
So far, our biggest challenge above all has been educating different hotels to list in our platform because mainly due to hotel owners having the half-baked understanding of online services, and also lower customer demands outside of the Kathmandu valley.
If we have hadÂ the presence of global companies like Amazon, Ebay, PayPal, Uber, etc. in Nepal, it would have massively helped educate the market in terms of making customers build trust on online services. Still, a large majority of urban customers thinks that online services are expensive and often deceiving in regards to products or services. The situation would not have been like this had there been presence of such big e-commerce playersÂ committed to providing quality service.
There are some companies doing well and I see lots of new startups coming to online business space which is good, but it takes time to get into a favorable environment to do well. The market is getting ready and most Nepali banks should have to expedite the process by making e-banking easy among each other bank.