With the increasing preference of people desiring to travel comfortably, web travel portals have made a space for themselves in the Indian markets. In an interview Amal Purandare, Head- India Operations, Arzoo.com shares the success and future plans of Arzoo.com with our readers.
Abha Garyali (AG): Share with us the inception of ‘Arzoo.com’.
Amal Purandare (AP): Arzoo.com is the only Indian travel portal to have its headquarters in the United States. The company is a 99 per cent subsidiary of its US company- Navin Communication Inc. based in Silicon Valley, California. The website is acknowledged by over 200 million people in India and overseas. A team of US entrepreneurs including Sabeer Bhatia started this venture because they wanted to give something back to their country. They wanted their home land to get the best of online services and benefits of advanced technology to make their travel booking hassle free. They felt Indian masses should be conversant with the latest technology, hence they started Arzoo.com. Moreover, the success of OTA’s such as Expedia and Travelocity in the US catalysed the process of adapting the technology to Indian market.
AG: How did the unique idea of a travel franchise unit originate? What is the USP of ‘Arzoo.com’?
AP: Our franchise model was initiated in February 2009. Every company wants to expand and franchising gives a company to do the same without having to invest much. Arzoo waiting to expand its brand presence soon became the India’s leading travel portal. Later we decided to spread our tentacles, at a retail level which would magnify brand visibility and also serve as a revenue generation stream for the organisation.
As compared to other major travel online portals, we provide value for money. Arzoo does not spend much on advertisements because their ultimate cost is borne by the consumer; rather it promotes discounts and schemes which can be availed by their clients. The website always has cheapest flight rates available. The company is able to do this because it saves money by not aggressively indulging in advertising is passed onto the customers as benefits.
AG: You have recently started the bus ticketing and many other services. What are the major reasons for this development?
AP: Yes this is true that we have started several new services such as bus ticketing. This initiative is in continuation with Arzoo’s efforts to bring more and more travel services online, to alleviate customer convenience thereby optimising customer satisfaction.
AG: What all qualities are needed by your prospective franchisees?
AP: When a person chooses to be a part of the Arzoo Franchisee Associate Programme he can either choose Arzoo travel point or Arzoo Elite studio depending on his requirements and ability to invest. Since we are trying to promote even small businessmen and homemakers, we do not enforce any requirements on Arzoo travel point franchisee.
Arzoo Elite studio is a slightly more premium option with a bit higher investment but with plethora of returns such as LCD television, DVD player, work station, printer, promotional material, starter kit etc. When a person chooses to be Arzoo elite point franchisee he should have atleast 250 sq.ft outlet and at least two people working for that franchisee point.
AG: How many franchisees do you have and in which all cities in India?
AP: In total we have over 50 franchisees in India. Our franchisees are present everywhere from metropolitan to II and III tier cities in India. In fact, we are present through franchisees in several remote areas such as Sikar and Kargil.
AG: What are your future plans in terms of expansion through franchising?
AP: We are planning to cover small, tier II and III cities by attracting small businessmen, owner of small shops, or homemakers. We are keeping a nominal enrolment fees and are adding more and more products so that Arzoo Franchisee Associate Programme becomes an attractive option for prospective franchisees.
AG: What training and support do you provide to your franchisees?
AP: When a person chooses to be Arzoo franchisee, he gets on the job training from the people in the regional office. We are also planning to come up with series of audio-visual presentations to assist them in case, franchises face any difficulty. Arzoo franchisees also benefit as they have low operational cost and have support of Arzoo’s skilled support staff. Apart from this, the company also provides starter kits, marketing, and merchandising support as well as additional revenue lines. We also promote our franchisee outlets though advertisements.
AG: What is the break-even period for the franchisee?
AP: Most of the franchisees are able to break-even within two–three months of their investment. In fact, much of the other administrative costs are also recovered within this period. In the fourth to fifth months, most of the franchisees reap decent profits from their investment.