Travo, an initiative of I-Nova group has recently entered the franchise bandwagon to cash in on the increasing demand of travel and tourism services. Debmalya Banerjee, Vice President, I-Nova Group shares with us the success of the company.
Abha Garyali (AG): Share with us the concept of ‘Travo’.
Debmalya Banerjee (DB): Travo, an initiative of I-Nova, is a 360 degree travel solution provider that offers its customers a broad range of travel services including airline, train and bus ticket bookings, hotel room reservations, car rentals, vacation packages, cruises and destination management services etc. The company also facilitates passport making, visa as well as arranging foreign exchange for clients. Apart from this, Travo also offers leisure, adventure, safari, sports, and religious tour packages for its individual and corporate clientele.
AG: What was the motive behind opting for franchise route for expansion of ‘Travo’?
DB: The company adopted the franchise route to boost retail institutional participation. Franchising is the best platform to cover the length and breadth of the country and make the brand popular by tying up with local partners. Travo wanted to involve the local aspiring youth in the travel bandwagon.
AG: In the past few years a constant rise has been noticed in the emergence of travel companies. What is your opinion in this regard?
DB: India is fast emerging as a travel destination. Government of India is also playing an important role by promoting tourism in the country. According to latest research, travel and tourism had added around 3.5 per cent in the national GDP in 2009. This figure would go up in the future years. Travel and tourism is predicted to increase to Rs 187.5 billion by 2019. This shows that there is tremendous scope in the market for the travel companies.
AG: Travo also has an online presence. How would you differentiate expansion of this concept with outlets?
DB: We have an online division for people who are computer savvy. However, everyone cannot understand and use the online presence. Moreover, internet handling requires two essential things, credit cards and internet facility. People who do not have this may not find it easy to travel. Therefore, to make life easier for everyone we have opted for outlets in all parts of India.
AG: How many franchisees do you have at present? What are your future plans for expansion?
DB: We presently have 10 franchisees. The reason for this is that the brand is just one year old. However, we plan to have around 100 outlets by end of 2011. By 2015 we would take the count to few thousand franchise outlets.
AG: What are the qualities and qualifications that you seek for in your prospective franchisees?
DB: The first quality that a prospective franchisee needs to have is optimism. He should be able to convince people and not take ‘no’ for an answer. Moreover, he should be aware of the know-how of the local market. Our prime reason of taking the franchise route is the participation of the local people who are experts about the area and its market characteristics. Furthermore franchisees should be able to adjust and adhere to the values, principles, and ethics of the company.
Regarding the qualification of franchisees, he should be an expert in the local area with knowledge of travel and tourism services. We have our doors open for young entrepreneurs who have good marketing skills and other essential requirements. However people with prior experience in the field would be preferred.
AG: How much investment is required by aspiring franchisees in terms of money and space?
DB: To own a Travo franchise, one needs to invest Rs six lakh. A space of 300 sq. ft at ground floor in any prime location is the fundamental criteria for taking the franchise.
AG: What support and training do you provide to your franchisees?
DB: We have different verticals to provide training and support to our franchisees. We have dedicated branding, quality and operations as well as a R&D team available to train our franchisees. We also have a franchisee operational manual for our franchisees. Everything is controlled by the head office. Therefore franchisees need not worry about the maintenance and functioning of the business. We recommend no changes to the business model by local franchise partners. Moreover there is a proper uniform for all employees of the company. All Travo outlets are identical to each other.
AG: What are the challenges that can be faced by a franchisee of ‘Travo’?
DB: As of now our franchisees have not come across even a single challenge. We have local entrepreneurs who have the know-how of the area and the market. Therefore, there are no challenges as such.