Welcome to another amazing episode of India GameChanger where we sit down with Arun Bagaria, a co-Founder and CEO of TravClan, a startup with the mission to revolutionize the travel agent industry. Arun provides an insightful overview of his entrepreneurial journey, the value of having a “big why” and how TravClan is modernizing the role of travel agents.

Some of the topics Arun covered:

  • TravClan’s bias toward action
  • What it takes to be a customer-first entrepreneur
  • The ongoing relevance and evolution of travel agents
  • The importance of a “Big Why”
  • How travel agents can build trust
  • Taking action, learning from mistakes, and quick iterations

Some other titles we considered for this episode:

  1. Building From a Customer-First Perspective
  2. It’s a Real Marriage Saver
  3. Everything Happens On Trust, But There Is a Large Trust Deficit
  4. Having a Bias Toward Action

Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):

Michael Waitze 0:05
Okay, now, let’s do this thing. Hi, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to India GameChanger. Today we are joined by Arun Bagaria, a co-founder and the CEO of TravClan. Arun thank you so much for coming on the show. And before we get to the main part of this conversation, can you please give our listeners a little bit of your background for some context?

Arun Bagaria 0:27
Sure. Thank you so much, Michael, for having me,super excited to have joined this conversation. A bit about myself…So you know, I’ve basically been born and brought up in Bombay come from a business family, then that might be called and did my MBA from IIM. Bangalore. Since then, you know, since 2014, I’ve been working primarily with startups work with a couple of great startups. One in the travel space called traveltriangle, spent a couple of years there primarily in business operations, and then joined cars 24, which is in the automobile space, leading new product development for them for a year. And yeah, in 2018, we started Kraft Klein, a little more about me, so I enjoy watching football and playing chess, these are a couple of my hobbies. Yeah, so that’s that,

Michael Waitze 1:19
what was it like working at cars? 24? I mean, from my knowledge, this is a very fast growing very well funded company, right? And kind of a famous place to be, was there like an incredible energy there when you were there?

Arun Bagaria 1:30
Yeah, absolutely. Right, like, so I joined when the company was just a year old, but the company had already grown to 800 people, right. So because a lot about the kind of growth cash 24 had experienced. And fundamentally, I think, you know, What cash 24 has gone on to solve is created. Like, they’ve created a terrific value proposition at that time for people who are looking to sell their used cars, right. And that came from the fact that the team was super excited about solving the problem. And you know, in India, it is a large problem, if you’re looking to sell anything. So that was amazing. And then my role was working in product. So just a year old company, which has grown so quickly. So working on the product, on the technology aspect, which is where you know, all the action is happening, all the transactions are happening, the money is flowing. So that was an amazing experience as well.

Michael Waitze 2:23
So do you think you take some of the stuff that you’ve learned to cars 24 and say, Oh, my God, the travel industry probably has like similar problems? are you solving some kind of different problem in the travel industry?

Arun Bagaria 2:33
I would say that some of the problems are very similar in the sense that, essentially, when cars when he first started, they were solving sourcing of cars for Dillards. Right? So we’re doing very similar in draft client, wherein we are solving sourcing of travel products for, you know, travel agents. So that is something where the value proposition or you know, the offering is similar. And more than that, I think one thing which I learned at cost 24, is the advantage of having a bias towards action. A lot of times when you’re doing things and you’re working on, you don’t really know what’s going to work and what’s not going to work. So the question really, at cashmoney, for everyone used to ask was what it takes to test it out in a small way or to you know, try and see and get real feedback from customers. Right. So that’s something from an approach perspective, we learned when we sort of take it a step ahead, you know, catch 24 always had this approach of you know, what best we can do? Can we, you know, if dealers have a challenge in coming and picking the cars from our centers, can we deliver it right to their doorstep, right? So mindset of, you know, building it from a customer first perspective, I think that’s something which applies not just to travel, but to every industry, please.

Michael Waitze 3:47
I agree. Do you feel like you were destined to run your own business at some point, like you say, You come from a business family, and I presume when you say that, you don’t mean that, like, your dad worked at a bank and your mom worked? You know, at an investment bank. Normally, when you say a business family means their family runs their own business or runs like business with the uncles and cousins and stuff like that. Do you think you’re always destined to do this?

Arun Bagaria 4:08
Um, I think yes. Partly because everyone in my family is either running their business or is a chartered accountant, which is a traditional path. But after that, they started their own chartered accountancy firm. They never ended up working at like a big for Ernst, and young and so on and so forth. Right. So my brother is well, right. He’s a chartered accountant, and he runs his own advisory firm. Love it. So growing up, yes, I did think about, you know, starting something of my own at some point of time, but I think, in this journey, right of working with different startups, what I really understood is that, you know, while starting up is great, before one starts up, he needs to know, like, one needs to know why they are doing this. Yeah, right. And that, why is it goes beyond you know, what problem you’re solving or what industry you’re in, but sort of relates to add the core What what you really want to gain from it right? Like because entrepreneurship, because small takes the same amount of effort, like I’ve seen my dad, put in that amount of effort. And if you don’t have that sense of purpose or clarity as to why you’re doing this, it can be really difficult and lonely at times as well. Right? Like, you need to keep figuring out those answers. So, yeah, I do think that it was destined, but not necessarily, I thought that, you know, in this shape, and form, I’ll be doing this with these co founders or in this industry. So that’s something I think you uncover as life progresses

Michael Waitze 5:34
as you go along. But I just think it’s really important. Like, just to use your just to use your terminology, I think there’s a small why, right? The small Why is we want to do this than we want to solve this problem. But the big why is more important. That’s the thing that gets you up in the morning, right? And you must have read Simon Synnex book, right, it starts with y, which is a good starting point for understanding this. But if we do dig deep into this, what motivates you think what you just mentioned? What exactly is it? Right? What about the travel business? What about traveling is the thing that motivates you to get up every day? And to do this thing?

Arun Bagaria 6:06
Yeah, I think, you know, very important, right? Like, because what motivates us? Or what motivates me two things, right, like, first is, I think, when I look at, what I enjoyed doing more is, when I was able to make an impact, right, like, so, back here, for me, personally, simply means that if I can see a correlation between the input and the output, right, like the output may not be very instant, it may come in two months later, or at times, even two quarters later. But I think, if we can see that impact in people’s lives, and you know, we are a tech company, so we want to leverage tech as much as possible to, you know, make sure that the lives of our users are improving, because of the technology that we are building. I think that is, you know, at the core of what motivates us, you know, when we so just to give you a little more context about what we do as a company, please. So typically, you know, what we do is we help travel agents grow their business, right? So in a nutshell, what we do is we sort of help them, you know, digitize their entire business, create a website for them, help them with marketing tools to generate more traffic on their website. And in today’s day and age, you know, when people think about travel agents, people think that nobody is using travel agents anymore, which actually is not true. You know, 75% of travel is still being booked through travel agents, right? It is a set of people who sort of seem to have been forgotten, or people have sort of assumed that they are not using technology, but there is actually an opportunity, if you sort of give them the right tools. They can actually build their business as well.

Michael Waitze 7:44
How do you how do you figure that out? Right. Here’s the other thing. I think we talked about this offline a couple of weeks ago. Everybody like buys a house rents an apartment has a place to live right? And and so many people I live in Bangkok, I feel like every third person in Bangkok is a real estate agent. That’s not a joke. I really feel like that’s the thing. And then I feel like a lot of the technologists that come to Bangkok are like, I know, I’ll solve this problem with real estate agents and like 75,000 people are trying to build it sounds like what you’re building for travel agents. And yet, I haven’t heard of anybody building this thing. So what was it like? Are you a big traveler? Was your mom and dad big travelers? Like what was it about this where you said, Oh, no one is worth because it doesn’t seem like anybody else is working on this, at least not where I live? What was the what was the aha moment for you where you’re like, Oh, my God, they need the same thing that kind of every real estate agent needs, we can build that.

Arun Bagaria 8:34
This started in 2014 When I joined a company called Travel triangle, which is essentially a b2c marketplace for people going on a holiday. Okay, right. So I was working in the travel industry for a couple of years, where on a weekly monthly basis, I was personally interacting with, you know, close to 202 50 travel agents. So I understood at the core, right, like, what are the challenges that they faced, right. So traveltriangle was solving one problem for them, which was essentially generating leads for these travel agents and passing leads of customers to them. But you know, in these interactions, what I identified that these travel agents do have leads, or they do have a set clientele and they grow their business to repeat and word of mouth referral clientele, right. But what they really struggle is with supply, right, so that’s the second part of the problem that we solve. What is that? Right? So supplier means that, you know, as a travel agent, I have a customer who wants to book a hotel in Bangkok, how do I book it for that customer? I have a customer who wants to, let’s say go to Universal Studios in Singapore, how do I book that activity? I have a customer who is to do scuba diving in Bali, how do I do that? Right? So there is

Michael Waitze 9:43
I want all of these things, by the way, but

Arun Bagaria 9:47
yeah, so essentially, you know, if I look at my own, you know, experience, right? Every time you travel, you want to do more and more and you want to do different different things, right, like people travel so that they can experience the culture And, you know, different have more and different experiences, right? So what we realized is that, you know, the world is evolving, technology is evolving. But the role of a travel agent also needs to evolve, right from just doing flight booking or hotel booking, to sort of advising you on what you should be doing. Right. So that was really, you know, where we saw that, hey, look, if I go to TripAdvisor, I’m still looking for advice, six, if I go, Expedia, I’m still looking for advice and the shape of form of like, going through those reviews and ratings. As humans, we want to trust. We want to make decisions, most of us want to make decisions based on other people’s experiences and recommendations.

Michael Waitze 10:39
Because otherwise we’re making a decision in a vacuum, right? Yeah, yeah.

Arun Bagaria 10:43
That’s where, you know, we knew that a travel agent is or a travel consultant, right? Like, as it’s called, in the US and Europe, if we can sort of give them the right tools and help them upskill themselves, they are going to be able to add a lot of value to you know, people’s travel plans and their purchase decisions. Right. So that is really what motivated us. Unfortunately, there was no one single moment, which I can call as epiphany that you know, okay. This is where we know that we needed to do this. Yeah. It sort of was always intuitive to us that hey, look, there is this problem. There is like $5 billion of travel being sold to travel agents. What do we really do? So the first starting point for us was actually, you know, what our friends would ask us, hey, we want a deal. Do you have a good deal? Right, like and specially, you know, in India, everyone’s looking for a good deal.

Michael Waitze 11:35
Right in every country. But yeah, go ahead. Yeah.

Arun Bagaria 11:38
We said that, hey, look, customers need deals. And we know, like suppliers, like hotels have unsold inventory. So if we create a platform, where we get these deals and give it to travel agents, we did not do it. As b2c, we still wanted to focus on the travel agent, community, yeah, these travel agents will be able to sell these deals. So that’s what we, you know, first started with, that was like, Hey, let’s try this out. If we can do this, obviously, we can expand. But that was really, you know, the moment when we started out, when we were just moved out of our jobs. That’s the first, you know, pilot we did. And that’s when we knew that, hey, we are on to something, how do you build

Michael Waitze 12:14
because there’s so much noise out there, right? Particularly today, if you go back 20 years ago, I want to give you an experience that I had in the travel business, and it kind of changed the way I thought about things, the way things worked. A buddy of mine was constantly coming to Bangkok, we both lived in Tokyo. And he was constantly coming to Bangkok, to buy around the world airline tickets, and he had a travel agent that he trusted literally like on the third floor of the Emporium mall, on Sukhumvit road. And he was like, Look, go go to her. And then you can buy these really cheap business class tickets. But I never would have been able to found find her. And frankly, I wouldn’t have trusted her even if I did find her because it’s on the third floor, literally like in the back of the mall somewhere. But now that everything’s digital, everybody’s filled with all this information, right? Like I can go to travel loco or Travelocity or all these things. And to be fair, I kind of don’t trust the ratings. Do you know what I mean? Because those can be gamed as well. But I do trust when I talk to a person because I consider the travel age. And I think you make a really good point. They should almost be like a Travel Concierge, right? Like, I want to go to Singapore. But tell me a great Italian restaurant that I am not going to find on my own. That’s maybe in Chinatown on Amoy street kind of thing. And then what should my kids do when they’re there? That would be awesome, right? And if you’re giving them those tools, that’s insane. Because now I can trust them. And I don’t have to do all the work myself. Right? Does that make sense?

Arun Bagaria 13:34
Yeah, it does. It does. You know, pretty much. That’s what, like I mentioned, right? Like, every time you travel, right, like your expectations of you want to experience more and more, right. And that’s where we’ll sort of move from being you know, like a tourist to actually traveling, you know, like you said that, you know, technology, what it allows us is to sort of bring all of these different pieces of content, right, like, from hotels, to restaurants to let’s say activities you could be doing right onto a single platform. So that’s what we are essentially doing right and at the outset, right, like what we believe that there will be, you know, not just hundreds but 1000s and, you know, 10s of 1000s, hundreds of 1000s of people who would be who would sort of become or grow into becoming these Travel Concierge. It’s like what you write Yeah. What really makes sense is that, you know, they will be best suited to serve the customers because they have that person will connect. They have, you know, the trust. And what we are best suited as a company is to ensure that when people are actually traveling, they have a excellent experience. Which means like, when you’re actually you know, in Singapore, how do you ensure that the pickup happens on time, the restaurant that you go to you there is a reservation for you, you don’t end up waiting and when your kids are going for this activity and let’s say you want to enjoy something else, how do you ensure that both happen and you’re not worried about Hey, Mikey During a different revenue in a new country, how do I manage that? So these are the things that we go on to solve. So we don’t build a just a tech stack wherein, you know, we’ve given them given them a platform, but we sort of also ensure that whatever gets booked gets delivered and executed flawlessly, right. And that’s super powerful. The

Michael Waitze 15:20
concept of building a microsite for every agent is actually great, right? It’s actually not that hard to do. But giving it to them for free is actually super helpful because most agents never going to be able to build it themselves. Right. But it was there, is there a way to do this to not just like an itinerary is the wrong way to say this, right? But if I booked something with my Travel Concierge through travel plan, right, because travel plans, the back end, so it’s probably not even branded on the side, right? It’s just it sits in the back. It’s powered by travel plan, which I kind of recommend you put on the site. But if you don’t, you probably already do. But here’s the thing I want to know if I’m a customer, if I’m the see part in this b2b to see experience, right? Can I log in as well and see my full itinerary? Like, do I get a place there where I can do that, too. So it’s not just the travel agent, they can see it. But like when I’m in Singapore, and my wife says to me, Hey, what are the kids supposed to be doing today? And what time? Is it my call, I left that piece of paper at home? Can I log in as well?

Arun Bagaria 16:16
Yeah, you absolutely can. Right. So that’s, that’s where, you know, our experience of having worked in b2c companies. Right? We sort of understand the anxiety is people have when they’re actually traveling themselves, right. So one of the things that we placed a lot of emphasis emphasis on and you know, post COVID, this has become, you know, extra critical. Yeah, making sure that when the traveler is actually traveling, he should have access to all the details, right, right, from the confirmation numbers, to the itinerary to the driver details to knowing exactly where the pickup point is, like, you’re standing at the airport in a, you know, a foreign country, you traveling there. So Ben

Michael Waitze 16:56
just pops up, you’re like get in.

Arun Bagaria 17:00
And you don’t even know where the wind is going to stop. Right. Right. So initially, even when we started working right in 2014, right, like, it’s just nine years back, but at that time, you know, WhatsApp and internet voice based call did not really we’re not really popular. Right. One of the biggest challenges we used to have is that, you know, people would be traveling, we would people would be standing on different gates. Yeah, within the terminal, right. And that’s something which, you know, one needs to solve, right? So it’s not just about having access, where you can log in and see information. It goes much beyond that, right? Like, how do you make that information? actionable, right, you know exactly what to do or what to expect. And if something goes wrong, you know whom to reach out. Because that’s when large source of anxiety when you’re traveling,

Michael Waitze 17:46
I think this is like a marriage saver for sure. People have on vacation, there’s just like, seriously, you don’t have the phone number for the guy that’s going to pick us up like, oh, how could you not do that? That you ruin my vacation? But let me tell you another story. When my first time in Cambodia, so this is a long time ago in 1998. We booked a trip with detailed travel like I still remember. And the reason why I said like a van just shows up is because a van just showed up at the airport and came in Cambodia. It was in seomra up. And my wife at the time actually my girlfriend at the time looked at me and she was like, are those the guys and I’m like, I don’t know. We got in the van. But it was a little bit disconcerting. They didn’t kidnap us or kill us. But it was a little bit disconcerting. But solving that because this is the thing that nobody else has done yet. I think not that I’ve seen where they’re solving for the business side. But once that’s done all that info dies, like on the business side and doesn’t go to the customer side. Right? That is awesome. That’s an awesome idea. Sorry, go ahead. Did I interrupt you? Were you in the middle of saying something? I feel like I have to do

Arun Bagaria 18:52
it? No, I think but the things that you said right. Like in terms of, you know, this being a merit saver. So a lot large part of not necessarily our customers or customers or travel agents, but our customers customers are people who actually, you know, the first time people from a younger generation use a travel agent is when they’re going on their honeymoon. Right? And we do that they sort of realize that, you know, they always need to know someone they can put the blame on

Michael Waitze 19:17
a veteran or him right, because that’s a problem.

Arun Bagaria 19:20
Yeah. And similar to what you said, right? So again, when we got like when I got married, and we were going on our honeymoon, so we landed in Thailand, and we had the same exact the same theories that before we got into the cab driver requested that hey, can I take a photo? Because that’s what our SOP was? Right? So he requested if you’re okay, that, you know, we just share it that the pickup has been done on time. And you know, it was a proper pickup and this photo eventually ended up coming back to me because the people who were traveling with knew that, you know, hey, this booking is from draft plan and its travel plans, you know, a team member coming So I was doing it to my wife at that time that hey, look, that’s how good we are.

Michael Waitze 20:07
It’s not. Oh, I love this. I love this so much. And wait, how long have you been building this? You said,

Arun Bagaria 20:15
so it’s been four and a half years, we started,

Michael Waitze 20:17
how big is the team now.

Arun Bagaria 20:19
So we have close to 200 people now. So we’ve expanded over the last one year from being like, you know, close to 120 people to 200 people now,

Michael Waitze 20:29
it feels easy to start a company when there are four people in it. And then maybe your learn along the way, like how to get to 14 people. Once you get to 40 people, it starts to get really tricky. But now your 200 like as the CEO, I’m super curious what you’ve learned along the way, because even when you were doing product at cars, 24. And even when you were at your previous travel company, like you weren’t running the whole thing, you’re just watching kind of right. But now that you’re in charge of the whole thing, what are some of the biggest challenges and problems that you had? And what have you learned along the way?

Arun Bagaria 21:03
Firstly, you know, I agree that, you know, running a four or 14 people company is very different from running a 200 people company. Yeah, I think some of the biggest learnings that I’ve had is that, you know, as you’re growing as a company, especially in a context like ours, where, you know, close to 50% of people have joined in just the last one year, yeah, it’s important to sort of keep evolving and growing the culture that you’re trying to build. Right, right. And some of the biggest challenges that we have sort of faced as a company is that we’ve not always got it right. In terms of, you know, setting the right expectations, right, like, given that we are in the travel and hospitality sector, we tend to have customers traveling throughout the year 24/7. Yeah, making sure that people understand that the nature of the work is such that things like these can happen at any point of time. More importantly, I think what is really important is, you know, when you’re building a company, right, because while as founders, you tend to have a Northstar metric, beyond just the business metrics, right, like your revenue or IDs, and things like that, but in terms of why you’re really doing this, I think what’s important is how well you’re able to communicate this to people who are looking to, you know, join and when they join, because that’s when people sort of truly understand that if they are at the right place, or if whatever they personally aspire to. That’s one and second, I would say is how do you make sure that so I think this is just more got to do with culture? And second is, I think, how do you build a team, which sort of feels empowered to make more and more decisions on their own and have that same action towards bias, which I was mentioning, I saw at catch 24? I think these are two things, which personally I feel are things which I have learned a lot, right? These are things which we not always got it, right, we had a phase of COVID for one and a half years, where, you know, we were the same number of people for at 50. Close to 55 people for you know, we went into COVID at 55 headcount. One and a half years later, we were again around at 55 headcount. So as founders we got very hands on at that time. And when we sort of started growing, we didn’t realize that our approach needs to evolve as well. Right? So these are some of the learnings which we had, how do you how do you find that balance between being involved versus making sure that people are able to run the show as well.

Michael Waitze 23:25
It’s the biased action thing, which is famously a Jeff Bezos tenant right from Amazon. It’s actually really important. And frankly, I think it’s one of the keys to building a company from scratch, you just have to do something, really. And in a way, you have to just do anything at the beginning. Because if you do nothing, then you’re doing nothing and you learn nothing, and you grow in no particular way at all. I really believe this. And it’s so hard to explain, like why that’s so important. You know, Nike had this corset to just do it. And it kind of, it kind of resonated with me from the beginning. Because it’s like, you’re gonna play the game, or you’re not gonna play the game, but you’re not half playing the game, right? And it’s the same thing in business, I think. And that’s the bias to action. But how do you? What’s the right word? How do you imbue that or inculcate that into the company? Like, how do you? Do you just tell people like, hey, look, I think I need to do this. Just say, Look, just try something. This idea that they’re not going to get in trouble. It’s also super important. Right? Right. How do you do that thing, though? How do you teach people that? Or how do you make that part of the culture?

Arun Bagaria 24:24
Yeah, so very good question. Right. So I think when we started out, you know, some of the first few people who joined us where people from our first level of network people who have worked with in the past, so you know, the first 10 people, we knew them really well. That’s right. Yeah, that’s the easy side. So one experiment, which sort of worked out for us. You know, we had when I look at the composition of the first 50 people, there were two sets, right. So the first set was people who had you know, worked in multiple startups had like 7010 years of experience. And the second set were people fresh out of college, literally in the right at that Time, you know, you know, I would I would say them the same thing, right? Like, hey, let’s do it quickly. But what I identified like not just me, but as a team, what we identified is that, you know, not just in India, but from a society standpoint, right? What we learned growing up is doing our best, right? And best is measured very highly in terms of quality of work, right? And just to give you a simple example, right, like, as a parent, someone will tell their child that they should be coming first, or they should be getting 90 out of 100.

Michael Waitze 25:31
Right? 98 out of 100. But yeah, fair enough.

Arun Bagaria 25:35
These days, it’s 98. Right? So I started explaining to people that hey, attract client, it’s not about getting 98. Right? It’s definitely not about that. I used to ask them this question that if you study for two hours for a subject, how much marks would you score? And how much would mark would score if you studied for four to eight hours? And how much how many hours you would need to study if you wanted to come first in the class, right? So people would give their marks and range, and then I would tell them that, hey, fast really means that studying for those four to eight hours, which gives you which gets you 80% marks, right? So let’s get to that, and then figure out what to do next. Right? Like, instead of saying that, hey, we have to just do it fast. People don’t really know what that means. Right? So we sort of have to explain to them that what you’re being measured against is how quickly you started executing on something. Are you learning from doing what you’re doing? And then how are you? Iterating? Right, so we really changed our evaluation. And we have like a monthly feedback as well. Right? So we changed that to being more and more got to do with, you know, if we, you know, thought of an idea was some basic version of it, something we could make live today, or tomorrow? Did we sort of implement that?

Michael Waitze 26:52
There’s so many ways to explain this. I mean, when I was at UBS, for a year, one of the things I talked about love was the Pareto Principle, right? Like 20% of your effort is going to create 80% of your outcome. And if you as soon as you understand that, it’s it really is like an epiphany, right? This power law, the power law distribution. And once you understand this stuff, it makes it so much easier. And yet, you’re right. In most cases, most kids are not taught that by their parents, they’re literally taught and I was joking before, like, it should be a 98. And if you come home with a 98, the typical Tiger parent would say what happened to the other two points? So fair enough. But building that culture actually is interesting when you have really experienced people, and then just new grads, right? Because there’s this massive imbalance with experience and with knowledge, and if you can accomplish that, that that’s a really cool thing. Yeah.

Arun Bagaria 27:35
Yeah. Yeah. So it actually worked out pretty well for us, because one thing we learned is that people fresh out of college didn’t really have any biases. Yeah. So for them, for some of them, at least, you know, what they saw at the company is they expect they extrapolate it to that’s how it should be everywhere,

Michael Waitze 27:53
right? Which is good, which is a good outcome. Yeah. Do you have an I don’t normally ask statistics, but I’m just trying to get a sense for for one thing, so I can ask another question as a follow on how many insurance insurance how many travel agents are there in India, and to be fair traveling really could be used by travel agents everywhere in the world? Right. So it’s not just an Indian product? Yeah.

Arun Bagaria 28:18
Yeah. So actually, they’re like close to two and a half three lakh travel agents, just in India alone.

Michael Waitze 28:24
So what is for people that don’t know? Sorry? So

Arun Bagaria 28:27
close to 250,000 travel agents in India.

Michael Waitze 28:30
Right. Yeah. So do you think this is the reason why I asked this is the reason why I had insurance on my brain. I do an entire actually, I do two podcasts on insurance, the Asia InsurTech podcast and InsurTech amplified. And I’m constantly hearing this idea that there’s not enough distribution for insurance products in Asia and in India included. Do you think sometimes what once you get the agents online, once they get used to using technology to distribute both digital and physical products, right for travel, that there’s a way to also have them distribute insurance, not just to themselves, because they’re a group, right? So now you can get really lower cost insurance for all of those 250,000 people, but then for their customers as well. And I’m not talking just about travel insurance, I’m talking about health life stuff like that, where they may or may not have it already, but if I trust you, I may buy another product from you as well. Does that make sense?

Arun Bagaria 29:25
Yeah, it definitely does, right? Pretty much you know, what you explained is true for India, right. So, you know, when when you look at India, right, like India is a very, very diverse country. And, you know, it’s not just diverse from you know, the cultural aspects of it, but people live India, like, you know, there is a very large growing segment India, two to three segment cities in India, who sort of now are getting at that stages in their lives or in terms of their disposable income, where they’re thinking about, you know, travel where they’re thinking about healthcare Ever they’re thinking about insurance where they’re thinking seriously about education. Right. And, you know, one of the largest challenge in India, I would say, not just in India, but many of the developing economies is that everything happens on trust, but there is a large deficit. What that means is that I want to do more and more business with someone that I trust. But I generally don’t tend to trust people, because of the past experiences that I’ve had. And what you know, I’ve been taught to not trust people easily,

Michael Waitze 30:35
completely agree with you would so hard, right? It’s like, I want it, I know, I need to do that thing. And I keep looking at that thing. And I did this with my own insurance. To be fair, this is a true story. I was like, I just don’t trust the people that are trying to sell it to me. And then when I met an agent that I did trust, literally through a friend who was like, you can trust this lady, I was like, Okay, now I can actually buy it, I can ask her all the questions. And I believed everything she said to me.

Arun Bagaria 30:56
Yeah, no. So that’s how, you know, travel agents grow their business as well, right. And in terms of them, expanding their base, so a lot of these travel agents specially into your duty or three cities, right, they’re essentially looking for a better way to live their lives and earn a better life. Right. So if them investing 235 weeks of their time, learning about insurance, right? Helps them earn that extra money, and also add value to the lives of their customers, because, you know, typically, people will not be traveling every week or every month, right? People will travel once in a quarter once in six months. Or if it’s a leisure trip, it would be even less frequency. Right? Right. So as an agent, I want to have more and more ways that I can stay connected to my customer, it’s the same family, right? So if I can, you know, add value to the life of this family by saying that, hey, there is this insurance policy, and this is how it’s going to, you know, cover for your health care or, you know, help you save for a rainy day or things like that, or solve for any, you know, exigencies people will buy, right, and the challenge with insurance in India is that there is very less knowledge, right. And this is something which, you know, does involve, you know, like a personal advice. And you need to trust the source that the advice is coming from both are critical. So that’s where, you know, these travel agents can play a role. And some of the travel agents, you know, that we work with India, like to come from, you know, smaller towns and cities. They do not just insurance, but they help you with loans as well.

Michael Waitze 32:33
Yeah, for sure. Well, they should be they should be a FinTech to begin with. But that’s a different story altogether. Right. Because they have the they have the connections. Yeah. And some of them. Yeah,

Arun Bagaria 32:42
yeah. And, you know, it’s crazy that, you know, some of them started their business by just doing mobile recharges. Right? That’s where, you know, that trust, because 10 years back, you know, you had to go to a shop to get your mobile recharge. Today, we do it, Internet, and so on and so forth. But that’s where, you know, they sort of build that trust, because people would come in, we’re coming to their shop, getting their mobile recharges. I love it. And there are lots of other things which go into play, right, like credit is a huge thing in India. Right? That’s again, something which has sort of had these travel agents build their network.

Michael Waitze 33:13
I want to ask you one more fun question before I let you go. Sure. The outcome of travel, whether it’s business travel, whether it’s one day travel, or whether it’s leisure travel, like you just said, the outcome of all these travels is a story.

Arun Bagaria 33:28
That’s correct.

Michael Waitze 33:29
It just is though. Shouldn’t you have your own show? Shouldn’t you have your own show where like when people come back from traveling, you just have them tell tell their best travel story? And then you publish it is like not sponsored by but like supported by travel plan. Do you know what I mean? There’s more people to travel than more people to tell stories and it feeds off itself. Then you ask them like how they booked it. They booked it on travel? Like all this kind of stuff. You have to do this? No.

Arun Bagaria 33:54
Yeah. So probably start with having a good host for the show.

Michael Waitze 34:01
would be an amazing host for the show.

Arun Bagaria 34:04
I’m not sure about that.

Michael Waitze 34:08
Okay, I will let you. I’ll let you go. I remember Gary a co founder and the CEO of chocolate. This has been a blast for me. I hope you have fun as well. Thank you.

Arun Bagaria 34:17
Thank you. Thank you so much.


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