Bookme.pk is Pakistan’s leading online ticketing platform for Bus, Airline, Cinema and Events. Bookme.pk gives you real time seat plan along with lowest fares of all popular bus companies. We talk to the Founder, Faizan Aslam about how the startup is coping with the COVID-19 lockdown in Pakistan, with the airline and transportation industries almost at a halt.
How has the current COVID-19 situation affected your business?
As we’re primarily a ticketing company with a focus on transportation, followed by entertainment (cinema tickets), currently the entire transportation system and airlines, is on pause along with cinemas, due to which our revenues have taken a tremendous hit and are close to zero. While the effect of this crisis has been tremendous globally, the travel industry has been especially affected.
What are you doing to keep your operations up and running during these times?
While this situation was building up, we did a team meeting in the middle of February and then we had another meeting at the beginning of March, where we divided our entire team into three parts – work from home which had majority of the staff, hybrid consisting of people who would sign a document from home or the office and third and customer support staff with only two people occupying isolated spots in the office and we asked our female customer support staff to work from home. Only two of our staff members are in the office for urgent things.
As we’re a technology company, our end-to-end operations are automated with no human interaction, even our customer support is on a virtual network. As it is, all these automations are a part of our operations. A crisis we faced in 2018 was that our office caught fire and our entire team including myself got stuck in the building and there were also two deaths. Due to the fire, we were without our phones and computers for two and a half months. During this entire time, the customers did not face any interruptions in services and there was no social announcement. This is because we have our operations organized and automated to handle employees working from home. We have been fortunate to have these systems in place and to be able to activate them instantly.
Which tools are you using to stay productive and for keeping in touch with your team?
We use a tool called Monday, where we’d already been following a mechanism in which all the deliverables of the team members are clearly defined. We do a group call of the entire team everyday using Google Hangouts – during these calls, we discuss all the deliverables and other items on the agenda.
What are you doing to stay positive?
As a startup, we’re not focused on burning cash – we’re a very lean startup and we don’t need millions consistently for survival. We’re a profitable business and we’re grateful that we’re staying positive during this time. We’re staying positive and the team is happy working from home – with our remote operations, our teams are used to working from home. More than a company, we’re a group of people who are very close to each other, so we keep doing more video calls and play games remotely sometimes to cope with working away from each other for the time being.
This crisis has shown us that the world will be different once we move past this situation. How will you pivot and what would you do differently in a post-Corona world?
As a founder, I see that some things will need to be done differently. While our business model is not such that we need to pivot, we have realized a few things that we would add as a feature in our technology. After this, we see a lot of digital adoption taking place once this passes Inshallah because we believe that all the people who had not been doing digital transactions before this would now be adopting digital technologies. If we look at this positively, this is a good sign for them in terms of a bigger opportunity for increased tech adoption.