Interview with Ashish Sidhra, Co-founder of Alike.io. – Travel Tech Innovator/ startup
Ashish Sidhra is a Co-founder of Alike.io. – Travel Tech Innovator/ startup. Alike.io, the pioneering product of travel tech innovator Kitmytrip, has gained global recognition as the first-ever platform for travel bookings based on the creator economy.
This innovative platform aims to revolutionize the way people share, discover, plan, and monetize their bookable travel itineraries.
Dubai Tourism collaborated with Kitmytrip to launch Alike.io, with Dubai serving as the founding partner city.
Alike.io is the exclusive travel tech platform that enables influencers and creators to generate income by showcasing their itineraries on the platform and earning revenue based on bookings.
Can you tell us about your background and what inspired you to start Alike.io?
Ashish Sidhra: Before becoming an entrepreneur, I have had the privilege of working with some of top global brands in Tourism, Consulting, telecommunication and media industries.
In an enterprise career spanning about 20 years, I got the opportunity to lead world’s largest DMO platform at Dubai Tourism, be the UK Founding Managing Partner of Artefact, a French AI and data services company, lead the launch of digital services business for a leading Middle East telco among other roles.
After completing my MBA from the Indian School of Business (ISB) my initial professional life was focused on advising businesses, as a consultant, to overcome their strategic business challenges and helping improve their digital presence and customer engagement.
Alike.io was born out the challenges faced by myself and my fellow Co-Founder, Saurabh in identifying and booking holiday trips that meet the specific preferences of our respective families.
Fed-up of the same cookie cutter holiday plans being sold online, we set about finding a structural solution to this problem.
Our quest led us to the realisation that more than 80% of travel related decisions on where to go and what to do was based on travel content posted online by creators globally.
Alike.io is driven by the thesis that we can it easier for the traveller to personalise their trips by making the online travel content bookable and by making it worthwhile for the content creators by sharing booking revenues with them.
Please tell us a little about your entrepreneurial journey
Ashish Sidhra: My entrepreneurial journey started back in 2018, when I and my fellow Co-Founder Saurabh launched an initiative to digitise the long tail of travel services, aimed at making it easier for tourists to travel in distant and unknown countries.
These travel services were the ones beyond the well digitised offerings of hotel and flight bookings. We initially focused on travel communication services and then expanded to booking of experience tickets.
This was initially more of test for myself to see if entrepreneurship was something I could handle. And for about 18 months I ran this project as a side gig, only becoming a full-time entrepreneur in October of 2019.
Surviving the hugely disruptive Covid period remains one of the most challenging phases for me. This difficult time tested our entrepreneurial skills to the hilt and we had to resort to a number of survival hacks to not only protect our business but get it ready for a post pandemic world.
And it is during this period, that we came up with the idea of Alike and pivoted our business.
Kindly brief us about Alike.io, its specialization, and the services that it offers
Ashish Sidhra: Alike.io is the world’s first creator economy-based platform for travel bookings that aims to establish a new way of sharing, discovering, planning and monetizing bookable travel itineraries.
Launched in collaboration with Dubai Tourism and with Dubai as the founding partner city, the platform offers personal studios for independent content creators to showcase their creativity by simplifying the way they create and publish their content.
The travel itineraries published by the Content Creator helps travellers discover and get inspired on where to travel and what to do via the trip stories of their favourite content creators.
They can then book the experiences in those very trip stories on the same platform, without any need to grind across multiple websites to book these experiences.
Q4. How does Alike.io differentiate itself from other travel tech companies?
Ashish Sidhra: Unlike any other travel tech company, Alike.io is the world’s first endeavour where a platform shares part of its revenue with the content creators.
For a long time, a tourist’s online experience has remained artificially divided into two different aspects; Firstly, getting inspired on where to go and what to do through multiple social media posts, blogs & vlogs, and then toiling to book these desired experiences across multiple websites.
A Skift study tells us that a traveller visits about 38 websites to explore and book their travel plans. Other Travel tech platforms have continued to focus on enhancing only one or the other of these aspects.
Either the discovery and planning part of travel, by offering better content discovery or content presentation or the booking and reservation part of the travel world by offering better booking experiences for an increasing range of travel services.
Alike.io’s technological and business model innovation, has for the first time, brought these two travel aspects together to give a seamless experience to bring these two worlds together in one online experience.
Discover and get inspired on where to travel and what to do via the trip stories of their favorite content creators and then book the experiences in those very trip stories on the same platform, without any need to toil across multiple websites to book these experiences.
How does Alike.io use technology to improve the travel experience for users?
Ashish Sidhra: Being a travel tech company, Technology is at the heart of everything we do at Alike.io. Infinity, our core technology platform enables a worldclass API architecture that helps us integrate an inventory of million+ hotel rooms, 20,000 travel experiences and multiple travel services across 200 cities globally.
Infinity’s world leading travel content editor offers a drag and drop functionality for content creators to creator and publish travel content, without any technical knowledge.
We continue to remain at the forefront of emerging technologies and have already integrated the Generative AI capabilities of ChatGPT to help content creators create better content faster.
How do you approach data privacy and security at Alike.io?
Ashish Sidhra: At Alike.io we have a user centric, permissions driven approach to data privacy. Our service ethos and design architecture ensure customer data usage for better service delivery after suitable customer permissions.
Additionally, our stated policy is to not trade our customer data with third parties for monetisation purposes.
Our security policies follow global best practices both at technology and processes level. We continuously strive to keep abreast of the fast-changing security scenario and adopt fit for purpose solutions, suitable for our business needs
Can you discuss any initiatives that Alike.io is currently working on?
Ashish Sidhra: We are looking forward to launching our services across a number of global markets in the next 3 months.
For our content creator community, we will be announcing an exciting Creator Funding Programme, which will build upon the huge success of our recently concluded marketing campaign with Radio City FM, where we took 5 awesome content creators on an all-expense paid trip to Dubai.
What are your future plans for Alike.io, and where do you see the company in the next five Years?
Ashish Sidhra: Alike.io aims to solve the problems of trusted travel personalisation at scale, by empowering travel content creators to publish and earn from bookable trip stories.
An issue that we believe cannot be left at the mercy of legacy online models or the semi-cooked AI. With several world-first innovations in the pipeline, we excitedly look forward to continuing to disrupt the travel industry status quo.
As these consumer travel personalisation needs become more and more pronounced over the coming years, Alike.io’s novel way of sharing, discovering, planning and booking travel will become the de-facto way of consuming travel services.
What was the inspiration behind turning an entrepreneur
Ashish Sidhra: I love travelling to new places. While enjoying my trips, I have also experienced the challenges faced by global travellers, especially the lack of digitisation in a wide range of travel services.
The realisation that I could use my skills and experience to solve real world problems in the world of travel, was the main driver for me to become an entrepreneur.
While we can carry out most of our day-to-day tasks across so many industries digitally on our computer or mobile phone, why is it that we still have to stand in queues to book our experience tickets during our travels, why is it that we to be on hold on customer care phone lines to do any changes in our travel plans?
It is questions like these that have become the entrepreneurial prompts for me to solve real life issues with the experience I have gained in the fields of Digital, innovation and business model transformation.
What is your success tips for young and aspiring entrepreneurs
Ashish Sidhra: Entrepreneurship for me has been a hugely fulfilling experience. However, it is a hugely demanding, stressful and relentless space to be in.
One of the key things is to test very early if entrepreneurship is right for you. Working on your passion project as a side gig could be good way to test the waters. But it is important to have clear and realistic objectives in this test phase that define success for you.
And finally, you will come across a lot of people who will share entrepreneurship tips and advice with you.
It is good to keep in mind that many of these may not be relevant to you or your circumstances. A very good skill to develop is to filter all this advice coming your way to pick the ones which are applicable to you.
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