A hotel management graduate with almost three decades under his belt, Sandeep Khetarpal, Founder and CEO, The Global Rep, has covered a lot of ground over his many years in the industry. From being a hotelier to shifting gears by joining Thomas Cook followed by International Travel House as their Business Head followed by Paul Merchants and then TSI-Yatra and then the entrepreneur in him surfaced leading to the establishment of his own company, Central Asia Guided Tours until the thunderbolt of COVID-19 struck followed by a period of major rethink and restructuring that led to the emergence of his new business avatar.
– Gurjit Singh Ahuja
Conceptualised as a global representation and distribution company and now having completed one year since inception in October 2021, The Global Rep was born. Sandeep elaborates, “Currently we represent 25 destinations across the globe with DMCs from CIS countries, Central Asia, Europe, Balkans, South Asia, India, Nepal, Bhutan, an adventure yacht cruise in Greece and a 110-room luxury wellness resort in Mussoorie Hills. It is our target to add a total of 50 DMCs to our portfolio by the end of this financial year, i.e. March 31, 2023.”
Business and travel business, in particular, today cannot be envisaged without the incorporation of technology and Sandeep realises the importance, advantage, and leverage technology can provide. He shares, “We have launched a technology platform, a private marketplace, where we connect our DMCs with the select and closed group of travel agents and tour operators who we register. The product is called Zo Trav.”
Zo Trav is a CRM and product builder built together where individual DMCs can load their customised products and agents and tour operators can search and find their requirements instantly or request modifications and customisations. The exchange happens directly between the DMC and the agent, drastically reducing turnaround times and communication ambiguities. Zo Trav is a closed B2B marketplace and no B2C business can be transacted on it, neither will the end traveller be able to see the products offered on it.
The platform serves as a marketplace for both outbound and inbound business. They are looking at rapid expansion with sales teams stationed in major cities to service the local and adjoining markets. They have currently identified India, the UAE and the CIS countries as their major outbound source markets and are also in the advanced stages of discussions for aligning with European markets. They will soon have agents specialising in outbound from Austria, Germany, and Switzerland joining them on the Zo Trav platform.
India is undoubtedly their biggest source market and they currently work with 15,000 agents. While not all of them are consistently productive, they do occasionally bring in business. Nearly 500 agents have already signed on for Zo Trav, and they are targeting 5000 agent registrations by end of the year. Sandeep adds, “Currently we are pretty strong in North and South India and are rapidly making inroads into West and East India.”
As Dubai is a mega outbound market from India, there will be a strong and competitive presence of the Dubai products on the platform followed by the CIS countries due to the immense learning and knowledge base Sandeep brings to the table given his deep inroads into these markets since 2010 in his previous avatar with Central Asia Guided Tours. The close proximity of the CIS countries, with their visa-free and e-Visa policies, and shorter flying times translating to cheaper airfares makes them an attractive proposition for the India market and Zo Trav plugs in perfectly by offering its B2B partners multiple options.
Sandeep explains, “Our platform offers convenience, speed, choice, options and cost advantage. Here, the agent interacts directly with the DMC, as there is no intermediary, there is a cost advantage. This cost advantage can be retained by the agent or the benefit can be passed on to the client. The CRM tools on the platform make it user-friendly to interact and follow up with multiple suppliers. The entire workflow is more streamlined and the product and itinerary presentation more professional, with details regarding payments, cancellations, and terms and conditions clearly stated upfront. This makes the process more professional and helps place our partner agents in the esteem of the clients.”