Pakistani online travel search and booking site, Sastaticket.pk was recently featured on the Forbes Asia 100 to Watch – an annual listing which highlights start-ups on the rise across the Asia-Pacific region. Sastaticket.pk competed against 899 other start-ups and made it to the list based on their growth trajectory and impact level. “At a time when economies worldwide are struggling from the pandemic, these agile companies are on a growth path,” Forbes states on their website.
Currently, Sastaticket.pk have over a million monthly users and have registered $10.5 million in gross sales from about 70,000 transactions in 2020. They also raised $1.5 million in a series A round in 2018 led by Gobi Partners. According to Shazil Mehkri, CEO, Sastaticket.pk, what sets them apart from other players is because they provide an end-to-end automated and seamless booking experience, one that is difficult to find among the handful of Pakistani travel sites that exist. If you Google ‘Pakistani travel booking site’, the ones that pop up have either closed down, have un-clickable pages or give customers a number to call for more booking information. Sastaticket.pk also have the relevant certifications and technologies in place on their website and app, which prevent credit card fraud, an important feature given that many people are still hesitant to provide such information online.
Sastaticket.pk was launched in September 2016; Mehkri and co-founder Bilal Mehkri had noted that people were buying tickets from travel agencies at highly marked up prices. “There was a huge gap between travellers and travel suppliers and we set out to bridge it by bringing transparency, convenience and accessibility to bookings,” says Mehkri.
During Covid-19, one of the big challenges was handling the cancellations that were coming in and the start-up had to cut costs in order to ensure they had enough funds to last until Covid-19 effects eased. In this situation, the silver lining, was the fact that Covid-19 forced people to go online – according to a survey conducted by the company, 78% of respondents (out of 963 people aged between 31 to 40 years) demonstrated a willingness to book trips via online travel portals and booking platforms. From August 2020, as travel resumed, the company saw “a huge spike in demand.” Further encouraging growth was the reduction in air fares by the company’s partner airlines. The bulk of this growth has come from the domestic travel sector, especially in the recent June-July period.
Sastaticket.pk have also introduced travel insurance (customers were hesitant to lose money in the event of cancelled flights) and partnered with TPL Insurance to provide their customers with insurance coverage worth up-to Rs. 100,000.
Most of the marketing so far has been via digital. According to Mehkri, satisfaction levels have been high and the majority of the business has come directly from customers via their app and website.
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