Nadine Malik Almani is a graduate from USA who started her career as banker and ended up being an inspiring cyber entrepreneur. She is the owner of Jovago.com which is Pakistan`s first online hotel booking platform. She shared her experiences and opinions in a recent interview with Technology Times.
Q 1: Tell us briefly about yourself and highlights of your career?
Nadine Malik: I graduated from Bryn Mawr College, USA and started my career as a banker with Citibank Pakistan. After 4 years at Citi, I decided to pursue my MBA at INSEAD, France and then worked for 2 years as a Management Consultant for Bain and Company in Singapore and Dubai.
After I got married, I moved back to Pakistan and started working with Engro Foods. I joined Rocket Internet in August 2014 to establish operations for Jovago.com, Pakistan’s first online hotel booking platform. Another important thing about myself: I’m a full time working mother! My son is 2 years old, but it’s more of an adjustment for me than him!
Q 2: How you plunge yourself into cyber entrepreneurship? Was that planned or accidental?
Nadine Malik: When I moved back to Pakistan, I was really interested in working in the e commerce space as it was a relatively new industry here and there is lots of room for innovation. And I love to travel, so when they approached me, it felt like the perfect move. It isn’t really cyber entrepreneurship, it’s more about introducing a new concept to Pakistan.
Jovago.com is Pakistan’s largest online hotel booking portal- we have more than 1600 hotels across 160 cities. What we aim to do is increase Pakistan’s tourism through our portal, not only by giving customers a wide variety of accommodation choices that suit their budget, but also to provide small hotels and guest houses an opportunity to increase their clientele and awareness by using Jovago’s platform.
Q3: Where do you see yourself after 05 years?
Nadine Malik: Well, asking about 5 years from the Managing Director of a startup is a bit of an ambitious query! However, in the next 5 years I see Jovago.com as the main travel guide of Pakistan. I also hope to see a positive impact on the tourism industry as a whole, and hope our social media improves the perception people have on Pakistan, in turn increasing the travel influx.
Q4: What was the turning point of your career that led you to take JOVAGO.COM to the level it attains today? What was your inspiration?
Nadine Malik: I was able to take Jovago.com to such a level because of the strong support I have from both, the local and international teams. The work we are doing is actually helping Pakistan as a whole, and that is my greatest inspiration. Being a fond traveler, I wish to see people travel here more because we have so much to offer! Jovago.com is a job that lets me pursue my interest for traveling by onboarding others to come visit.
Q 5: How JOVAGO.COM is different from other online portals and how it has changing trends in Pakistan? How it is serving towards community?
Nadine Malik: Pakistan doesn’t have any other online hotel booking portals which have 1600 hotels spread across 150 cities, and we are constantly growing. In fact, most travel agencies don’t have so many local hotels! What we are trying to do is shift consumers mindset from relying on calls to travel agents, to relying on an online booking portal. We are serving the community by allowing small scale hotels and guest houses a chance to be online, and to increase their business free of cost. The Jovago team travels to remote areas, and we explain our business model to the small scale businesses, and educate them regarding the benefits of being on the internet. This way small SMB’s are given the chance to grow, hopefully tourism will increase and our economy will improve.
Q 6: How do you rate your service quality? Is there any customer feedback method you adapt? How frequently you update the data/listing and how much listing data is there in JOVAGO.Com at present?
Nadine Malik: Yes. After our customers stay, we call them up and ask them for reviews. Additionally, we strongly encourage them to write reviews on the website – we have a policy that every review will be uploaded, be it negative or positive.
Our data and listings are updated on a weekly basis. We are constantly onboarding more and more hotels and guest houses on our website. Currently there are 1600 properties in over 150 cities of Pakistan.
Q 7: Which are the areas where your service is currently actively available? Are there any plans to expand the destinations?
Nadine Malik: We are active all over Pakistan.
Q 8: How did you manage to cope with the difficulties that hindered you in attaining your objectives, both professionally and psychologically?
Nadine Malik: I have a very supportive family, husband and baby. Everyone has really helped me during this journey, and been around for me whenever I need them.
Q 9: Can a small online business could also be setup with small investment? Can an online business be the only source of earning for people to maintain a healthy life style?
Nadine Malik: As long as it’s a good idea, backed by a strong execution, any business has a good future! There are small online businesses that we have seen flourishing throughout the years because of their unique concept, and smooth execution. It all depends on the team.
Q 10: What factors do young entrepreneurs must take care of before setting up an online business? Is the current cyber ecosystem welcoming for aspiring cyber entrepreneurs of Pakistan?
Nadine Malik: Yes, it is. Entrepreneurs must have a solid business strategy as well as a strong team in place, and ensure that they have enough funds to see them through that process.