Rehlat: A star in travel is born

The firm is emerging as the most promising travel technology start-up of the Middle East

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IT was in early 2014, that Bader Al-Bader, founder & CEO of Rehlat realized there was potential for regional online travel company. He was confident and took the risk of launching it with outsourced technology team.

Once he saw traction and demand from users; he forayed into it completely by on boarding the best teams in-house and scaled it to next level in a short span of 2 years.

It was important to go in-house quickly as we could not execute at the same speed as the demand for product and features existed in the market,” he said.

Today, Rehlat is considered amongst the top 3 online travel company in GCC and the leader in Kuwait. In fact recently App Annie, the leading app data insight website, showcased Rehlat as the best Travel app in Kuwait.

Undeterred by the increasing competition that is largely unorganized, Rehlat has set its eyes on being one of the Middle East’s top travel companies. So, how it plans to achieve such a feat?

For Bader Al-Bader, the answer lies in offering a consistent simple and hassle-free user experience and adding value to customers travel plans.

The Journey

What started as a small idea to serve Kuwait market with online system by Bader Al-Bader and his friend Bader Al-Roudan, shaped up as the fastest growing online travel company of GCC. The journey was not simple, looking for talent who actually knew how to run and scale an e-commerce business was daunting. Today Rehlat has over 115 team members across Kuwait, UAE, India and Egypt office.

The Metamorphosis

Localization, content and sound product are the key ingredients of scale that lead to this transition of Rehlat from where it was 2 years ago. The website and mobile app is available in both English and Arabic with all payment systems and deals plugged in to last mile to ensure user experience is of next level for each country.

Al Roudan, co-founder & head of business development, echoes the thought and ideas of Al Bader and said, “We have the product for flight bookings and have got the flight game right for the Middle East. Now, we have ventured into hotels and are looking to master that game soon. The company in a short span has achieved on an average 75% month on month growth in hotels transaction”.

Al-Roudan has been instrumental in company’s growth with some sound alliances in the region like Careem, Mashreq Bank and some more partners in the region of this scale are in the pipeline. According to Al Roudan, the difference that has made Rehlat stand out is that it tends to take a 360-degree-view of the customer.

Look beyond Transaction

Amanpreet Singh, COO and core member of Rehlat, said, “We need to look beyond transaction and take benefit of technology to reach the next level in terms of customer satisfaction and experience. We have done the transaction part well with flight and now we are trying to automate the post sales journey for users, to give them next level of experience. Currently we are working on lot of interesting features and products like chat bots to handle our operations which would be live soon for our users.”

“The team is currently focusing on app and hotel, they have recently revamped their whole app and we were impressed by the designs and experience it offered. The app allowed us to refer and earn loyalty points through Rehlat’s interesting product christened “Karam Cash”; the users can refer their family and friends, the person referred earns instant loyalty for joining and one who referred earns cash back when the friends do transactions, we found it quite awesome and easy to use. The Karam cash is not just limited to refer and earn, it can be used to get your refunds, if you are in a hurry to book another travel ticket or to get discount in next booking,” he added

Singh affirms that, “With benefits like instant refunds, fast payment processing, and exclusive offers, Karam has been receiving exceptional acceptance from the users.”

The Next Leap

The team claims the next leap will come from Hotel product and app penetration as with app the personalization can be done at a different level and lot of interesting product lines can be created.

“Even though hotel is something in focus and spotlight, we will still keep scaling our flights, since we have just scratched the surface in MENA for it. It is not just about plugging in airlines and start selling, there is lot more that goes into it and we know we are offering it right,” said Al Bader.

Singh added, “We have tried to understand the demographics of the Middle East and their requirements; which has helped us plan the approach, which has to be unique for each category. With focus on personalization and product improvement at every step, we have achieved growth in excess of 70% in hotel booking in the past 6 months from time of launch.”

Al-Bader said, “The Analysts BMI Research predicts economic growth in the GCC will strengthen from 2018 onwards. The economic boom has brought in positive changes in travel industry and Rehlat will continue its ride with this development. The way to the top was not easy but we vow to stay here with our state-of-the-art product technology and continuous efforts to better ourselves.” — SG


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