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Rehlat: The New Online Travel Marketplace
My Startup World speaks to Bader Al Bader, the Founder of Rehlat, about the company, the services it offers and the markets it caters to
When was Rehlat established?
Rehlat was established in early 2015. Bader Al-Bader is the Founder of the company. However, it really is a team effort running the company. None of what we’ve achieved today would be possible without the team we have in place. We’re growing too fast for one person to take credit.
How was the company started? The initial days?
It started off as a proof of concept website only in Kuwait with some low-level online marketing. We knew there was a big gap in the Middle East for online travel and the traction we got on our basic website proved it. All the development and marketing was outsourced and it was basically a one-man show in the beginning. As it gained traction, building a strong team was the only solution.
What sort of funding went into creating Rehlat? Was it through external funding or was it bootstrapped?
The funding has been sourced internally up until now. Initially, as we were learning the ropes, we weren’t spending much. However, when we gained traction, we ramped up spending to expand.
What products and services does the company offer?
We sell flight tickets and hotel bookings online to Middle Eastern customers. All our websites, services, and deals are localized so we make sure the Middle Eastern customer has a hassle-free experience.
Who takes care of logistics and customer / tech support?
Thankfully, all our operations and development are handled in-house. We have offices in Kuwait, Dubai, Egypt, and India. None of our work is outsourced. Keeping everything in-house is especially important since we can maintain the quality that our customers would expect from dealing with us.
Did you face any challenges when starting up? If yes, how did you overcome it?The biggest challenge was building the initial product. Nowadays, you can easily buy a booking engine for a small sum of money. However, only a few years ago, nobody in the region was doing this and it was very difficult to find talent in this space.
What are your plans for Rehlat for the next 2 years?
We plan to strengthen our foothold in the Middle East. Although we believe we have good traction, there are still a lot of Middle Eastern travellers that haven’t been exposed to online travel that we can help. There are also some other virgin markets in the Middle East that we think are very interesting and that we’re evaluating.
Which markets do you currently cater to?
Our key markets are Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait . We also serve Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt, and Oman.
What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs in the region?
Don’t get caught up with the start up hype you read; put your head down and focus on the core of your business. Make sure your product is serviceable and expose it to the market; don’t wait for it to be perfect or you’ll never go live. There isn’t always one path to your goal; if you’re creative enough, you’ll get there somehow.
If you learnt one thing from starting up your company, what would that be?
The strength of your team can make you or break you. Recruit people that can turn your weaknesses into strengths. We’re always coming up with great deals and offers for our customers. Visit our website and you’ll see some great discounts on hotels and flights. Also, download our app!