Two Indian startups Global Himalayan Expedition and Sakha received grants of €400,000 and €325,000 respectively. The startups were part of Booking.com's 2018 accelerator programme for startups in sustainable tourism.
At the Booking Booster finale held at Tobacco Theatre, Amsterdam, Netherlands, two Indian startups garnered sizeable funding and grants from the travel ecommerce startup. As a part of the Booster, 10 startups that help bring sustainable tourism will be mentored, guided and trained at Booking.com's headquarters - Amsterdam.
On Thursday, among a lot of fun and fanfare, 10 startups pitched their ideas and scaling plans to a live audience and panel of judges from Booking.com.
“The vision and passion we have seen from all the startups this year has been truly inspiring,” said Gillian Tans, President and CEO of Booking.com.
Over the past few years, Booking.com has been looking to expand its presence from just being a hotel booking platform to a one-stop travel destination. After three weeks of workshops and intensive coaching sessions led entirely by Booking.com employees and experts, the programme culminated in a final pitch to receive grants of up to €500K from Booking.com’s €2 million fund in order to help support the next stage of the startups’ projected growth.
Of the 10 finalists that pitched and got funding, Sakha Consulting Wings: Women on Wheels and Global Himalayan Expedition were awarded the highest grants of €325,000 and €400,000 respectively.
The 10 startups that participated in the 2018 programme are from six different countries and operate collectively across six continents, including Antarctica. Their businesses also represent a diverse mix of innovative online marketplaces that connect travellers with inclusive travel experiences, cutting-edge technology solutions, and initiatives that empower local communities to benefit equally from the global tourism opportunity.
“India is an important source of talent when it comes to startups. We are delighted that two startups from India with great ideas focused on sustainable tourism were part of the grand finale and both have received a combined total grant of €7.25 lakh. Our aim is to build a network of like-minded organisations and individuals that are leveraging technology to create a more sustainable future for destinations worldwide as such initiatives further expand our commitment to make a positive impact globally,” said Ritu Mehrotra, Country Manager - India, Booking.com.
Started in 2008, Sakha Consulting is a unique social enterprise, launched to offer safe transport solutions for women by women in selected cities in India, providing livelihoods with dignity through professional driving opportunities to resource-poor women as part of the “Women on Wheels” (WOW) initiative. Global Himalaya Expedition (GHE) organises impact expeditions to provide clean energy and digital education access to remote mountain communities in the Himalayas, helping to put them on the map for future travellers to explore.
“Booking Booster provided us with some much-needed time to reflect, re-strategise, and fire up our rockets. It has given us new perspectives and tools for analysing our business, as well as the insights to synchronise our impact and business narrative,” said Meenu Vadera, Founder of Sakha Consulting.
The team aims to use the funds to scale up their capacity, improve operational efficiency and multiply our impact exponentially. Over the next two years, this funding will enable them provide livelihoods in transport to over 1,000 resource-poor women, who will be able to earn collectively over two million euros for themselves and their families and provide 1.1 million safe rides to women across India.
“Sakha’s commitment to empowering women in India to take control of their livelihoods and of course with how GHE is literally bringing light to remote mountain villages through their Himalayan expeditions. We are all looking forward to seeing how their plans unfold over the coming weeks and months as we work together to bring their vision for a more sustainable travel industry to even more destinations worldwide,” added Gillian.
The Global Himalayan Expedition, started by Paras Loomba leads difficult terrain expeditions, where travellers provide solar power to electricity off-the-grid mountainside villages and help put the communities on the map for future travellers.
Jaideep adds that the The Booking Booster has been extremely beneficial to GHE and has helped us to understand the dynamics of customer development while still maintaining a deep, tangible impact for indigenous communities around the world.
“This grant will enable us to scale our operations to other geographies and empower us to conduct 160 impact expeditions with 2,500 tourists, bringing electricity to 100,000 villagers and in the process offsetting 9,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions,” he says.
Currently, it has conducted over 31 expeditions that cost between Rs 50,000 to Rs 2,00,000 and have helped over 31 villages get electricity.
All 10 of the sustainable tourism startups are being awarded grants from the 2018 Booking.com's Booster Program’s €2 million fund, including Community Homestay Network (Nepal) for €225k, Keteka (United States: Operating in Central and South America, Antarctica) for €275k and Wheel the World (United States) for €275k. HiveSters (Thailand), Hotel Con Corazón (Netherlands: Operating in Nicaragua), KITRO (Switzerland), Reflow (Netherlands) and Tastemakers (United States: Operating in Africa) each received grants of €100,000.
“I was especially impressed with Wheel the World’s moving mission to empower people with disabilities to explore the world within the adventure travel sector,” says Gillian.
All the startups that participated in the programne will receive 12 months of mentoring and coaching from a strategic mix of Booking.com experts representing all parts of the business, as well as opportunities and access to collaborate with Booking.com on potential innovation initiatives and experiments to help accelerate their future growth.
In addition to Booking.com scaling grants that were awarded, Amazon Web Services (AWS) will also offer to each of the Booking.com's Booster finalists the possibility to benefit from its Startup programme: AWS Activate. AWS will provide startups with the resources they need to quickly get started on AWS – including credits, training, and support – to bring their ideas to life.
In helping travellers to explore and experience more than 130,000 unique destinations all over the world, Booking.com also seeks to contribute to the health of these destinations so that future generations can continue to enjoy them for years to come.
Together with the recently launched Booster Labs and the Booking Cares Fund, the Booking Booster Programme sits alongside Booking.com’s internal volunteer programme, where employees have long partnered with local organisations on projects that help improve destinations worldwide. Together these initiatives make up and further expand Booking.com’s commitment to make a positive impact on the global tourism industry.