The week that was: how FabHotels stayed in business and Kerala is fighting coronavirus

This week, we focus on Indian startups that are pivoting their business models to create new demand channels and survive the coronavirus-led economic downturn.

Over the last few months, the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered businesses and beleaguered industries. Across the world, the hospitality and travel sectors are bearing the brunt of the lockdowns.

But, amid the gloom, one must look at the bright side: founders who are reinventing their businesses.

Founded in 2014 by Wharton School alumni Vaibhav Aggarwal and Adarsh Manpouuria, FabHotels offers budget hotels and focuses on business travellers. It works on an asset-light model, partnering with small hotels under a franchise model to provide standardised services

Vaibhav Aggarwal, Founder and CEO at FabHotels

While most hotels and hospitality companies have halted their business, FabHotels has been extending support to its clients and hotel partners, introducing new demand channels since before the beginning of the nationwide lockdown. These include initiatives like Work from FabHotels, sanitised stays for frontline workers, and quarantine facilities for Vande Bharat mission.

From pivoting the business model to techies who build great products.

Anshul Bhagi was studying at MIT when he decided to create a platform that could teach children how to code.

An early coder himself, he wanted to share the feeling of empowerment he felt when he started coding at 13. He was born in India, but at the age of seven, moved to Cupertino, California, with his family. Living in the heart of Silicon Valley and surrounded by inspiring stories of the greatest in the world breaking new ground, every day, pushed the young boy to start thinking about what he wanted from his life too.

Anshul’s fascination and lifelong tryst with coding soon began. In 2010, along with his father, he decided to bring the creative freedom he found in coding as a child to other kids, and co-founded Camp K12.

Anshul Bhagi, Founder, CampK12

From Silicon Valley, let us travel to startups in smaller towns of India.

Ayush Agarwal, Ashwin Agarwal, and Nawal Bansal started Desi Laundry in 2019.The Siliguri-based startup is using technology to provide solutions to the laundry segment. Desi Laundry currently provides online laundry services across Siliguri.

Speaking to YourStory, Ayush says they launched the startup after realising the gap in the traditional laundry services segment, where users had to visit stores or constantly make calls to get updates.  

Desi Laundry initially began as an aggregator and worked with local laundry service providers. It would collect orders and provided pickup and delivery service, and the cleaning was done by the local laundry shops.Soon after, it set up its own factory and started its cleaning services.

It has to be said that as India faces a massive economic downturn fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, Kerala’s startup ecosystem is showing the way by innovating and pivoting to survive and revive.

Speaking to YourStory, Saji Gopinath, CEO of KSUM,says: “Edtech and healthtech startups have been recording positive growth since the coronavirus pandemic. Travel and tourism, and the real-estate businesses are the worst hit, and we expect 14 percent of these businesses to reduce activities substantially and lay off employees. About 25 percent of lean startups have been able to pivot their business models and come up with new products.” 

He adds that Kerala’s college incubators have been coming up with innovative products that can be later converted to “potential startups, or industrial businesses”.

(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)


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