A couple of weeks back, I was invited to lunch with the cool people from travelmob where I had the chance to sit down with one of their co-founders Turochas “T” Fuad and talk about travelmob and find out a little about T as a traveller in a casual chit-chat session.
T has a pretty impressive resume having worked in large tech companies like Skype and Yahoo, but fueled by his own passion for travel, he returned to his start up roots to co-set up travelmob, a social stay marketplace with a focus on Asia Pacific, where travellers can look for alternative accommodation options, and locals (or hosts) can put up their places for travellers to stay at.
A “Spectacular” Start
When asked how the response has been so far, T breaks into a big smile and announces quite happily that it’s been “SPECTACULAR!“. On a more serious note, he talks about how humbled he is by the response they’ve been getting, and that it has been quite positive so far. Recently, this 3-month old start up announced that it had secured US$1 million in seed funding, so you know that this company is definitely going places!
Despite their recent success, T is earnest about how travelmob is always looking to improve their service, even though they’ve just gotten off the ground. “We look at the site everyday, we talk to a lot of people to understand what’s working and what’s not.” They even take the effort to stay with travelmob hosts when they hold community meet-ups with the various hosts around the region, “It’s the best way to learn about your product, and about the people using your product” says T. It was this hands-on approach that led them to come up their latest innovation of Experience Tags, a seemingly simple solution where hosts add descriptive tags to their properties, that allows travellers to search for properties based on the experience they’re looking for, be it shopping, a lazy beach stay or something suitable for large groups. T elaborated that it came out of their own experience with the site. “It simplifies the process and gives the traveller what they want – it’s not easy to filter down thousands of entries if you don’t have laser focus!”
One thing I found unique about travelmob is its focus on Asia Pacific, something we don’t have a lot of out there. Popular alternative accommodation sites like airbnb and Couchsurfing different tended to focus on the USA and Europe regions. T agreed that the Asian-first direction was something they intentionally set out to do to stand out from the competition. “It’s something the team experienced in their past jobs working for bigger companies – they tend to build for the Europe and American markets first, Asia’s specific requirements were not a priority.” Which was why when travelmob launched, besides only hosting properties from around the Asia Pacific region, travelmob’s website includes 5 different local translations (Bahasa, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese), accepts 13 different Asia Pacific currencies for payment beyond the ubiquitous USD, Euro or Pound, and has a customer care team that speaks a number of Asian languages, small touches that both the hosts and travellers appreciate.
I was curious about the type of people coming to travelmob so far – according to T in the data that they have in the past few months, there was a good mix with around half coming in from Europe and USA, and the other half being intra-Asia travellers. T went on to elaborate that many travellers loved the range of beautiful properties available, and it was popular for group travel as well as it was often cheaper for larger groups to get an apartment than pay for individual beds/rooms.
But one common thing stood out “The trend is that these travellers are often looking for an alternative experience” T said, something he identifies with personally, preferring to stay in apartments or homestays rather than hotels when he goes on holiday. “I like something with a very local feel to it, I try to go beyond the traditional path.” T also shares his tips on how he gets the local experience “Even if I stay in hotels, I avoid the guest services counter and I talk to the bellboys and the people cleaning the room.” T also mentions that many of the travelmob hosts are quite the fountain of local knowledge themselves – travelmob provides a safe and efficient platform for the traveller and host to connect, and many hosts are happy to share local information with their guests, in fact a number of hosts and travellers became fast friends after the trip is over!
“Off the beaten path”
T describes himself and his fellow travelmob founders being very passionate about travel and avid travellers, “the sort that are more concerned with the journey than the destination”. Throughout our chat he shared several interesting stories about his own travels, one of the more memorable ones being his honeymoon in Tanzania instead of the usual Santorini or Maldives. “My wife and I enjoyed it! It’s a little bit off the beaten path, it’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had – seeing animals on my honeymoon.” T then recounts a story of how a herd of 30 elephants suddenly showed up 5-feet away from their tent one day, leaving them stuck waiting for the herd to pass by, “You can’t tell that story if you went to Maldives or Paris instead!” he laughs.
While he’s certainly travelled a fair bit on his own and for travelmob, T’s travel bucket list includes heading to Mongolia and the Gobi Desert to satisfy his love for history and empires and Genghis Khan. Another item on his list is to take 3-4 weeks off work to follow the Mekong River trail from source to end. He’s also a big fan of Ewan McGregor’s Motorcycle travel series Long Way Round, where Ewan and his pal travel across the world on a motorcycle “I don’t even ride motorcycles but I wish I do” he says wistfully “Maybe when I retire!”
Thanks to T and Eunice for taking the time to meet me for a chat, and to Sylvia from the PR agency for getting in touch with me! Don’t forget that travelmob is offering 20% discount on all bookings to celebrate the year-end holidays! It’s only till the end of October, so get clicking!
(p/s have you checked out my travelmob bucket list yet?)
travelmob is a leading online marketplace whose vision is to enable travellers around the world to experience Asia like a local. Launched in 2012, travelmob provides a secure platform for property owners in Asia Pacific to list unique accommodations and experiences, and host global travellers seeking to experience true local hospitality and culture.