“There is a lack of system in our traditional travel and tourism industry”: Harish Khatri, Founder & MD, India Assist

There is a lack of system in our traditional travel and tourism industry - Harish Khatri, Founder & MD, India Assist

India Assist, a Delhi-based company with a team of 600 (approx.), is on a mission to help people in need while on tour. At present, the company is serving in India. But soon, they are hoping to expand their services abroad. Galloping with an enormous $2 million investment to date, the company aims to provide immediate assistance to the traveler in need while travelling.

MI talks with the Founder and MD, Harish Khatri, about their inception, strategy, and plans ahead.

Excerpts here:

Q) Tell us about the inception of India Assist.

Harish: It was back in 2015 when I was a traveler. I used to travel to various cities in India and abroad. I faced a couple of major incidents that struck my conscience in just a snap. One incident happened when I lost my wallet during my visit to the South India. It was a traumatizing situation for a tourist as a wallet contains so many important documents. I complained about this to my hotel, but they denied its whereabouts. Then I decided to go to the police station to lodge an FIR. The officer there started conversing in Malayalam and also wrote the FIR in the same language. But nobody was there to help me understand the language as I didn’t understand it.

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I realized, there is a lack of a system in our traditional travel and tourism industry. In 2020, I launched India Assist for people seeking simple information when their tour guide fails to communicate and offer help. I also noticed people in abroad whining about Indian tourism and its problems. But the problem of traveler remains the same in abroad also. Tourists still face issues on the basis of language, knowledge in a foreign land. Travelers suffer mentally and emotionally while the tour guide or hotels make no effort to provide assistance.

Q) What are the different services that you provide?

Harish: We provide medical emergency service, police support, lodging and boarding support. It’s not entirely like MMTs and other aggregators. In case of any urgency, traveler might have bumped into a crowded hotel with no room left. Or might have missed the flight or it’s getting delayed. These are the concerns when we provide lodging support. Other supports services include support in case of language barrier, theft, quality food, etc. So, we are hoping to build it for tomorrow to become relevant and beneficial to people.

Q) How are you reaching customers?

Harish: We have a B2B model. We collaborate with hotels, travel agents, travel insurance, banks and airlines. Travelling to a foreign land sometimes brings difficulties on the basis of safety, loss of assets, or any other mishap. Then we hop into the situation to provide a solution to it. It is the way we are selling our product for now.

Q) What about the presence in the market?

Harish: On commencement, we started with 60 cities. Now we are present in 101 cities across India. However, we focus on being available in approximately 237 cities. We’ll be adding 30-40 more cities in this year. Adding more cities takes time due to proper mapping of the place.

Q) What is the work model? Do you have an app?

Harish: We have a B2B model of work. It means we reach the hotels and brands, which reach out to tourists and travelers. These hotels add India Assist to their amenities list. People are then told about our app and asked to download the app. People like our services and then seek them at other hotels they travel to. And this is how we are expanding.

Q) What about the competition in the market?

Harish: There’s no competition right now. Not even worldwide. That’s why we have patented with Indian Government.

Q) AI is creating prodigious substitutes to content in most possible manner in every industry. Do you think AI is changing the Tour and Travel industry as well?

Harish: Yeah, it can help people to book tickets easily. Other than that, what is the use of AI in the tourism industry? This industry is based on real-life experiences. An AI can’t give you experiences of enjoying all the luxury in a good hotel, because people travel to get those experiences. AI can give you stimulation for a day or two.

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Q) What are your plans for 2023?

Harish: We are vigorously working with many partners. We’re trying to onboard as many of them as possible. In 2023, we hope to be available in a couple more countries apart from India. We have already signed in for Nepal. People will soon get the Nepal Assist services. People are excited about the product and willing to have the services in their own country. So I am expecting 2023 to be good.

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