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E-commerce and Digital Marketing in Pakistan-A conversation with sastaticket.pk Head Of Online Marketing Shaz Akram
- How did you get started in the digital industry, and where might you go from here?
I got started in the digital industry pretty early. Back in high school, I started freelancing on online platforms like Upwork. I was able to expand that to services like social media management, and was remotely managing around 12 employees before I had even started university! While studying in IBA, I then launched a startup that offered web development and social media marketing to other start-ups in an incubator. After that I moved on to Mandi Express, where I was introduced to performance marketing. But the biggest impact on my career in the digital industry came at Daraz. The two years I spent there were crucial for where I am today. I enjoy working around high growth startups in the digital/technology space, so I’ll still be working within these areas. It’s what I enjoy doing.
- What is Sastaticket’s business model and what is your top priority?
Sastaticket is an online travel agency, and we allow customers to book their hotels and flight tickets through our platform, while at the same time providing them excellent customer support since travel is a significant investment. We are the sister company of Quality Aviation, which is one of Pakistan’s biggest travel agencies. This allows us to leverage the best commercial rates from thousands of airlines and hotels. We primarily earn through a commission-based structure. Our top priority is to be a part of any travel considerations that Pakistani’s have, and provide them the best and most affordable options available.
- Tell us about your typical working day at Sastaticket and what is your vision for the company?
For the marketing team, every day is a new day because we are constantly testing out new ideas and (are working) work at a very fast pace. However, there’s also a lot of emphasis on having the correct processes in place. A typical day involves numerous alignment meetings with different departments, and continuously monitoring our numbers to make near real-time changes to budgets and ad-strategies. In terms of vision, we want to be a full stack travel agency and be in every traveler’s consideration. Whenever someone thinks of traveling, we want them to think of us, and we want to give them the best options for their journey.
- How do you ensure increasing Digital Marketing’s relevance and influence in the organization?
I don’t think there’s a need to increase digital marketing’s relevance or influence in the organization. We are a technology company, and we are very clear that until we reach a certain level of maturity as a company, our main focus will be on customer acquisition, primarily through digital channels.
- How do you see Digital Media evolving in future?
I think there are two aspects to it. What we see in Pakistan as evolution (because we are behind), and the evolution that’s happening. In Pakistan, we are quite far behind in terms of omni-channel personalization, product recommendations, and the way companies manage data now. For example, customer data platforms are going to be one of the big things in the near future here (hopefully). Outside of Pakistan, ad-buying and monetization has become more democratized, especially with programmatic marketing. Data science is now a core component of how marketing campaigns are run, and product is becoming the biggest driver of growth in industries where everyone has money to spend.
- Would you like to share few words about the work you are doing at Sastaticket and how is it revolutionizing the travel industry?
We have taken flights and hotels booking online, which isn’t a new concept, but the execution is where we are different. We’ve been in the travel industry for the past 12-13 years, so we have a lot of in-depth knowledge and data about local travel habits and patterns. That places us in the unique position of understanding the problems faced by the average Pakistani while travelling, and how to solve their problems using technology. We are working closely with airlines, banks and other app partners to bring a better class of offers and experiences to our customers. Once we become a full-stack online travel agency, any Pakistani will be able to cater to all their travelling needs through us, and by working with our partners we’ll make it as affordable as possible.
Imagine talking to Sastaticket on Whatsapp to apply for any visa, and then booking flights and hotels within the same chat.
- How is Sastaticket leveraging digital marketing to reach out to more people?
We are data-driven, we constantly test and learn, we are heavy on analytics and make sure we quantify everything as much as we can and have the visibility to make data-driven changes. We are working towards offering our customers a seamless user journey across multiple platforms and channels through marketing automation. Our major partnerships are targeted and utilize the power of digital. Alongside all of this, we’ve set up an in-house digital marketing team that takes care of everything from marketing communications, design, and development to performance marketing and marketing growth.