Forged in the streets of Mumbai with a lot of food, travel stories & pinch of emotions from around the globe, Visa Guide is a contemporary company bringing in a fresh perspective to travel industry. They cater to all visa related needs from visa application to visa consultancy.
They empower travelers by saving their time for application, giving them a secured storage locker for their documents and taking the hassle away from the entire visa process for every country & any purpose.
At Visa Guide, they want to solve the problem which our current travel ecosystem is facing: The ad-hoc nature of getting a visa. It is a pain point for every international traveler. Their mission is to remove the gaps in visa processing & provide a seamless experience to travelers across the world.
Their vision is to be the most reliable source for all visa related queries (be it any city, any country, any nationality) & create a community of avid travelers who explore new horizons in a hassle-free-visa world, the closest possible scenario to being borderless.
We spoke with the talented team of Visa Guide recently, let’s see what they had to say about their startup.
Startup Name: Visa Guide.
Founders: Maulik Bengali, Nirmal Topiwala.
Start Year: 2016.
Hi Nirmal, welcome to startupsindia.
Hi Dev, thank you for inviting for the interview.
It’s time for our discussion to begin.
Hi Nirmal, can you please tell me the factors which motivated you to start the Visa Guide?
To be honest, two things which forced me to start the Visa Guide.
The problems that we as travelers faced when we used to travel abroad. The agents didn’t have information about visas; if they had then it would be limited. Our critical documents would be passing from one hand to another hand without us knowing about it. The scarcity of accurate information and lack of trust made it difficult to get visas. There was a lot of stress during the entire process.
The time involvement was too much and there wasn’t a single source that could give us quick information. We realized that these were universal issues for people in countries with lower passport index (passport strength).
Unavailability of a self-service portal that was legitimately working on the user side for visa processes. There are companies working on the government side, but there was no one who could give answers about a particular scenario to the travelers. An idea was born from this, which became Visa Guide.
How did your journey begin?
The journey started way back when the thought of Visa Guide came to mind, but the actual inception of the company happened on October 31, 2016. The idea was appreciated immediately, a lot of people were interested to be a part of our journey and we wanted to be a part of theirs. The trigger point was though when one co-founder came back to India to make the dream of Visa Guide a reality.
As usual many will face some issues during the development of the startup? If yes let us know how you overcome them?
Yes, of course, there were a lot of learning’s that we all had as a team on our journey so far if you look back, we are happy that we faced those scenarios because without them we would not have been able to reach to the stage where we are today. We will call them stepping stones instead of hurdles, which were needed for a seamless operation of Visa Guide.
How you funded Visa Guide?
We started as a bootstrapped company and even today we are running the show without any kind of external investment. We received about 3 offers of investment and 1 offer of acquisition in the last two years, but we were not keen on taking up any offers. When it comes to investment, it is not only the money that is being pumped in but also the person who is investing comes onboard, it is utmost important that the frequency of the startup and investor matches well, otherwise it doesn’t make sense in taking any investment.
Why should people choose you?
Because we are selfish. We are selfish because we want to strive to be the best and help as many travelers as we can by giving them an online portal for getting their visas on their own. We are selfish because we are committed to taking away the hassles from visa processes. And finally, because when a traveler hears our name, they know that we stand for trust, integrity, and expertise over anything else.
Maulik Bengali (Founder and Head of Engineering), Computer Engineer turned entrepreneur. He started his first venture in 2011, running it successfully since almost 6 years now. He was also a part of a startup called Dot Loop from inception stage, which got acquired by a larger player later; in short, he has seen an entire cycle of a startup from inception to acquisition. He is a true tech guru of the company and hence couldn’t have been a better title than Head of Engineering to describe him.
Nirmal Topiwala (Co-Founder and Head of Business), a techie by education, and head of business by karma. He worked with MNC for 4 years. An avid traveler who understands the concept and problems of travel industry better than anyone else in the team. Business is his forte along with marketing. He is Jack Sparrow of the company, always comes up with out of the box solutions for critical problems. His experience with larger organization helps Visa Guide to achieve short-term goals by keeping long-term success in sight.
These two together brings in the experience of all sort of stuff from project management to people management, from technology to administration; together they make a lethal team. The best part, they are childhood friends, so they understand each other on each aspect of work and life.
Who are main competitors for your startup?
We are our biggest competitors (chuckles). We strive to improve ourselves every day. The travel industry is humongous; there is space for everyone who fits the bill. Our biggest competitors at present are the agents working in pockets of every corner of the world, but our idea is to be an enabler and not a disruptor, so soon you will see these competitors working with us in streamlining the visa industry. Companies like VFS and Udaan could be considered as strong competitors, however, they work on the government side and we work on the user side, so it is the gap that we are trying to fill and create a hassle-free environment for travelers.
What are the developments up to now? Any Future plans?
We have come a long way in terms of technology, business, and operation from the day we started. Our portal is enriched with more than 160 different types of visa; the data is more refined and accurate. We are reaching out to almost 100k people through marketing every month organically. Our operational efficiency has grown up to 6x in less than two years.
In future, you are going to see a lot of enhancement on the technology front. We already have feature rollouts planned for the next 6 months. The portal will be available for the B2B businesses soon which will improve their efficiency by around 40%. In short, there have been a lot of developments in the last two years and lot many are on its way.
What is the inspiration tagline that will be on your wall or you follow?
There is one line which is very close to our heart. “Pain is temporary but pride is forever!”
With this question, we will round up the interview. Anything you want to say for the young generation?
We are young ourselves, so I would say these are messages for new entrepreneurs.
- Patience and perseverance are what will make you survive.
- Skills can be taught but attitude can’t be bought.
- Take breaks, rejuvenate, and then fight again.
- Sometimes a step back allows you to jump forward.
That’s it from my end Dev.
Thank you, Nirmal for joining with us and sharing your successful journey.
This is DevJ from startupsindia signing off. Let us connect with a new story tomorrow.
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