Startup Spotlight: GlobalTHEN: Ensuring "WOW" Customer Experience Through Education
In the fast paced travel industry, everyone must have experienced a bad customer service at least once. The bad experience could have been in a hotel because of an unfriendly housekeeping staff, because of a car driver’s inflated billing and money demand, because of a bus conductor’s negligent attitude towards tendering exact change. Can these bad services be corrected and converted into a “wow experience”? Will we as a customer get the right service that we are supposed to get for the money we pay? Answer is: Yes. That’s exactly GlobalTHEN is trying to achieve.
We had the opportunity to meet Ram Badrinathan, Founder & CEO of GlobalTHEN. Ram is one of the leading thinkers and researchers in the online travel space in the Asia Pacific region. Read on to know more about the company.
What’s “GlobalTHEN” into and what problem are you trying to solve?
GlobalTHEN focuses exclusively on solving the talent problem of Travel, Tourism & Hospitality industry. I realised that empowering the workforce would ensure the success of the industry and partnered education visionary Sourabh J. Sarkar, to deploy his unique approach, OmniDELTM. (OmniDEL is explained in detail later in the interview)
It was while at PhocusWright that I realised that availability and quality of skilled workforce is and will be the key challenge of the TTH industry in emerging economies. While at PhocusWright, we worked on a pilot product and created a MasterClass for training travel industry company’s workforce on Digital Travel Revolution where front line executives could learn from Philip Wolf (then CEO of PhoCusWright) and myself at low cost . The program was well received in the industry.
So this product validation was important for my initial marque angel investors in my new company where they realized that I was committed to the journey of industry workforce education.
Mr. Phlip Wolf, the founder of PhocusWright, is the domain anchor and also an investor in GlobalTHEN.
How big is your team?
We are a team of 8 – In product analysis, marketing, sales and operations. We are part of an ecosystem, KarmYog Education Network, which provides us a solid team of 100 plus for Instructional Design, Production & Technology. Also services like HR, Admin and Finance are on shared basis.
Tell us about your “Pawan Ko Kahin Dekha Kya” product?
“Pawan Ko Kahin Dekha Kya?” the first product out of the GlobalTHEN stable is a multi-media based, one-of-a-kind training program for drivers that aims to transform the way they think and work. It blends education with entertainment, elements from drama, thematic exercises and characters which engage with every aspect of the learner.
It aims to push the learner to evolve from a mere driver to Pawan, the Super Driver. To engage with the drivers thoroughly, this product leveraged Sourabh J Sarkar’s OmniDEL approach and the learning experience has been treated in a filmy way, complete with dialogue and riddles and songs. Issues like punctuality, knowledge, personal hygiene, safety, vehicle hygiene and maintenance, communication & etiquette are all dealt with in the course of six sessions, 26 activities, group exercises, and a fun filled mix of music, drama and poetry sessions. The workshop is foundation of a extended learning experience to make growth continuous for the driver. The workshops can even be customized to suit particular needs of an organization. It is the first phase of a learning campaign. However, we do have a road-map of the continuous learning experience.
The product was launched in mid-January 2012 and we have already trained 500+ drivers. There is also confirmed training pipeline of 5000+ drivers.
Do you also leverage technologies (like virtual conference, web-ex) for training the front level personnels?
Group Collaborative Learning will happen where electricity, a laptop and a projector is available with enough space for 25 -30 people. Follow up / Continuous Learning in Self Paced Mode will happen through Online, Tablet & Mobile.
Is there any kind of certification for participants (drivers etc)?
We are in process of tying up with Industry bodies for Joint Certification. Currently the drivers get our certificate.
Do you see improvement among taxi drivers after Pawan product?
Yes, drastically. We have conducted many corporate training programmes – to name a few – TATA Motors, Accenture, a BPO provider, Ola Cabs, Wings Travel. You can listen to our customers’ feedback in our YouTube channel
Are you planning to expand your services globally?
In coming years we might expand to other Asian Countries.
Tell us few words about your upcoming products – Well Done Shruthi, Radhika Rocks.
The next two products are focused on imbibing selling skills and customer service for the front line staff of the TTH industry. This will be Group Colloborative Learning, Self paced online and also on tablets/ mobile phone.
By when are you planning to raise Series A funding?
In the next four to six months. We are currently very focused on making Pawan a blockbuster.
What challenges you face now / faced in the past?
Challenge is both personal and professional. At a life stage at 38, not easy to become an entrerpreneur if not for the support of wife. Have two kids, mortgage and a certain lifestyle that came with being the Head of APAC for PhoCusWright.
Professionally, there is no precedent to what we are doing. Scaling education experiences that are engaging and effective without dilution is not something that has not been done before so potental investors don’t know how to evaluate. Also there are multiple revenue models and pricing structures, so can’t go with one size fit all approach. Also, the incubator I am part of is trying to marry the power of entrepreneurship without the entrepreneur reinventing the wheel in education, so that is another dimension that investors are cagey about.
There is pure online training like onlinetraveltraining.com, Tradewings also produces courses.
Why do you think corporates / enterprises will use products from GlobalTHEN than doing their own internal training / induction program?
Our USP is our Unique Pedagogical Approach. Two powerful forces of 21st century – multimedia and technology can have tremendous impact on the way people learn. The learning is made omnipresent by these two forces therefore it can be imbibed by people at large. The ease of access and high quality engagement acts as a motivation factor for learning. But traditionally this learning is more visible in outside the classroom setting. Learning on movie stars, sports stars, latest events etc validate this phenomenon. People don’t go to classes to know about Sachin Tendulkar, Salman Khan or Anna Hazare.
Why can’t the same magic work in training and education for skill development. Why is it that the learning that would help a person to earn his livelihood does not excite him? Why Learning and teaching processes target only the mind and not engage holistically with the learner?
We have a solution and we call it OmniDEL that deals with three main issues:
- The Learning Experience engages the learner Omni-Dimensionally: physical, praanic (energy), mental and spiritual dimensions of the person
- The Learning Experience uses all Media, Technology and Delivery-distribution devices
- The Learning Experience has different phases
- A one-time high to awaken the learner
- Continuous learning support
- Refresher programs
What’s the plan of GlobalTHEN for next 18 to 24 months?
To continue to build a library of products which covers the frontline staff of the TTH industry. Few of the stakeholders we need to address are: Bus and Coach Drivers, Air Transport Officials, Transport Services Managers, Travel Counselor, Travel Agent, Conference and Event Organizers, Gallery and Museum and Tour Guides, Outdoor Adventure Guides, Eco-tourism professionals, Travel attendants, Café and Restaurant Manager, Hotel and Motel Managers, Bar Attendants and Baristas, Waiters, Café Workers, Receptionists, Housekeepers, Chefs, Cooks etc.
How are corporates / enterprises reacting towards GlobalTHEN so far?
21 clients have conducted the workshop. 16 out of 21 clients are repeat business. 5000 drivers are being trained out of which 800 drivers have already been trained. State governments are interested in rolling this out at scale of 50,000 to 100,000 drivers.
Author: Karthick Prabu