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Hav­ing started op­er­a­tions in April 2017, Fox­trot In­ter­ac­tive, a white-la­belled event app tar­geted at the MICE in­dus­try, has seen sales of `8.8 mil­lion from 23 cor­po­rate cus­tomers and 37 projects and will be launch­ing two new prod­ucts in the new year. Co-founders of the app, Un­mesh Vaidya and Naasir Mer­chant, talk about their jour­ney… How did Fox­trot come into be­ing?

In Novem­ber of 2016, both of us re­alised that there is am­ple scope to pi­o­neer how the MICE in­dus­try uses tech­nol­ogy. Be­tween the two of us, we had 25 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in the travel and sales do­mains, and in or­gan­is­ing con­fer­ences, meet­ings and in­cen­tives for cor­po­rates. We re­alised that what we had in mind was some­thing the MICE in­dus­try des­per­ately needed, so we de­cided to take the plunge and Fox­trot In­ter­ac­tive was born. What also aided us was the fact that the coun­try was see­ing an in­creas­ing num­ber of smart­phone users, more peo­ple on so­cial net­works and al­ter­na­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion plat­forms and more clients will­ing to go the dig­i­tal way.

This is not a very easy do­main, with the kind of co­or­di­na­tion that is needed at var­i­ous lev­els and keep­ing so many clients happy. How dif­fi­cult was the jour­ney?

When both of us had the idea of get­ting into the tech side of MICE, lot of peo­ple re­buked as to how can two sales guys get into a do­main which they don't have any ex­per­tise in. We re­alised that this was our big­gest chal­lenge and we de­cided that the first step is to get a Chief Tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cer (CTO). We got a CTO who took the chal­lenge of mak­ing a team ready to hit the mar­ket with the en­tire back­end process.

Two of us were purely in­volved with the fron­tend and mak­ing a team of de­sired in­di­vid­u­als who are well versed with the travel in­dus­try. There was some com­pe­ti­tion from IT play­ers but we wanted Fox­trot to be a one-stop Tech­nol­ogy Ap­pli­ca­tions or­gan­i­sa­tion of, by and for MICE in­di­vid­u­als. There were ini­tial talks of mak­ing a DIY panel and sell­ing the same to cor­po­rates as well as travel agen­cies, but then we did ad­e­quate re­search and fig­ured out that any SaaS soft­ware to­day in any do­main re­quires a lot of hand­hold­ing in the be­gin­ning. The gen­eral ten­dency in India of techre­lated prod­ucts is that the end user does not like to do any­thing on their own buts want every­thing to be man­aged by some­one who spe­cialises in that do­main. Un­der­stand­ing this, we got in con­tent and cre­ative per­son­nel as well as data feed­ing re­sources to help a travel agency or a cor­po­rate which would make life sim­pler for all con­cerned and add a lot of value to our prod­ucts.

We re­alised with so many par­ties, re­sources and per­son­nel be­ing in­volved, we need to have SOPs in place to man­age things, scale as well as keep clients happy. As one would ex­pect we faced some teething prob­lems, but to­day we can proudly say we work like a well-oiled ma­chine.

How would you say you are dif­fer­ent from your com­peti­tors who have sim­i­lar event apps?

We are not just sell­ing to ev­ery new cor­po­rate. With ev­ery new app, we bring about a small

Fox­trot is cou­pled with in­tu­itive user-in­ter­face and ac­ces­si­bil­ity across mo­bile sys­tems

in­no­va­tion to the UI or the de­sign in­ter­face. Our ap­pli­ca­tion is ro­bust and cou­pled with its in­tu­itive user-in­ter­face and ac­ces­si­bil­ity across dif­fer­ent mo­bile op­er­at­ing sys­tems, it is rapidly emerg­ing as the go-to so­lu­tion for large-scale event or­gan­is­ers or cor­po­rates to plan their group trav­els and con­fer­ences. Fox­trot's big­gest dif­fer­ence from the com­pe­ti­tion is our fron­tend and back­end per­son­nel who are from the in­dus­try and un­der­stand the nu­ances, in­tri­ca­cies and dy­nam­ics of the trade which gives the clients a breather than go­ing to “just an IT Player”.

Be­tween the two of you, you have a good amount of ex­pe­ri­ence in the travel and sales do­mains, and in or­gan­is­ing con­fer­ences, meet­ings and in­cen­tives for cor­po­rate. How does your own work ex­pe­ri­ence help you in this sphere?

Hav­ing 25 years of com­bined ex­pe­ri­ence be­tween the two of us and at least 50 years of blended ex­pe­ri­ence in the team that works on the front end, it gives us a sharp edge when we go to cor­po­rates. MICE con­tin­ues to re­main one of the most un­or­gan­ised and clut­tered space in travel with a new com­pany be­ing born ev­ery month. Our ex­pe­ri­ence gives us a huge ad­van­tage when we set foot in the mar­ket with smaller and minute de­tails be­ing taken care of. In cer­tain cases when we sell our apps, we keep that win­dow open to cus­tomise tabs in the app as per the client's re­quire­ment. We un­der­stand and are able to pre­dict the pain points which leads to in­creased op­er­a­tional ef­fi­ciency of the travel agency or the co­or­di­na­tor from the cor­po­rate's end.

What are your ex­pan­sion plans? You've been talk­ing about de­vel­op­ing a pay­ment gate­way on the app, is that avail­able now?

In a short span of eight months, Fox­trot has seen sales of `8.8 mil­lion from 23 cor­po­rate cus­tomers and 37 projects and will be launch­ing two new prod­ucts in the new year. Our client list in­cludes Axis Bank, Ko­tak Life In­sur­ance, Ko­tak Mahin­dra Bank, Ak­bar Trav­els, JSW Steel, Cromp­ton Greaves, Ba­jaj Elec­tri­cals, Ba­jaj Al­lianz, St Gobain, Pru­dent Ad­vi­sory and EAI Sys­tems, among others. We have in­cor­po­rated a pay­ment gate­way for cor­po­rates and travel agen­cies who need it as per their app cus­tomi­sa­tion. Other im­por­tant fea­tures that we have in the app cur­rently are up­load­ing of doc­u­ments, es­pe­cially for coun­tries with E-Visa fa­cil­i­ties.

A pass­port copy be­ing up­loaded is of ut­most ne­ces­sity for tick­et­ing and tak­ing visa ap­point­ments for Schen­gen and other coun­tries. We are based out of Mum­bai, but have sales of­fices in Pune and Ben­galuru. On the in­ter­na­tional front, we have tied up for dis­tri­bu­tion with a com­pany in UAE and Sri Lanka and our app will be sold in the mar­kets from Jan­uary 15, 2018. Thai­land, Malaysia & In­done­sia (specif­i­cally Bali) are the next set of coun­tries that we are in talks with part­ners to dis­trib­ute the App. Also on the prod­uct front, we had a soft launch of our wed­ding man­age­ment app called “Grace” which is a cus­tomised app for des­ti­na­tion wed­dings. Since this is a pure B2C prod­uct, come Jan­uary, ram­pant on­line mar­ket­ing ef­forts will be used to get in sales and we have hired a spe­cial­ist Wed­ding Plan­ner to dis­trib­ute this. Also in the off­ing is our cam­paign man­age­ment app, “Step Up” which was soft launched in Ben­galuru in Septem­ber 2017. We have got quite a few pre-or­ders and de­liv­ery will com­mence from Fe­bru­ary 2018.

Fox­trot has seen sales of `8.8 mil­lion from 23 cor­po­rate cus­tomers and 37 projects

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