Navigating the Waves of the Crisis

Photo Credits: Pegipegi

Online Travel Agent business player, Pegipegi had to swallow bitter pills because many travel and accommodation orders were canceled due to a pandemic, COVID-19. However, during this challenging situation, Pegipegi put aside their egos. Pegipegi believes that the brand must prioritize empathy in its current condition.

Under the leadership of Serlina Wijaya, Chief Marketing Officer of Pegipegi, the startup chose to simplify the customer refund process in various ways. Pegipegi also relies on its online refund feature, which makes it easy for customers to self-refund. Pegipegi also increased the capacity of customer operations to serve customer demand to the maximum during this pandemic.

From the marketing side, Pegipegi makes ongoing efforts to maintain brand equity while supporting physical distancing policies through the #NantiKitaPegiPegiLagi campaign.

For Serlina, prioritizing the human side, both internal (company) and external (customer) is the best marketing strategy. Moreover, during the current crisis conditions, communication became a vital combo to survive in a crisis-era and became more robust than before.

With Annisa Bella from Marketeers, Serlina shared her strategic steps in leading Pegipegi to stay afloat in crisis conditions, until she was ready to accelerate business in the post-pandemic period.

1. First, let’s talk about your professional journey, both education and work experience. How does the background help you to run Pegipegi?

Since a long time ago, I have always been interested in the topics around complex problem solving, psychological, and organizational behavior. I majored in Industrial Engineering in Institut Teknologi Bandung. I started my career working as consultants at both local and global consulting firms before I decided to join the tech startup world. 

I joined Pegipegi back then in 2018 with the sole motivation to bring more impacts to the travel industry in Indonesia, as I believe that the growing economy will lead to more needs and more problems to solve in the travel space.

It has its beauty when you can design the business and organization strategy, and later execute it to bring the impacts to live. I see this as an advantageous experience. 

2. How do you see the challenge of leading a startup company in this era? 

The biggest challenge is definitely on navigating both the business and organization strategy and execution, how to champion these consumer understanding perspectives into higher-level strategy development. There is no exact recipe on how to do things as the context is different from business to business. 

In the growing economy era, customers have a wide variety of options. They have higher standards and needs, competitions are tough. Hence differentiation and further optimization become key in driving the growth of a business. 

The world is also becoming more digitalized, today’s marketing channels are indeed different from those of five or ten or 20 years ago. We need to find the most effective and efficient way of delivering our messages to our target customers, so they can convert into using our products and services, be it for the first time or as loyal customers. It certainly needs an excellent understanding of our customers, their behaviors, channels mix, content mix. 

3. Online Travel Agent business is one of the worst victims of the pandemic COVID-19. Many players in this sector suffered heavy losses. How do you see the way this pandemic reshapes the competition in this market?

Certainly, COVID-19 has a massive impact on almost every industry in the world and to the global economy. Impact to travel business is inevitable, the adverse effects are something we have never seen before. 

The challenge for everyone now is how to continue engaging with customers and providing the products and services they need during this situation, how to ensure that we as an organization, and as business prepare ourselves to be ready to scale back when this whole situation is over. 

We remain very optimistic about the future of the travel industry itself. Travel is one of the largest and most resilient sectors in the world because people love to travel. It’s eye-opening, and I think that people will travel again for sure. An example of how resilient this industry is that travel has survived crises in the past, such as the Bali bombings and 2008 recession. 

In the future, travel also still has golden opportunities as Google and Temasek predicted that by 2025, the online travel industry in Southeast Asia is expected to reach US$78 billion of market capitalization. It will take some time to heal, but I firmly believe it certainly will bounce back again to the level that is even stronger than before the pandemic.

4. Then, how about the impact of this pandemic on your business (growth, numbers of cancellation, etc)? 

The growth of the business has been impacted very significantly, and the number is even more dominant than what we have expected at the beginning of the year. However, we have put into place significant measures to navigate the business in this situation, and we are optimistic about the future when all of this ends. 

5. What kind of anxiety and desire from the customer in the market? Then, how does Pegipegi answer their anxiety and desire during this pandemic? 

During this pandemic, everyone’s utmost concerns are about health and safety. There is already a measure regarding physical distancing that the government has put in place to slow down the growing cases of this pandemic. This certainly affects how people work, socialize, and travel. Our main priority is to support the government in achieving health and safety objectives. 

To stay engaged with customers and provide customers needs are also our main priorities during this pandemic. We ensure we communicate with empathy, and we provide relevant solutions during the pandemic, i.e., refund, reschedule options, etc. We stay with them during a particular big theme, such as Ramadan moments, and we communicate in a way that can always spark freshness and excitement for those who interact with us. 

6. You choose to make the refund process easier for your customer. In fact, COVID-19 is hitting your business. Why did you choose this step? What kind of benefit that Pegipegi can get if you select this strategy?

To stay engaged with customers and provide customers needs are also our main priorities during this pandemic. We are committed to staying together with our customers not only during good times but also during the tough times. 

In many circumstances, we will live up to our brand promise, i.e., to make travel more accessible for all Indonesians. We know that travel itself is a long and end-to-end journey, with the refund process as a part of it, which is an essential component of the trip that can provide a sense of relief for customers, knowing that the process is well taken care of and they are in good hands. That is the main reason why we will continue by enabling a better refund process for our customers. 

7. What is Pegipegi’s survival mode for business continuity to survive amid this pandemic? (Besides Pegipegi’s initiative to prioritize customer service for refund)

Our main priority is also to support the government in achieving health and safety objectives. To stay engaged with customers and provide customers needs are also our main priorities during this pandemic. We are committed to staying together with our customers not only during good times but also during the tough times. 

We are cooperating with hundreds of hotel partners to provide special offers that are refundable such as, “Book now, for holidays later” promo with a hotel discount up to 20%., and “Long stay deals” promo, suitable for our customers who want to “Work from Hotel.”

8. In the current conditions, does Pegipegi create a new source of revenue? Please give us the explanation.

Our core business will remain in the travel sector consisting of both transportation and accommodation. We have put in place significant measures during this pandemic situation while continuing to build our products, services, and organic brand – so that we are ready to bounce back stronger in serving our customers once the pandemic is over. 

9. This world will change in the post-pandemic. From your point of view, what will the new normal look like, especially in the Online Travel Agent sector? Who’s going to be the biggest target market? Any new business model will create? And, what kind of preparations from Pegipegi to face The New Normal?

We believe that some new behaviors will emerge as countries all over the world, including Indonesia, relaxes their lockdown policies. Health and hygiene will be the utmost concern for travelers who planned their trip. 

Second of all, domestic trips will be the first that bounce back as we have seen this trend in China and several other impacted countries. A staycation might become the first choice for people who want to travel again. 

Lastly, we will see a more rapid and creative digital evolution and consumption in the travel sector. We are preparing ourselves from now on and are optimistic that we are ready to execute to serve customers once all of these trends become the new normal. 

10. How do you see leadership during the crisis?

Churchill once said, “the difference between mere management and true leadership is communication.” We’ve come to realize that now more than ever, communications to our internal employees, to our strategic partners, and to our consumers have become a very vital component for us to survive the crisis together, and to come out stronger than before. 


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