Africa Internet Holdings has made its presence felt in Africa’s world of internet and one of the products of this influential company is Jovago.com.
Jovago.com is an online hotel booking service headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria with operations in Kenya, Senegal and 12 other countries. It has become one of the leading booking portal thanks to its employees who developed more than 10 000 hotel listings across Africa.
Having originated from Germany, the portal was first launched in Africa in August 2013 as Africa’s solution to online hotel booking platform, well this is according to the Managing Director of Jovago.com Nigeria. The MD talked to TechMoran and this is what he had to say.
Tell us a little about Jovago-the brand and a little about you as the MD.
Jovago, because it is new and online wants to make hotel booking as easy as possible now lets customers enjoy the fastest booking experience through a transparent and easy to use service.
My name is Marek Zmyslowski and I am the Managing Director of Jovago.com Nigeria. I‘m 28 years old, I launched the first Jovago.com branch in Africa in August 2013. I was born in Poland and also grew up there. After my studies, I went into the world of finance but soon discovered my love for entrepreneurship and thereafter moved into setting up online ventures.
What was the inspiration behind Jovago, how it began as well as how it works and what did it take for you to get where you are now?
Looking at Sub Saharan Africa, it is easy to see that travel is one of the fastest growing industries. This is why Africa Internet Holdings set up Jovago.com to help provide an easy hotel booking solution to the teeming population of Africans who love to travel.
Booking a hotel on Jovago.com is very easy, customers just need to search for a hotel or district, select their travel dates and proceed to make bookings. At the onset, when Jovago.com was set up, we were focused on building hotel inventory, now we have over 10,000 hotels across Africa, 200,000 worldwide and still growing. Recently we have begun to do a lot of marketing and with our exceptional customer service we have recorded an impressive number of hotel bookings daily.
What were you doing before Jovago?
Before becoming the Managing Director of Jovago.com, I co-founded and exited two online ventures in Poland. Mementis.pl was an online network of funeral services and MotoRaporter.com was an online vehicle verification service.
Did you know you were going to be an Entrepreneur all along or did it happen by chance?
I began my professional career in Finance. I also spent three (3) years in sales. In the early 2000s, start-ups in Poland began flourishing and that got my attention. At that point, I realized I wanted to build companies. I decided to focus on the Internet because of its immense power to change the world. So I went ahead and set up two online ventures in Poland: Mementis.pl and MotoRaporter.com. After my ventures with the 2 online businesses, I knew that entrepreuneurship was the niche for me. So I was very excited when the AIH team approached me while I was still in Poland to come and set up Jovago.com in Nigeria.
How successful are you against competition?
Jovago.com has in the space of less than a year grown to have over 200,000 hotel listings around the world. We also have a database of over 3,000 travel agents who make hotel bookings using Jovago.com. Every successful business has competiton and I would say that this is a healthy way to grow a business as the competition keeps you on your toes constantly. The way we face competition at Jovago.com is to focus on the work at hand and staying the number 1 hotel booking website in Africa.
In how many countries can we find your services or company and which countries are you?
Jovago.com is presently in 15 African countries with our headquarters in Lagos, Nigeria.
How is the response in your markets, and who is your most important client?
When we first started Jovago.com, we invested a lot of work into signing up hotels and growing relationships with hotel management. We have a local team that physically goes to all the hotels, meets with the hotel managers and signs them up to our website and takes pictures of the hotel. The outcome of this is that our customers know and trust that all the hotel listings on our site are valid and we are able to confirm every booking before sending the customer to the hotel, to ensure that there are no hitches. All our clients are very important to us; both the hotels and the customers.
Which are some of the major partnerships you have done and how has it influenced your business?
Last month was a very busy one for Jovago.com. We were able to sign partnerships with TripAdvisor and the Nigerian Toursim Development Corporation. We also just signed up Ice Prince as our brand ambassador. This is a first for an online travel agent in Nigeria and it has already started reflecting on our traffic stats and bookings.
Comparing the markets that you have worked with and the different African countries you have explored, how would you rate Africa’s adaptability of Jovago?
It’s going to be simply amazing; what we have now is a tip of the iceberg. There are however a couple of factors that needs to be urgent actions for this potential to become a reality. The two main ones are improving infrastructure (electricity and internet access) and growing a middle class with a higher purchasing power.
Africa is the main focus for us and so far the market has proven very exciting and ready for the amazing disruption which we are bringing to the travel ecosystem.
Where could you place Africa compared to the world in terms of ICT development?
In comparison to the rest of the world, Africa still has some way to go with regards to ICT development. But with a huge potential, a massive growth and constant Africa’s mobile penetrations rate of 40 percent, we see the ICT development in Africa accelerating pretty quickly.
What do you love most about your business and your life as an Entrepreneur?
I would say it is the ability to build a business from scratch and watch it grow to influence the lives of so many people. An example is Jovago.com which has grown in less than a year to become Africa’s No.1 Hotel Booking Platform – making it easier for people to find quality hotels around the world.
What keeps you and your team motivated?
Our vision of being the go-to place for everyone looking for hotels across Africa.
What can your team not live without?
People, spare time (laugh) and the internet!
Is there a specific skill one needs to join you, if yes what is it
One needs to prove to be disciplined, structured in thinking and hungry for success.
What does Jovago have in store for the future except expansion?
We have a lot of plans in the works which will be shared in due time.
Who was the most influential person or mentor in your life?
I had two of them actually. Filip, my first boss and Marcin, my first angel investor, both are very different, wise, great role models.
What advice would you give to any person who wants to follow your example
“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that’s why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan