Regardless of A Turbulent 2020, Dubai-Primarily based Journey Startup Pickvisa Is Betting On A Brighter 2021
December 24, 2020 7 min read
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“I wanted everyone to like to travel like me, without barriers.” For this reason, Baba Aghayev decided back in 2014 to found Pickvisa, a web platform that simplifies the visa application process for travelers around the world. “We are here with Pickvisa to remove at least one of the obstacles – the hustle and bustle of visa processing.” When Aghayev was planning a trip to South Africa in 2014, he realized how tedious it can be to find the details of applying for a visa to visit a country. Soon after, he decided to create a user-friendly platform that would help minimize an applicant’s involvement in processing travel, study, and business visas for each country.
“We process e-visa applications in 70 countries for all applicable citizens residing around the world,” explains Aghayev. “Applicants create a profile on our website and use it for all e-Visa applications without having to repeatedly enter personal data into the separate forms for each country.” In fact, one of the great things about Pickvisa is that it helps remove the technical and time-consuming hurdles associated with the portable document format (PDF) used by most visa application forms. “It’s just an additional hassle as PDF editors download takes time and are nearly impossible to handle on a mobile device,” Aghayev notes. “We have added 102 offline visa applications from various countries to our visa application form creation tool so applicants can fill them in online in one easy-to-use page. When they complete them on one device with one click, the platform prints them in an official consulate visa application form upon need. “
Baba Aghayev, founder of Pickvisa.com. Source: Pickvisa.com
Another interesting feature Pickvisa has to offer is the Visa Opportunity Calculation Tool, which is currently in beta, which can save applicants time and money when applying for visas for the United States, Canada, or the United Kingdom apply. By answering a few simple questions based on previous Pickvisa cases, applicants can find out what legitimate chance they have of obtaining visas for any of the three countries. “More than half of US, Canadian and UK visa applicants are denied each year, and they spend a lot of non-refundable fees on applications,” Aghayev said. “What if they knew they had a less than 50% chance of getting these visas before? Since the results are based on real data, the visa probability calculator is being improved from month to month based on new visa cases and more precisely. “
Aghayev, who is also a travel blogger (see his Instagram page @ baba.aghayev) and the general secretary and board member of the Azerbaijani Tourism Bloggers Association, had many plans for pick visa in 2020. But with the COVID-19 pandemic due to the brakes on travel plans around the world and countries closing borders to avoid tourists and travelers, his startup was unable to avoid the negative impact on the global travel industry. “In March and April, many travelers were stuck in different countries,” remembers Aghayev. “The sophisticated service we provided at the time was to extend the active visas so they could stay longer in destinations. Sometimes we still get calls from transit passengers stuck at Dubai International Airport and assistance with visas for one need another country. “
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One of the hardest hit tour groups during the crisis has been university students, many of whom are either stranded in their home countries and unable to return to their campuses or continue to stay abroad to continue their education. According to Aghayev, student visa applications have grown exponentially over this period. “Typically, the annual breakdown of our annual income between travel and study visas is 70% versus 20% (10% for other types of visas),” he says. “In 2020 everything was reversed as most of the customers applied for a study visa. At the same time, many students have not been able to study abroad due to new guidelines at some universities regarding distance learning. We did our best to support them through difficult times. “
With the chaos that followed in the next few months, Pickvisa went into a “survival phase” for all tourism products. Since the “cash-in” is the ultimate motive for this period, the Pickvisa team has taken other approaches to ensure income. Opportunities like selling pre-orders, early bird packages, services and products at cheaper prices to loyal customers, working with the right affiliate sales companies to monetize website traffic, and paid webinars helped the company get through this tumultuous period. The team also invested time developing travel-related mobile games as well as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) tools. Since most people were in their homes for most of the year, this step proved useful for pick visas.
The Pickvisa team. Source: Pickvisa.com
Aghayev believes that sticking to alternative routes like this one is critical to ensuring survival until the market has fully recovered. But he is also aware of the fact that he and his team must use this time to further improve their existing and upcoming visa application services in order to be fully prepared for a post-pandemic world. “The biggest lesson this year was how to turn our expenses into assets (i.e. Opex to Capex) during such volatile times,” he explains. “Once we understood that the market was declining and not going to recover anytime soon, we changed the way we work to improve our working capital such as the website, Visa tools and platforms we build. For us and tourism, it was and is “time to build assets”. “
When asked what comes next, Aghayev answers honestly. “We don’t know how long it will take to win this battle, but the tourism industry will continue to suffer, at least in 2021,” he says. “Most destinations will continue to be closed to travelers. However, there are several countries whose core industry is tourism, such as iconic islands in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. The ongoing economic crisis will destroy the tourism market in those countries. And it.” It will take years for us to recover. In my opinion, the total post-pandemic capitalization of the travel market will increase from 35% to 40% compared to pre-pandemic times. If we survive, we will get stronger! “
Pickvisa’s office in Dubai. Source: Pickvisa.com
Hoping that most countries will simplify visa documentation processes and use the e-visa system to recover quickly in a post-pandemic world, Aghayev continues to look forward to the future. “As a startup mindset, we should adapt to the current situation,” he says. “We have some plans for VR and AR technologies if the market doesn’t recover in the next three to four months.” In addition, Abeona, a B2B travel portal that uses an integrated CRM system to help small travel agencies manage customer information and communicate better with them, is due to launch in March 2021. “I believe that every misfortune brings with it many possibilities,” Aghayev concluded. “When we are in a challenge, so are our rivals!”
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