Manhattan-based Dr. Sachin Narode, a doctor and molecular biology researcher, has invested in several businesses in the fields of blockchain, cyber security, artificial intelligence, healthcare, food/beverages, events & lifestyle, executive protection and also has private charter services in the United States. He is known for his astute business acumen and his uncanny ability to sense investment opportunities in industries, much ahead of time, and turn them into profitable ventures. Some years ago, Sachin was working in the Department of Sleep Medicine at University of Pennsylvania when he developed an algorithm and sold it to one of the world’s biggest companies. He has an MS in Biological Sciences and an MBA in Information and Technology and worked in international relations and business development with the University of Pennsylvania. A whiz kid, Sachin always wore several hats but his calling of being an entrepreneur was so compelling that it wasn’t long before he became one full-time. He is credited with creating the mango market in the USA and is fondly referred as the Mango Man. Along with business award-winner Marva Allen, and other partners, he co-founded Survive and Thrive Today – a boot camp where entrepreneurs collaborate with investors, partners and mentors and build a community which supports startups.
Sachin is in India to set up his latest venture Xeniapp which as he says “is set to disrupt the travel space and change the way people travel”. Xeniapp is an on-demand online travel platform that connects travelers with the best experiences. Sachin also plans to launch a private destination airline – XeniAir, for luxury travel experiences. I spoke to Sachin on his personal journey and foray into different businesses as well as his latest venture – Xeniapp.
Anjana: How do you look back at your life from being a doctor to an entrepreneur and what was your driving force?
Sachin: My entrepreneurial qualities were always tied to curiosity and problem solving, so the domain of medicine was never a driver but a catalyst in solving problems in that industry. Looking back – somethings you learn over time and somethings you learn by getting kicked in your face! I think most of my adventures came through my hardships in all those industries.
A: How did you go about creating the mango market in the US?
S: I was visiting India during the summers and I decided to buy all the mangoes from the local farmers in Maharashtra. I took them with me to America and distributed them to my family and friends. Unsurprisingly, everybody loved them. I found that there was a great demand for a delicious tropical fruit like mango in the U.S and if imported, it would also help the farmers back in India. Mango was not allowed to be imported till 2007 and when the US government started allowing imports, we were amongst the first ones to venture into this space. Even now, our mango venture is amongst our best investments.
A: You are entering the Indian market with Xeniapp? How do you think Xeniapp will disrupt the travel space?
S: We found that globalization and accessibility are critical for the efficiency of the tourism sector in developing countries such as India. This makes a great marketplace for correcting those inefficiencies. Let me define a few issues. Airlines often highlight the high fees demanded by GDS (Global Distribution Systems) and the inefficient ways in which their legacy systems dictate market fares. A lot of things are not taken into consideration, such as, changes and rescheduling of bookings, number of amendments at different levels etc. Let me put it more simply – Every time an airline ticket is touched in the GDS, there is a cost and this cost is picked up by the airline and ultimately by the customer. Xeni’s solution to these problems is to provide an advanced AI-based distribution system along with an instant settlement process between all parties using blockchain technology.
Secondly, the churning of hotel/airline bookings is also a problem. This is when agents repeatedly cancel and re-book the same or different flights/hotels altering the class, date or route. Xeni’s Smart Contract-based reservation system resolves these frequent issues which, in turn, reduces the service cost with the customer ultimately benefiting with cheaper fares.
Thirdly, a large business typically loses 25-30% of productivity due to inefficient processes in their travel program. Travel is a business expense that can produce a significant return on investment when conducted properly. That means adopting a policy tailored to your needs, contracting appropriate suppliers and implementing processes that maximize efficiency. Unfortunately, those three elements don’t always align, leading to cost blow-outs, supplier disputes, and traveler frustration. Work hours are lost in making bookings and often wrong services are booked resulting in unnecessary fees. There are several such costs which are a result of poor planning. Xeni’s automation tool integrates and passes those savings to our customers.
We are planning a limited launch in India and providing access to our rates and systems to select handpicked customers. Currently, the online travel purchase process is instant for the buyer. However, the payment settlement process for all third parties involved takes 15-20 days. Every online transaction is constituted of several parts which increases dependencies on third-parties for account reconciliation and settlement. In the travel industry, payment gateways such as Stripe, Paypal, Apple Pay, Square, bank transfers, etc. serve as the method for accepting payments. These create barriers and delays in the payment settlement process for that particular transaction.
Xennies change the traditional process with immediate settlement when a package is sold based on the commission chosen while creating the inventory. We define the settlement of transactions as a chain of executing smart contracts between parties involved. Xeniapp’s booking engine will let users spend via credit cards or by using Xennies. Each transaction is constructed out of several parts which enable both a simple and direct payment settlement process over complex transactions.
A: What are your plans for your airline XeniAir in India?
S: XeniAir is a private destination airline aiming to create luxury weekend experiences for travelers in India & South-East Asia. Our offerings will include luxury charter flights, resorts and experiences like yoga retreats, culinary experiences, adventure activities, and other theme-based experiences. Our initial target markets are the growing segment of millennial luxury travelers and corporate retreats. With this endeavor, we will create a brand in the luxury travel space and also promote weekend tourism to various locations in South East Asia.
A: What are your future plans?
S: I am working towards building the perfect ecosystem in the travel industry which will cater the best experiences to travelers.
A: Have you faced failures and how did you overcome them?
S: Yes, failures were the guiding light for innovation and transformation of ideas. When you are struggling, even rock bottom can be a great foundation on which to build and grow! I have a very positive attitude when facing challenges. I have failed many times.
A: What do you think about the growing startup scene in India and how do we compare with the rest of the world?
S: India’s startup ecosystem is in the infancy stage and needs a great deal of hand-holding to take it to the next level. The Government of India can foster the growth through effective policies which can create sustainable growth. Startups will swiftly bring job growth. India has a lot of potential, underutilized talent as well as a growing market. We have everything right here to be the best startup ecosystem in Southeast Asia.
A: What is your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
S: Time is a valuable asset only if you contribute to making it valuable. There is no perfect plan or recipe, show up for execution whenever it is required. Do not underestimate the hardship, rather appreciate it.
Ideas are great but I believe in execution, so execute, execute, execute..!