As a scion of an established family with business interests in property development and management, construction, and hospitality, Christina Suriadjaja is already familiar with the ins and outs of the property industry in Indonesia. So when she set out to build a firm of her own, it was natural for Suriadjaja to look at how the property sector could be modernized.
Along with Christie Amanda and Hendry Rusli, Suriadjaja co-founded Travelio in 2015. She made an angel investment in the firm, and became its marketing manager, eventually taking on the role of chief strategy officer as the company grew. Suriadjaja has won several awards for her work, including the EY Next Gen Award at the 2017 World Entrepreneur of the Year event. In the same year, she was named as one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30.
Travelio now manages more than 2,000 apartment units, and aims to maintain a roster of at least 10,000 units by the end of this year. According to Crunchbase, the company has raised USD 6 million over three rounds. Suriadjaja said Travelio recently closed its Series B funding round, although she did not disclose how much the company raised.
KrASIA recently spoke to Christina Suriadjaja about Travelio’s development and the challenges of being a young leader in a growing company.
KrASIA (Kr): How did Travelio start?
Christina Suriadjaja (S): Travelio was established in 2015. Our initial business model was to rent hotel rooms, apartments, and villas at bargain prices. The business was good but we felt that it wouldn’t sustain as we needed to compete with bigger online travel companies. Therefore, at the beginning of 2017, we decided to pivot our business into property management, where we handle every aspect of keeping a partner’s property booked and ready for guests to enjoy, from taking photos, writing descriptions, and marketing it to potential guests, as well as managing logistics like reservations, payments, check-ins and checkouts, housekeeping, regular maintenance, and so forth. This business model is more sustainable for us as it is more targeted, transparent, and clearer.
Kr: What are your thoughts on business opportunities within the property industry in Indonesia?
S: The opportunity is big and there is still a lot of space for disruption. In Greater Jakarta alone, there are approximately 300,000 apartments that were purchased for investment, but half of them are empty. Moreover, innovative tech-based property platforms are rare in Indonesia, and that is beneficial for us. So property is a space ready to be disrupted.
However, the property industry, especially rentals, is a tough nut to crack. Undeniably, good connections and credibility are very important to gain partners’ trust. Moreover, hospitality management is also challenging as we’ve encountered several problems related to unreliable facilities provided by partners that could impact the customer’s experience. Therefore we are quite selective in acquiring apartments, making sure that their quality matches our standards so we can provide optimal comfort for customers. Our challenge now is to expand our property network quickly, while keeping a high standard in service and facilities.
Kr: Please tell us about your role as chief strategy officer.
S: My scope of work is quite broad, from acquisition and network expansion to business development and fundraising. I have several teams under my leadership, namely corporate development that is handling fundraising, corporate strategy for internal business processing, a business development section that is responsible for acquiring new properties, and project management that handles supplies for each apartment. Managing many employees is certainly not an easy job, therefore we set key performance indicators (KPIs) for each employee and we’re very strict about them. I believe that KPIs help employees to grow together with the company.
Kr: What are the benefits offered by Travelio to customers and partners?
S: For customers, we offer flexible payment and lease terms. If they use a property agent, customers sometimes need to sign a lease for one year and pay upfront plus a one-month deposit. With Travelio, customers can choose the payment method as they can pay by month, per quarter, or in installments. We offer transparency in pricing and facilities as everything can be accessed online.
For partners, two important things that we offer are convenience and transparency. They simply need to hand over the apartment keys and we’ll take care of the rest. The partners don’t need to meet directly with the customers, and if there’s a complaint or an additional request from customers during their stay, our customer service team will handle that. This way, our partners can have stress-free passive income.
Our strength lies in good tech capacity supporting the operations. We develop our own property management software, including a developer app for partners called Lio Partner. Through this app, partners can see customer profiles and customer reviews, as well as monitor their income. Data is a crucial aspect that enables us to grow.
Kr: As a leader, what do you think is the biggest challenge when managing multiple teams? What is your approach in leadership?
S: I think the key challenge is in adjusting our leadership style as we move from one stage of growth to the next. Leading a small team with eight people is surely different from leading a big team with more than 50 people. Delegation is necessary, but it’s not always an easy thing to do.
However, I believe in hands-off leadership, where leaders allow team members to come up with their own strategies to achieve their targets. I trust my team and don’t interfere too much, but I’m very strict in maintaining each employee’s KPIs. And when employees achieve or even exceed targets and expectations, we’ll deliver rewards as promised. So it’s fair for both parties.
Kr: What’s next for Travelio?
S: We’ll expand our property network to eight new cities in Indonesia, and we’ll also enter a new market in Southeast Asia by the end of the year. We’ll expand to three more countries in the region next year.
This article is part of “Women in Tech,” a series by KrASIA that highlights the achievements of women who are a driving force behind Southeast Asia’s tech startups.