As Bangladesh continues to experience significant economic growth and development, the travel and tourism sector is gaining increasing attention. In this rapidly evolving landscape, traditional methods of booking flights and hotels through offline agents are being replaced by the emergence of online travel agencies (OTAs) on a global scale. One standout OTA from Bangladesh is ShareTrip, which has swiftly established itself as a dominant player since its inception in 2019. ShareTrip is a platform that provides end-to-end travel solutions through both B2B and B2C services. At the helm of ShareTrip is its Founder and CEO, Sadia Haque, whose unwavering dedication to her vision has propelled the company to raise an impressive USD 4.5 million within its first four years of operation, setting new benchmarks for success in the industry.
Sadia's life now is very different from how she envisioned it as a fresh graduate from North South University. Seeking to launch a professional life in large corporations, she began her early career at GrameenPhone. From there, she worked for prominent companies including BBC, Nokia, and BanglaLink for over 10 years, gaining invaluable business expertise. Her love for traveling truly blossomed after her marriage. Despite their demanding careers, Sadia and her husband both had a passion for traveling and made the most of their annual vacations by booking in advance with flexible rates. Their frequent travels gained them a reputation as "travel experts" among friends and colleagues, who started seeking advice and guidance for their own travels. For Sadia and her husband, this revealed the untapped potential in the travel and tourism industry in Bangladesh. Thus began ShareTrip - from a passion for travel to a mission of widening the horizons of travel and tourism for Bangladeshis.
Technology lies at the core of ShareTrip's platform, playing a pivotal role in its resounding success. The COVID-19 pandemic imposed unprecedented challenges on the travel industry, severely limiting travel possibilities due to global lockdowns. Prior to the pandemic, ShareTrip primarily focused on B2B services; however, the team swiftly recognized the vital role of technology and online presence in bridging the gap with offline travel agencies during the lockdowns. This realization prompted a transformative shift in their business model, leading to the launch of their own B2C platform, which successfully onboarded a majority of offline agencies that continue to thrive on the platform today.
Yet, Sadia is driven by the ethos of sustainable innovation and understood that ShareTrip's challenges extended beyond the pandemic. Travel is not solely driven by necessity or regularity for most individuals, but she envisioned a platform that would engage users even when immediate travel needs were absent. Leveraging technology once again, ShareTrip introduced gamification features, infusing their platform with interactive elements that resonate with users.
Acquiring new customers required persistent efforts to educate and persuade the local market about the advantages of this transition. Despite the challenges, ShareTrip's unwavering commitment yielded remarkable growth over the years. However, the company now grapples with pressing regulatory hurdles as outdated legal frameworks struggle to keep pace with technological advancements and global interconnectivity. Recognizing the need for change, ShareTrip has successfully secured investments from Startup Bangladesh Limited, a government-backed venture capital entity. With this support, Sadia aims to advocate for policy reforms in the travel industry, propelling ShareTrip towards its ultimate goal of becoming a distinguished Bangladeshi platform in the global online travel agency sector.
Sadia, despite coming from a non-tech background, has successfully navigated the technology-driven travel market with her platform. When offering advice to women in leadership and technology, she emphasizes that coding proficiency is not a prerequisite. Instead, she underscores the importance of having a clear vision for one's platform. While technology undoubtedly plays a significant role, being a non-tech individual should not deter women from leading tech companies, as long as women have the foundational knowledge and confidence to lead their team. This means staying attuned to industry developments and having confidence in one's skills and abilities. Drawing inspiration from the plethora of women excelling in tech-driven startups, she urges a shift towards meritocracy, prioritizing skills and accomplishments over gender. Ultimately, Haque aspires to witness more women, both from tech and non-tech backgrounds, taking on leadership roles and boldly driving their own success.