December 1, 2022

Eurocean 2004

Life is an adventure

How Mary Li wants to build The Atlas to change the way people buy flights

Her third startup concentrated on domestic and reduced expense airline articles

Sometime in 2019, Mary Li was at an exhibition of South-east Asian art at the National Gallery Singapore when she realised that maps depicting the region in the 18th and 19th centuries diverse in accordance to the interpretations of the various artists.

“It designed me realise that anyone sees the environment in a different way and
I considered why just cannot travellers have their own encounter, their individual Atlas of
journey,” explained the journey tech entrepreneur.

Li, nonetheless, had a a lot more particular industry in mind – lower expense and domestic airline articles, and empower travellers to get flights the way, say, a girl shops for dresses. “We get according to our entire body size, condition and our tastes,” she claimed. “Why simply cannot shopping for flights be the exact way, be as individual, be as straightforward?”

Mary Li: “We acquire in accordance to our system dimensions, shape and our preferences. Why can’t acquiring flights be the exact same way, be as private, be as uncomplicated?”

On September 15 that calendar year she established up The Atlas in Singapore, explained as “a global airfare aggregator, supplying exclusive content from reduced-expense carriers and domestic airlines”.

I know, I can almost listen to
eyes roll amid flight veterans who know how hard and cumbersome flights
is, and them expressing, “here arrives one more startup hoping to address it”.

In Episode 5 of the WiT Travel
Roadshow, Mathias Hedlund,
CEO of Etraveli Team, when requested, what was the just one issue he’d like to deal with
about flights, stated, “I continue to believe that we all should be a bit ashamed that
it is so tricky to guide. The whole economics about flights can make us and
some others generate booking paths that are not client pleasant, to be frank,
simply because if you make them way too shopper helpful, you can not compete on price tag.”

He additional stated it’s been interesting to see newcomers occur into the business, pondering they can solve it and then obtaining realized a lot more, realise how intricate it is.

Lessons from her early adventures in flights

Li is aware of the scepticism that surrounds her most up-to-date startup but she is used to defying critics. The Atlas is her 3rd flight startup. Her to start with was Wingon Travel in China but her breakthrough came with ASLAN, which she founded in 2005, and grew it from a 40-man or woman offline vacation agency into the biggest B2B air ticfierket platform in China. In 2014, ASLAN was obtained by Alitrip, now Fliggy, wherever she stayed for two decades heading Fliggy air tickets.

(You can see a typical thread
coming by in how Li names her firms – Aslan is, of course, the name of
the lion in CS Lewis’ “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” tale.)

She then took a two-calendar year break to vacation the world. Her route then crossed with Rajeev Kumar, founder of Mystifly, the India-based global flight system, and she joined the business as co-CEO, based in Bangalore.

That period of time was the most powerful studying time, functioning in yet another country, immersed in another culture. “India absolutely modified me, the individuals, the faith, the culture,” she explained. “When I left, the crew gave me so numerous presents – presents that in all probability charge them a lot more than a month’s wage. I was so moved.”

With The Atlas, she’s assembled a seasoned crew of 20 people, who are spread out all in excess of the earth. Headquarters is in Singapore, the place Li presently resides, even though merchandise tech is in Hangzhou, China. There’s a New Zealand entity, with Brian Staunton who oversees marketing and advertising and manufacturer strategy.

“We want to be diversified.
I am not excellent at running a assorted lifestyle background – that’s a lesson from
India – so it is great for the crew to be separated. The English-speaking team
reviews to Brian whilst the Chinese-speaking crew reports to me.”

Li has picked to target on
the small value and domestic airline content material mainly because, in accordance to her, it
represents 40% of full flight potential and is the most fragmented piece of
flights. “People need a new air ticketing strategy. We want to permit folks to
obtain a ticket according to their requirements by offering an finish-to-conclude solution, from
knowledge to transaction to settlement,” she explained.

In her time at Alitrip she saw how vital the payment piece was to e-commerce. “I could see the hyperlink involving travel and payments, but it was not staying dealt with. Now we are seeing so much innovation in payments in China and we are tapping into the knowledge in this industry, to hyperlink it to what we are developing.”

When she started out The Atlas she also assumed it would emphasis on the Asia Pacific area but due to the fact performing on the product or service and sensation out the market, it is viewing interest in Europe and the US as well, which is why as much as Li is involved, she could get the job done from everywhere. “Right now, I am in Singapore but I could run the small business from everywhere.”

Li says the pandemic has
liberated imagining of entrepreneurs like her. “It’s manufactured us consider so
differently about how factors can be completed, how enterprises can be built and how
individuals will imagine in different ways about how they want to obtain travel.”

The pandemic has also tested
to be the finest time to develop a flight enterprise. With not significantly traveling occurring
for most of 2020 and it remaining flat this year, specifically in Asia Pacific,
Li and her workforce have experienced time creating and establishing a solid solution.
Self-funded, it is also observed a key investor this 12 months even though Li declined to
disclose the identity for now other than to say, “it’s a massive tech company”.

There’s yet another art tale embedded in The Atlas. Suitable right after she saw the exhibition of South-east Asian artwork Li read the e-book “Atlas” by the Argentinian writer, Jorge Luis Borges. “In that guide, although he was going blind, he explained what he noticed in poems and pics. He poured so a great deal enjoy into the book. I want to set that sort of really like into the organization.”

Observe: Mary Li will be speaking at WiT Encounter Singapore, Oct 19-20.