Sahil Shah, managing director at Sujester, aims to disrupt the travel tech marketplace. He tells Andrew Doherty his story
By the time Sahil Shah was 18 years old, he had visited more than 50 countries, cementing his love for travel from an early age.
The managing director at Sujester says: “My parents have an accountancy firm with many hospitality clients, which provided me with exposure to the sector. Many of my fondest childhood memories come from travel.”
It was while studying economics at the University of Cambridge that Shah made his first foray into the world of entrepreneurship.
“I had a number of start-ups – including a fintech company (PAM), which helped people invest small amounts of money and optimise their portfolios,” he says.
After graduating with first class honours, he started work on TripSnapp, a “citymapper for travel across Europe” that enabled users to find the best way between two points on the continent, across all forms of transport.
Then, in autumn 2016, he began work on his latest venture, Sujester – a platform providing personalised and interactive inspirational content, helping travellers create bucket lists and plot their dream travel future, while helping travel companies to collect data to improve customer retention.
“We work with a range of travel agencies in the UK and abroad, such as New Zealand-based House of Travel, and over the coming years we want to work with tour operators and tourism boards to showcase lesser-known regions within their countries. We hope this will be a huge benefit for them by reducing overtourism. Just look at what happened in Barcelona last year.”
Shah says that one of his proudest moments was being able to demonstrate the benefits of Sujester to travel agents and watch the company grow.
“I spoke at a seminar at World Travel Market London in 2017 and it was great to see the level of interest and excitement from tour operators and businesses within the industry for Sujester.”
Regarding TTG’s 30 Under 30 programme, Shah is looking forward to seeing where his peers will end up in the future.
“Learning from those on the supplier side of the industry in the group has been hugely valuable and has shaped Sujester as a business,” says Shah.
Looking at the role of travel agents in a world increasingly reliant on technology, he is confident businesses that adapt will continue to thrive.
“If agents can inspire clients in a personalised way, like social media has been doing, then they will do well. I think customers booking more expensive tailor-made holidays will always need the assurance and experience of a travel agent, and this is where we see a huge opportunity to add value.”
For travel tech entrepreneurs just starting out, Shah stresses the importance of gleaning a solid understanding of the travel industry.
“If you are building a consumer- facing product, make sure you know the landscape of the industry. Look at the competition and how they operate. And if you are looking to supply the trade, strong connections are crucial.”
“What an inspirational young man Sahil is. If there is one thing we always say to people coming into our industry, it is that they should get out and give things a go. Sahil has certainly taken this to heart. He is someone who is overflowing with ideas and isn’t frightened to take a chance on them.
“The technology sector is a very difficult place to succeed, but often the best businesses are the simplest. Sujester could be a great tool for travel agents because it brings a touch of fun to the research for customers, and Sahil can potentially earn an income from supplying leads as well as charging content partners to appear.
“The next step is scaling the business up. This is a very different discipline to coming up with an idea and coding – it will require sales skills and passion. He should use his TTG 30 Under 30 accolade to open as many doors as possible and show off what the tech can do.”
Meet all of this year’s Tomorrow’s Travel Leaders here