The entrepreneur who set up shop with his credit card and became a millionaire


Sam Jain founded a travel technology company that developed well-known and trustworthy brands like CheapOair and OneTravel. He inaugurated Fareportal in 2002, when the initial focus of the company was to develop e-commerce sites, booking engines and management tools for both the retail and the wholesale travel industry. However, in Sam’s opinion, the success of the company is owed to the current multi-channel distribution model. This model allowed Fareportal to prosper during the difficult times that the travel industry has faced in the past.

His success story is nothing short of what you would find in an adventure book. He started his company in the 90s, a time when technology was not developed enough for Sam’s vision to become reality. At that point in time, technology was unable to help with the organization of the travel industry. One of the main advantages he had over his competition was his background in technology. This way, he was able to fill the need to add organization to a business where clutter was ever-present. Given the fact that most airline databases were done on paper, he saw his chance to organize those systems to facilitate distribution. In his own words, “organizing the cluttered distribution methods was the inspiration to begin my business.”

However, there were still many hurdles in the way of the success of the company. Sam found it difficult to get the funding required to start his company, investors were skeptic to send money his way and all of this due to his lack of experience in the travel industry. Seeing how nobody wanted to invest in his business idea, he decided to take a chance and withdrew $4,000 from his personal credit card. He was able to earn his money back and then some; his company became a $3.2 billion business. I’m pretty sure the investors that refused his business plan are scratching their eyes out as we speak.

According to Sam Jain, multitasking is the best way to reduce start-up costs. He also states that, when you’re at the beginning of your journey, you will have to do a lot of things yourself and also be aware of the discretionary costs. When he started his company from the ground up, not only did he buy all the furniture from Staples for just a couple hundred dollars, but also he assembled it with the help of his employees. Back then, assets such as secretaries were considered luxury services. Therefore, many administrative tasks had to be performed by team members.

Given his lack of experience in the travel industry, his background in technology provided the edge that would differentiate his business from all others. He noticed the distribution gap and put his technology skills to good use and made it more efficient. By virtue of his knowledge and his observation of all aspects first-hand, he was able to understand and assimilate the entire process. He believes that having an inside perspective into the industry makes a world of difference and may provide you with the advantage you need to bring your company one step closer to success.

Sam believes working with airlines that had the “wholesale” model which provided special inventory to certain travel agencies was the “wow” factor that put him ahead of his competition, given the fact that most airlines were doing business in an antiquated way. They put their inventory and contracts in databases, thus allowing travel agents to offer a fare code in the blink of an eye. In comparison, if a client decided to call other agencies, it would take approximately 5 minutes to provide the customer with a fare code. Customer efficiency turned out to be the thing that would offer him the edge over the competition.

He stated that after you start-up a business you would not be making money in the first year, especially if you’re self-funded, a fact with which almost every entrepreneur can relate to. Thus, he placed his focus on paying the bills, rather than getting frustrated over not making money right off the bat. He also had to pay close attention to the banking accounts since he couldn’t afford to hire a CFO. Other aspects that proved tricky to maneuver were business development, sales, marketing and offering customer support. However, he still managed to overcome the odds and build a company that everyone would be ecstatic to call their own.

Image courtesy of Fareportal

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