Developing an entrepreneurial, startup-like culture in large organizations requires bold initiatives that truly reward innovation. dtac, along with other business units Telenor is invested in, runs one such program for its employees, Ignite. This year, nearly 200 teams in 13 countries from Norway to Bangladesh pitched ideas for a chance to attend an intensive “accelerator” bootcamp in Singapore. Only 18 teams made the cut, one of which is from Thailand. If it is among the bootcamp’s winning teams, its three members will make it to the final in Norway. Finalists, then receive three months of paid leave to work exclusively on their project.
The project, dubbed Trip Panther, aims to solve a common pain point for individual travelers–the design of self-booked itineraries that are tailored to one’s personal needs. The team includes bubbly marketing pros Varissara Klipbua and Poontarika Nuchaharn, who love travel and eating out, plus resident techie (and Chelsea fan) Thanachai Sirisuriyadech.
Varissara says the idea for Trip Panther came to her during a trip to Ho Chi Minh City. “I had made this list of places I needed to visit and figured I’d need two days to see everything,” she says. “But what reviews and maps don’t tell you is how long you need to visit a site, or in what order. I ended up completing everything in a half day. The rest of my time there was very hot and very wet. The trip was a mess. That’s when I realized there’s a need for a better trip planning solution.”
The Ignite application deadline was looming large and the marketing duo scrambled to get some tech expertise on board. “Is it possible to make a trip planner that can use mapping and friends’ recommendations to put together better itineraries?” they asked Thanachai, who said yes.
The team is also supported by dtac accelerate, which is the number one startup incubator in Thailand. “Their number one tip for the pitch in Singapore was to rehearse three times a day for the next 30 days. That’s 90 times total!” says Varissara.
Meanwhile, the trio must also move the project forward. They’ve already interviewed 150 people online and are now conducting interviews with mockups to get as much user feedback as possible before the Singapore bootcamp. Fifty percent of all travelers are small groups (under 10 people) on self-booked itineraries. And over half of them report that trip planning is a major pain point.
“By pitching day, we should have a working mockup,” says Thanachai. “This is a very fast way of working somewhat like the ‘agile method’ startups use to launch new digital products. Three years ago, we didn’t have this kind of process in the technology group at all. Now it’s more mixed.”
“I think 99 percent of users will be followers, with one percent generating popular itineraries and recommendations,” says Poontarika. “That’s the usual breakdown for social media use. But we need to kickstart it by sourcing itineraries from Pantip.com and reputable influencers.”
It’s not easy for the team to balance this project and their daily workload but their boss happens to be the winner of the very first round of Ignite, meaning they can expect her full support. “I think we are in a changing era for dtac,” says Varissara.
“It’s a big company, but we’re really getting better at working in more agile ways.”