IVÁN RODRÍGUEZ DE AZERO – Holidays well spent

Diario de Avisos → agosto 23, 2015

It is unusual for entrepreneurial stories to start up in times of crisis, especially if they are not driven by necessity but by impulse. Perhaps an exception is Descubre Group, because the spark for the opportunity they believed in was born in good economic times. From the observation abroad of what they believed to be a local application, that holiday cruise gave rise to an idea that would take up to five years to develop: “In R&D, plus the search for resources and the fact that no one was dedicated full-time to the activity at the time, we all had our jobs”. Today, just seven years after the launch, they are no longer a tourism services company, but offer communication solutions for a wide range of corporations, some as powerful and important as Cajasiete, Banco de Santander, L’Oreal or BP.

-It is clear that he was not used to rest even on holidays.

“Not so much. It is true that I was on a cruise with my wife, María, and we realised that the ship had an internal television channel on which we were constantly informed of the attractions of the next port and the activities taking place on the ship itself. We dispensed with the guidebooks and relied on what we were told through that channel. So much so that we consumed all the activities on the ship. We thought that this was something that didn’t exist in the hotels here, and that’s where the idea for the business came from.

-But from that distant 2003 to the start of the activity in 2008, a long time passed…

“There was a lot of development of the project (R&D) because we had to find the formula, test the idea, place equipment in the hotels, seeing what worked and what didn’t work. It wasn’t something we could dedicate all our time to because we had our jobs in different companies, we are several partners”.

-And the time came to launch it in 2008, in the midst of the crisis.

“We did a performance on the Magma, we hired actors who simulated what had happened to María and me on the cruise. It was a great success, we invited a lot of people who came and showed interest… but we realised that decisions are not made here, but outside. And of course, we started to move in Mallorca, travelling a lot, trying to be received to show our idea, almost from door to door of the big groups. This is slower, but it is also true that once you get the confidence of one of them, the others are like dominoes”.

-Did this open the door to the Meliá Group?

“No, as it was a different property within the chain, it didn’t help us that much. The company told us to do a pilot and we explained that we had been doing it for some time. The experience we had did help us, but we still had to do that test. It struck us that the bigger the group, the slower the decision-making. We had more than 15 meetings with them and it took a long time from the first to the last. Then, of course, the fact that they are happy and that you can use them as a reference makes everything go faster and it pays off because they end up being a great showcase”.

-And in those days, what did you offer?

“We offered a package with one channel through which they showed all their services and another with what the destination offered, in three languages. Our business was this channel, we were looking for quality products whose companies wanted to advertise. We charged the hotel very little, we didn’t cover the costs of that channel, it was a necessary collaborator to whom we even gave veto rights over the material that we would broadcast on our own channels in order to take care of all the details.

-And these channels, he discovers, would be supported by the public institutions dedicated to tourism.

“At the beginning, yes, but it didn’t take long before they started to cut back a lot on promotion. We found ourselves in the situation of deciding what to do and that’s when the idea of the corporate channels was born; we wouldn’t have been able to survive with the tourist channels alone. We were not obsessed, we had a product that we believed in and what we did was to turn any company into a potential client. So today we have destination channels that operate in Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Mallorca, Barcelona and Madrid and, on the other hand, corporate channels, where we do charge a fee and offer a comprehensive service that includes programming and advice. Today we must have half of the portfolio of tourist clients, so we have made a rapid conversion. For these changes we made a capital increase that has allowed us to embark on a new phase.

-But is the essence of the business still the same?

“We believed that these channels are a great tool to reach the tourist and there are not many of them. He’s in his room, he surfs, he finds channels in his language that tell him what he can do in a place he doesn’t know much about. We then expanded the idea to all kinds of companies, a communication channel that also serves to keep the company’s employees up to date with the latest news. We are a company that provides a powerful and reliable hardware service, which contributes to business improvement. For example, in the L’Oreal salons where the channels are located, sales increased by 31%. We have generalist content programming that is enjoyable, reinforces brand image and also sells”.

-What threats does an innovative company like this face?

“There is a lot of competition, but our strength is that we do things well, we have good references and we are comprehensive. There are other companies in the market, but they are not set up like ours. Being integrated allows us to be very competitive in terms of prices and being in the Canary Islands means we can be cheaper. Most of our clients are outside the Islands”.

-Lower prices being in the Canary Islands?

“In personnel, in office rentals, we can pass those savings on to the price. This is one of the advantages of competing in and with technology. But that doesn’t mean we don’t also have some higher costs. We used to have an office in Madrid and now we share it because we have to be where the biggest companies are. It also allows us to be closer to them, there we bid for private company tenders – the one we won from Banco Santander – without losing the essence of what we are, a small company with much more girth than other larger ones, which values every client because each one of them is extremely important to us and if we have to work over the weekend, we do it without further ado”.

-Does the future of a company like this necessarily involve being bought by a giant in the sector?

“We are eight people working today and we don’t see the company as something to be self-employed, but rather to do something big. We are on the way, especially if we close important deals that we have in front of us in the coming months. It’s true that hardware companies are buying content companies, but that’s not something that worries us in the least. We have a plan, we are sticking to our roadmap with no distractions.