Travel is a $53 billion market in Russia, but in a nation wary of credit cards and online transactions, only 10% of the business is handled online. And yet, the two-year-old Russian travel site Oktogo made $30 million last year—up from $6 million in 2011. "We adapt every aspect of how travel works," says founder Marina Kolesnik. Oktogo focuses on apps, because smartphone penetration is far deeper than broadband. And it partnered with two giant retailers and set up kiosks at train stations, so users can come and complete transactions the old way: in cash.
To persuade hotels to join its online system, Oktogo created software that helps hotel owners keep track of reservations and billings:
- 20% of Russian hotels have websites (but now 50% are listed on Oktogo)
- 25% of bookings come from people making a first-ever online buy
- 1 in 6 Russians use credit cards
Illustrations by Romualdo Faura