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AuroraXplorer is a mobile online travel store, which finds the hidden gems from each destination, and designs them into once-in-a-lifetime experiences for the fast increasing number of Chinese free independent travellers.
Tapping into the potential of the world's biggest market, China
The founder Kirsi Mantua-Kommonen researched the soul of the Chinese singleton generations for her doctoral studies at the Aalto University School of Business. All the while she consulted Finland-based brands in how they could better succeed in the highly competitive Chinese consumer market. Her passion was to find concepts that would retain and even increase jobs also in Finland while giving the Chinese more opportunities for enjoying improved quality of life and better living standard.
With serial entrepreneur Teemu Nuutinen, Kirsi once discussed the increasing interest of the Chinese affluent urban travellers towards outbound travel. She pointed out that many destinations, Finland included, have not understood how to bridge these cultures to tap into the business potential available. Together, they decided to explore this opportunity.
Chinese-born entrepreneur Fan Cuilu was invited to join as a co-founder. Together they made the first plan for setting up a service that would empower the Chinese travellers. They researched the market both in Finland and in China, both of which showed great potential: The Finnish travel industry was suffering from the collapse of the Russian travel market, and the slow-down of the Finnish b-to-b business, and therefore the travel industry was interested in finding new markets and open for new sales channels. At the same time, the Chinese outbound travel market was growing two-digit percentages and also the interest towards the Nordic countries was growing fast. The independent or private travellers, in particular, were looking for new, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and escapes from the hectic urban life in fast-paced China. There was clearly a niche for the AuroraXplorer.
Co-founders Eero Keltikangas and Petri Kymäläinen joined the team to plan the it-architecture and platform, for which they selected Microsoft Azure and Dynamics CRM Online technologies enjoying the benefits provided by the BizSpark program. The service is currently running in Hong Kong in Azure Cloud. Investigating the various payment options proved to be one of the most challenging parts of designing the service, because the consumer payment systems between Finland and China were extremely underdeveloped, and AuroraXplorer wanted to offer a payment system that would be easy to use for the Chinese while still in China. The complete solution will provide opportunities for creating a significant service business within the fast developing online travel industry at a later stage.
More Chinese and Finnish team members were employed to design the UX/UI to fit the diginative lifestyle of the young urban Chinese, and to market the service via the Chinese social media, from where the travellers seek information, and through which they want to share their travel experiences. Crowdsourcing ideas from the Chinese community living in Finland, and the Finnish community living in China has helped AuroraXplorer in finding more interesting ways, in which to bridge the two cultures.
Vår affärs- och marknadssituation
The "Walking wallets" getting their RMB’s worth
The Chinese traveller
In 2014, the Chinese make some 120 million – 120,000,000 - outbound trips. Over 60 per cent of the Chinese now prefer to travel independently rather than to join the traditional big tour groups. For Schengen area, this has only been possible since 2012. Especially the generations born after 1979, who have grown up as the only child in their family, are looking for once-in-a-lifetime experiences – experiences that are appreciated by their peers when they post their travel photos and videos in the Chinese social media channels, such as WeChat, Weibo, iQiyi, Youku, and Tudou, among others.
The Finnish market situation
So far, the Finnish travel industry has failed in designing and promoting their services to the Chinese independent travellers, and the business is based on the traditional tour groups in big buses. Still, in 2013, the Chinese travellers spent 122,000 overnights in Finland, which showed an increase of 26 % from previous year. AuroraXplorer believes that by 2020 this number can easily be doubled, more likely tripled or even fivefold. Thanks to the concept of bridging cultures, by the year 2020 AuroraXplorer aims to have a 50 % market share attending to the Chinese arriving to Finland, and a growing share in each further destination, which AuroraXplorer brings available for the Chinese travellers.
From the travel business perspective, the big idea of AuroraXplorer is to bridge the two cultures – that of the Chinese travellers and that of the destination – to design authentic once-in-a-lifetime experiences for the Chinese guests. For example for Finland, AuroraXplorer provides several interesting travel themes. Within each theme, the guest can self-tailor among a wide variety of experiences, designed for the Chinese “minute traveller”: For example, 8 different ways to experience ice & snow within a short period of time; experiencing Finnish design via visiting the top brands, meeting their designers, getting to know the stories behind the scene, and having the opportunity to shop the products at discounted prices; enjoying the local heavy metal bands in live concerts including a ride in a stretched Hummer-limousine; de-toxin according to a personally tailored plan, starting with measuring toxin levels and receiving a dietary and exercise plan taking advantage of the pure food and pure air in Finland; and so on. This concept, which originates from the Chinese consumer’s interest rather than the existing travel packages, has already now induced great interest among the Chinese.
The competitive landscape
In the high-end segment, the approach of bridging cultures will provide AuroraXplorer the edge to outperform the mass-market competitors, such as CTRIP, eLong, and Qunar, who only focus on price. For smaller inbound companies in the destination countries, AuroraXplorer will provide an interesting new sales channel thanks to the advanced technological and service platform, which allows the private travellers to plan, book, and pay their self-tailored package online via one single transaction. This cutting-edge mobile solution is complemented by personal assistance provided by a pool of Chinese students living in Finland. The guest can book a personal assistant for planning the trip, for obtaining the visa, and for helping with all practical, cultural, and language issues during the stay in Finland.
Experienced and competent team with expertise on
The Chinese consumer:
We know the dynamics influencing the Chinese consumer and her needs and interests
The Chinese culture:
We understand the history of Chinese culture, the current influences from the West, Asian countries, and from inside the country
We are experienced in designing and implementing online and offline services
Branding & marketing:
We are experts in cultural branding
UX & UI:
We know how to design UX & UI for the Chinese traveller
We have deep understanding on the options available via software architecture
We have been entrepreneurs before, and have the guts to go through bad times as well as build on the good times.
Strategy to implementation:
We have extensive experience on all levels of organization and can make things happen from strategy to implementation
We are ready to change the business model, the service, the brand communication, or what ever is needed if the market situation changes.
Founder, CEO, CMO - cultural branding strategist to the boneM.Sc. (Econ), Marketing, Helsinki School of Economics (now Aalto University School of Business). Kirsi is specialist in cultural and visual branding and communications. She has worked in marketing and communication management and consulting positions. She has experience in the fields of fashion, beverages, and telecommunications, on top of travel industry, and has worked with consumer brands in several sectors. Kirsi’s holistic understanding of business, good sales skills, and established business network, have helped her in testing the business idea and in attracting Finnish travel service providers to join the service in an early stage. She has the ability to see the big picture in how the global megatrends influence business, and to take this understanding down to the smallest details of executing service design and branding. Kirsi has a thorough understanding of the dynamics influencing the development of Chinese consumer culture through her research for doctoral studies at Aalto University School of Business. https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=222341
Co-founder, bridging cultures to spread well-beingBachelor of international business, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Science. Fan has experience in luxury retail sales in China before moving to Finland for her Bachelor studies in 2006. Fan is an experienced entrepreneur focusing on advising Finnish companies in Chinese Market Entry strategy and cultural training. Fan has solid experience on designing travel experiences for private persons and groups of up to 12 people travelling from China to Finland. She understands the needs of the Chinese outbound travellers by segments and is able to adjust the service accordingly. With excellent communication and sales skills, Fan has a proven track record on building good business connections and developing sales channels. Fan also has excellent business intelligence analysis skills, and a passion for understanding cultural differences and cultural learning to spread wellbeing from one cultural environment to the next. https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=123491736
Co-founder, Software architect with exceptional strategic insightEero Keltikangas M.Sc. (Tech), Software architecture, business strategy and international economics, Helsinki University of Technology (now Aalto University). Eero is an experienced senior software architect with both the ability to design solid strategy and to be the lead for execution. He is expert in cloud service development and member of the Microsoft Architect Group. An entrepreneur with a strong will to strive for the best possible business model while finding quick-and-dirty interim solutions. Eero also votes with his feet by bicycling to work. https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=105105301
Co-founder, ICT team playerPetri Kymäläinen M.Sc. (Tech.), Helsinki University of Technology, Knowledge engineering and adult learning. With 25 years of experience on the ICT sector, Petri’s expertise covers sales, development, and implementation of organizational change via ICT solutions, and creating new value-added services and solutions. He is a serial entrepreneur, who enjoys being part of an energized team. Petri works best as a sovereign link in a solid business chain. https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=50797479
Serial entrepreneur, expanding your comfort zoneBachelor of Business Administration, Jyväskylä Polytechnic. Teemu is a serial entrepreneur who believes in learning from the experienced and picking up ideas from the most recent success stories and utilising them in new contexts. Teemu understands human psychology and is able to crystallize ideas and support and encourage the team in making them happen. He has experienced the ups and downs of several start-ups and is able to handle the pressure and lead the way beyond the immediate concerns. Teemu strongly believes that the future success is built on taking advantage of the opportunities provided by China and other growth markets, and each and everyone’s ability to step away from their comfort zone. https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=151801366
Lead UX/UI designerBachelor of Arts, Industrial and product design, Beijing University of Technology. Shi is a passionate industrial designer, an empathic listener, and a keen investigator. He works by observing, experiencing, exploring and experimenting. He believes in learning by doing and in the power of visualization. He considers himself a responsible designer, aiming to develop thoughtful, out-of-the-box, elegant solutions that fulfill the needs of both the users and of the other stake-holders. He is responsible for the UX/UI design at AuroraXplorer, and currently continues his studies for the Master degree at Aalto University School of Arts. https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=112709558
Hospitable social media expertBachelor of Hospitality Management, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Science. Bowen is an innovative and experienced social media marketer who knows the Chinese social media scene from top to bottom. He has a versatile working experience in customer service within the travel industry, and has first-hand understanding of the needs of the Chinese travellers. By studying and working in Hong Kong, Germany and Finland, Bowen has built an ability to learn and quickly adapting to new situations. Thanks to the AIESEC experience, Bowen has developed great communication skills and an ability to liaise with a variety of personalities from different cultural backgrounds. He is continuing his studies in international business at the Aalto University School of Business. https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=70481777
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Risks concerning our market situation
As emphasized, the Chinese outbound travel market is growing fast. This development is not free of risks, however. New regulations may be operationalized very quickly in China should there be swift changes in the global political atmosphere. Moreover, our first destination country, Finland, is dependent on the direct flights provided by Finnair and Air China (through code sharing), which utilize the Russian airspace, so our business might be affected by potential increase in political turmoil in these areas.
Launching a completely new service and brand onto the Chinese consumer market requires an excellent marketing plan and execution, as well as a considerable amount of financial investment. No matter how interesting our offering is, we need to have the financial means to back them up and bring the brand to the top-of-mind of our target consumers.
The cultural demands of the Chinese private travellers are new to most Finnish companies operating in the travel business. We will need to check the service level of our partners' matches and exceeds the expectations of our guests. We can address this risk by being closely involved in the service design and even execution of the services, and by offering training and consultation services for our partners.