In the ScaleUp Dashboard 2020 special edition ”Scaleups in times of crisis” we offer an overview of how Dutch scaleups have been dealing with the coronacrisis. When the first Corona cases stepped on board of CruiseReizen.nl in February, this fast-growing company came to a standstill even before the coronacrisis hit the Netherlands. Faizal Siddiqui, founder & CEO of CruiseReizen.nl shares his story and the scaleup’s journey from a multimillion-dollar company back to a starting company.
In 2013, CruiseReizen.nl was founded to put an end to the complexity of booking a cruise. Over the years, it has grown to a multi-million dollar company with impressive figures making it to the Top 250 Scaleups in the Netherlands. This period came to an abrupt end with the outbreak of COVID-19. “Before Corona hit the hospitality industry or the gyms in the Netherlands, we already experienced the first global infection wave in February. We already had an infected person on board on one our ships in Asia“. Shortly afterwards, the factors that ultimately led to a troubled period at CruiseReizen.nl piled up: “As a tour operator, we are responsible for our people abroad. It was quite an operation to get everyone back, also because ships were no longer allowed to simply go ashore. Then a second bubble slowly appeared where we saw that people were afraid to sail. People made a connection between cruises and the virus, which there is not at all, but that feeling was created” says Faizal Siddiqui. Soon, travel to Asia was no longer possible and sales figures declined. In addition, there was also a lot of demand from CruiseReizen.nl operationally.
“It was the busiest period I’ve ever experienced. It was a situation where we were flooded by uncertainty, where people relied on our answers. We saw our revenue stream from hundreds of thousands per day fall to zero in one blow.”
All hands on deck
Even though CruiseReizen.nl barely made any sales since March, they have been doing everything possible to bridge this period. “I am proud to say that, despite everything, we have not yet fired anyone. We’re going to get through this together. To bring the costs down, we have received government support like all the other companies and stopped all ‘nice-to-haves’ at the office, but nothing should be done at the expense of the organisation and your customers. You’ll be remembered for how you’re handling things now.”
In addition to reducing costs, they had to find a source of income. For example, the CruiseReizen.nl team developed a management system for companies with a coronacheck. This product (Plannen.nl) is not going to make up tens of millions but will keep CruiseReizen alive longer until there is a structural solution to the pandemic. “You are thrown back to the pioneering phase. You don’t have to think about being a leader of CruiseReizen.nl, you have to be an entrepreneur again without money, but with smart people around you.” The latter was important, because the same people from CruiseReizen.nl were deployed in other companies for new products and services. Siddiqui believes in a reconstruction and sees opportunities for growth in the horizon. “The markets need to start growing again and in those times of crisis you need fewer people. Consequently, you must downsize or use people differently and create more activities. There’s definitely opportunity in this. If we start new companies now, we will have to start growing again. All in all, we are much further along than before the crisis’. Siddiqui also has a positive view of the future of cruises: “The cruising industry went five years back in time but will slowly recover. The moment we start pointing fingers and don’t believe in reconstruction, we will not succeed”. In addition to Plannen.nl, Siddiqui has started up other companies such as SpaOnline.com and ScheidingsApp.nl.
Support not enough
CruiseReizen.nl received government support such as the NOW-scheme to bridge the coronacrisis, yet this was a drop in the ocean according to Siddiqui: “It was too little. We were already hit in February and do not know how long this will take. The travel industry has been hit harder than anyone. If you have no income at all, the current arrangements are not sufficient. There should be a counter to assist companies and say something other than to creatively deal with entrepreneurship. If it was feasible to maintain a multimillion-dollar company in such a short period of time, I would have done it. We are fighting, but we can’t do it alone.”
Want to read more scaleup stories and find out more about the scaleup landscape in times of crisis? Visit our ScaleUp Dashboard webpages (in English and Dutch) or directly download your own English copy of “Scaleups in times of crisis” here and the Dutch version here!