Can purpose disrupt an industry?

By

EY Global

Multidisciplinary professional services organization

5 minute read 29 Mar 2018

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EY alumnus Amanpreet Bajaj, now at Airbnb India, says a focus on people and community has helped fuel the company’s rapid growth.

Increasingly, industry leaders agree that having a well-defined purpose is crucial to a successful business strategy. Not only can a strong purpose help a company stay innovative, but it can also create an environment that inspires its workforce.

Yet purpose can do more than just inspire. A strong purpose has the ability to disrupt entire industries and ultimately drive consumer behavior.

One major player striving to do just that is Airbnb. Known as one of the biggest disruptors of our time, the company began as a start-up eight years ago.

The concept was to allow people, or ‘hosts,’ to rent out their room, their flat or their home to those looking for short-term accommodation. Its growth has been phenomenal.

Today, Airbnb’s platform offers over three million homes for rent across 190 countries. The accommodations listed suits all budgets and interests - allowing people to book anything from a couch to a castle.

Regardless of the size of your budget, the company’s purpose has always been about people and community. Amanpreet Bajaj, EY alumnus and country manager of Airbnb India, says, “At Airbnb, we believe we want to create a world where everyone can belong anywhere, and I think that's the main mission of the company. It drives everyone forward.”

A personal touch

Keeping that purpose in mind, Airbnb has transformed over the years to offer new products and services to meet changing consumer behavior. One change they noticed was that many of its customers were looking for a more personal experience when travelling. Based on that knowledge, they launched a brand campaign that says: ‘Don’t go there. Live there.’

Amanpreet adds: “We want people to reimagine the way they travel. We want people to have more real, authentic experiences, immerse themselves in local communities, and have that kind of experience which helps them understand the city from a different perspective.”

Airbnb has recently taken the leap beyond pure accommodation and now offers its members the opportunity to indulge their hobbies or passions. These ‘Airbnb Experiences’ can include everything from truffle hunting in Florence to marathon training in Nigeria. The goal is to transform the way people travel, making the experience more about people’s interests and less about the final destination.

“Most of the travel companies ask, ‘Where do you want to go?’ I think we are the only company that wants to answer the question, ‘What do you want to do?’” says Amanpreet.

Amanpreet Bajaj, EY alumnus and country manager of Airbnb India

Disrupting the travel industry

While these new initiatives are ultimately adding to Airbnb’s market share, they are also opening up new growth opportunities for the entire travel and leisure industry. Accommodation is becoming more cost effective and flexible, enabling people to travel more often and to new destinations.

“As we create more choice within the industry, I believe more people will travel, or existing people will travel even more, and I think that’s good news for the entire industry,” says Amanpreet. “People say we are disruptors. People say we have changed the dynamics of an industry. I think the way we like to look at it, is that we are creating more choice for the consumer. This is a new innovation, and innovation is one of the fundamentals at Airbnb.”

Airbnb remains committed to building a company based around people and shared experiences. Amanpreet points out that the business was started by three guys who couldn’t afford their rent.

While the company may have grown exponentially since then, it has worked hard to keep its entrepreneurial spirit and mission intact. As he says, ultimately, it all comes back to people:

“We believe that, as a platform, we are bringing people together, and when people connect, literally magic happens. When people interact, when people understand each other, they learn to respect each other, and I think that's a very powerful requirement in today's times.”

Summary

A purpose can have impact beyond the walls of a single business. It can redefine an entire industry.

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By

EY Global

Multidisciplinary professional services organization