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Fri 20 Mar 2015 02:31 AM

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More than just an Illusion: Faisal Memon

Founder and CEO Faisal Memon reveals the Dubai-headquartered tech firm’s incredible global growth story as it enters a new unprecedented expansion phase, rolling out a pioneering worldwide travel marketplace and transitioning to the latest cloud technology

More than just an Illusion: Faisal Memon

Illusions has come a very long way since its Founder and CEO, Faisal Memon, conceived the idea of creating an online solution for the travel trade back in 1997.

Firm in his belief that web-based technology was the only way forward to automate and therefore simplify the many complicated processes the industry entails, the core Illusions Online product was born and has since revolutionised the way its global users conduct their business, from complete automation of their internal operations to transacting online on B2B and B2C booking engine platforms.

The pioneering, off-the-shelf range of Illusions products has been adopted by savvy Destination Management Companies, tour operators and travel agents of the world over the past 16 years.

The company has always taken pride in being “ahead of time” – one of Illusions’ enduring mantras - and it’s for this reason that over the past two years, the technology company has witnessed a growth surge.

“Bricks-and-mortar agents and tour operators have finally realised they need to embrace technology to compete with the Online Travel Agencies,” explains Memon.

“They now know they need to access global content in an instant and to offer rates, availability and confirmations in real time. Illusions provides these capabilities, which is why we have signed more deals in the last 24 months than in the previous 5 years.”

The Dubai-headquartered firm witnessed another big year in 2014, having deployed its solution in new destinations including Egypt, the Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius, UAE, Spain and Turkey to name but a few.

In the past year the company has also bolstered its Middle East presence with new clients in Dubai and for the first time, Libya, while expanding its presence in Egypt, basing a new team in Cairo.

In Asia, where Illusions recently appointed a new Vice President Sales, Greg Duffell, Illusions has enhanced its market share in Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Australasia, and is looking to corner new markets such as Cambodia and Laos.

Meanwhile in North America, the firm recently employed Vice President Sales Scott Fluhrer with a view to becoming the dominant player in the US and Canada – a market that offers exponential growth potential.

New permanent offices in Europe, Bangkok, Miami, Brazil are on the cards too, with openings planned over the next 12 months.

This will take Illusions’ global staff headcount from over 100 in 2014 to more than 150 by the end of 2015.

“We are a fast growing and profitable business, with over a Billion dollars worth of TTV (Total Transactional Value) completed by our clients in 2014 that represents a 360 per cent increase on last year, based just on the volume of searches being performed.” says Memon.

Content is king

Memon’s on-going goal is to “give the best technology to all DMCs, tour operators and travel agents on a global scale”.

“And having monitored the searches and bookings generated by Illusions clients for some time now, we understand what content they require,” he says.

It’s for this reason Memon is currently making major enhancements to the Illusions spin-off he dubs i-World Travel eXchange (i-WTX).

This revolutionary online travel portal was first created to allow Illusions users to access and sell one another’s content in real time.

But it has now evolved into a major web-based travel marketplace for international travel products and services, open to the entire global travel trade.

Illusions is currently forging partnerships with distribution heavyweights such as leading Bed Banks, car rental companies, cruises and rail in order to bolster its content.

The ultimate vision, reveals Memon, is to create the “Amazon of the travel industry”.

“Everyone in the industry is hungry for content,” he says. “Even some of the world’s biggest tour operators want to be part of i-WTX and I have no doubt that if they do, they will see what the Illusions technology driving the portal is capable of and eventually become a client of our core Illusions product.”

On Cloud 9

To be able to grow i-WTX to exponential proportions and become the “industry standard” Memon envisions, Illusions is moving its entire platform onto cloud-based technology.

This effectively involves a phased transition from traditional hosting environments such as an ISP (Internet Service Provider), which rely on physical servers, network connectivity and power (RAM), to virtual cloud-based servers offering unlimited data storage capacity and computing power.

“We are currently scaling our business very well in order to cope with the number of transactions forecast to be generated by Illusions clients and i-WTX, but we need to plan for the future and break free from the constraints of traditional servers,” says Memon.

“Cloud technology can accommodate surges generated by our clients, for example, during their flash sales.”

Memon has opted for Microsoft Azure cloud technology, which is cost effective as users only pay for the resources used as opposed to expensive fixed server rental prices.

Another key benefit is that Microsoft’s virtual servers are based all over the world, improving speed and accessibility for clients no matter where they are based. Microsoft also maintains all server operations 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so the Illusions IT team is free to conduct other essential business functions.

There’s no limit

Illusions’ cloud technology will come into its own as the company forges ahead with its ambitious expansion plans.

For i-WTX, in addition to maximising content access opportunities, it also means reaching out to a more global audience – a goal within Memon’s sights given he is currently in talks with some of the biggest distribution platforms in Asia, Europe and the USA.

It will give Illusions access to a mega database to whom it can pitch travel deals tailor-made according to their personal preferences.

“In this case we are talking about processing millions of transactions a second,” Memon says.

But that does not mean the core Illusions product will fall by the wayside, with the company currently working on a new improved solution that will transition clients from Version 14 (V14) to V15 of Illusions Online.

“I am also eyeing acquisitions of niche technology firms all over the world,” Memon discloses.

“It means we get access to their customer base and their product, while they get integrated into our platform, migrated to the cloud, and their product is pushed out to our huge travel trade network.

“We are currently undergoing a due diligence process with technology firms in Asia, Europe and USA in this respect. We are now at the stage where we work alongside our competitors to see how we can collaborate and simplify the travel market place.

“It’s such a mess; it’s too complicated and inefficient, and I want to turn it around to make life simpler for the entire industry.

“For me it’s about taking the business and my vision to the next level; Illusions for me is the ultimate travel operating system and iWTX will power every travel search, no matter which channel and where in the world, it is performed.”

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