Happy Diwali: Gratitude post!

Hello everyone. 2020 has been a strange year, but then you already know that. First and foremost, let me take the opportunity to wish you all a very happy and safe Diwali during the pandemic. Whether you chose to stay at home or decided to get out and fly/road-trip to your family or friends, or just took-off because it was a long weekend, we wish you well and safe travels on the festival of lights. I started to write this post on Diwali Day, but I am only getting around to finish it off two days later, with all the last-minute change of plans.

2020 has been an interesting year for us around here as well, and given on an almost daily basis I receive questions from wellwishers about how has LiveFromALounge.com survived the pandemic, I just thought I’d write up a post about it rather than answering everyone 1-1. As you would expect, it has been a crazy year for the aviation and hospitality industry, as well as loyalty programmes which have gone through existential questions of their own, given travel came to a standstill. We still don’t know when will travel resume as we used to know of it. That would have meant everything we ever built LiveFromALounge for over the years would come to a nought, right?

Finding our feet in the new normal

No. March 2020 was busy, and April was sluggish, as I was myself clutching at straws looking at the world I lived and breathed in crashing around us. However, with every adversity comes an opportunity. With all the blockades, changing fare policies and hardly any way to get in or out of the country, I got drawn into helping people with repatriation flights and how to make sense of getting where they wanted to be, closed to their families that is. I have to admit, I did not see it coming, but I also did not have the heart to say no to people who were separated from their families. While I did not keep count, but I can safely say that eventually, I helped at least 50 people transit back to their homes if not more.

The chaos around air travel also made me realise the role we could play by sticking to our core mission in the times of the pandemic. Providing authentic information and filtering out the chaff from the grain concerning air travel during the pandemic. Regularly scheduled flights continued to be closed (they still are), so the action had moved to repatriation flights, which were far and few, and hence every time there was a new flight announced, most people would only find out much after these flights were sold out.

LFAL continued to research and post about as many flights as possible, including firsthand repatriation experiences to ensure that people who wanted to fly got as much authentic information as they could lay their hands on, to make their travel decisions more clued in rather than clueless. We received help from all quarters, including airline insiders who would slip us schedules ahead of publication so that we could have them ready and authenticated by the time flights were going to be opened for bookings. Our posts became the nerve centre of discussions on topics with respect to repatriation for the most part of the year, and we seemed to have connected quite a few people who wanted to go back home.

Looking back at the year, I am proud of some of the achievements we have had under our belt for this time of the year. We have increased our readership many folds this year, and I am hoping we continue to hold the interest of these readers as travel starts to pick up.

Of course, this has come at the cost of not taking any significant vacations this year ( I know no one did) and having to be always tuned in and talking to people, with hardly any time to decompress. So if you don’t find me around here sometimes for a day or two, I am just trying to catch up on everything else that keeps me energised, and, sometimes, just trying to open the boxes and fit in stuff in the new home we moved into a couple of months ago. Our earlier lease had expired, and both Shipra and I took the call that if working from home was the new normal, we needed to move into a place where we had enough space for desks for both of us, rather than one hanging on the dining table while the other took the study. The move happened early October 2020, but I am still trying to find some things from those 4-5 unopened boxes which are still an eyesore for me.

The Bad News

But was it all good news? Not really. As we continued to scale new heights on the readership front, revenue was not moving the needle. This was because of the pandemic again, where cpms (revenue earned per 1000 pageviews) declined. This phenomenon is not unique to us but has been seen across the digital publishing space, as advertisers cut budgets for marketing.

At LFAL, our primary source of revenue to run this free website has been advertising. Servers, content creation, etc.,  cost real money, and these have been paid for in large part by advertisers who show up and hope you click on their advertisements on this website. The trend has been very erratic, but on an overall basis, it was on the lower side as compared to pre-pandemic cpms. It has been LFAL’s goal to benefit as many people from a clearer understanding of air travel, hospitality and loyalty to help them travel better.

So, while we have not made our website a paid website or intend to put it behind a paywall, we did introduce a reader contribution option in INR and in Foreign Currency, where readers could contribute to LFAL if any of our works added value to your life. These options appear under all our posts now, which allow people to set a price for the information they receive from this website. You could contribute once, or many times, as per your wish. And even if you don’t want to pay, we continue to be free to read, as we have been for the past 9.5 years.

Of course, we have received some hate mail as well, but the feedback has been mostly positive and supportive. I can fathom it is unimaginable for some to pay for something they’ve had free from the word go, and that is fine, but the writing on the wall is clear, and things are moving in the direction of a paid model for quality content.

The Show must go on

The pandemic meant we had to hunker down on resources, and some of our new projects had to wait. Of course, when we were postponing them, we did not know this was going to be a long haul, and we are now revisiting them to see how many things can we take on sooner rather than later. It also meant I had to do double time around here, sometimes doing taxes and receipts, and other times just doing what I love doing the most, writing about the latest developments. We continue to be on the lookout for new writers to join the team, so if you think you are a good fit, drop me a line on email to tell me why should we consider hiring you or engaging with you on a one-off basis. I won’t put my email around here, but I am sure you will be able to find it somehow.

Mileage Mentor MasterClasses and PointsPurse are a go.

In 2018, we started the Mileage Mentor MasterClass, a roundup of everything you needed to know to earn and burn miles in India. We’ve had 100s of people visit these classes in person till 2019. In 2020, we pivoted to the online version, allowing more people to join in from cities we were not able to visit due to our tight schedules. As if on cue, the pandemic happened. My core thinking still hasn’t changed about the relevance of these classes. They allow you to know about the significance of the current mileage earning and burning options around us and equip you with the knowledge needed to navigate the Indian ecosystem. Travel might not be at its peak at the moment, but earning miles still is. Burning miles will soon be back in fashion too.

I look forward to these sessions and all the learning that happens on both ends of the video conference. Watch out for an announcement on a new one soon.

Similarly, Shipra continues with her beginner-level initiative PointsPurse, which intends to spread the know-how about why they should use credit products and how they can use the points systems to fund their future travels.

Thank You, Again

LiveFromALounge won’t have been where it is today without the support of its readers over the past decade or so, and for that, Thank You from the bottom of our heart. It is always heartening to see people benefit from our publications and talks, and we continue to strive to do our best every day. And if you think there is something we can do more, feel free to drop me a line, and I am happy to talk to you about it.

Stay safe, and hope to see you at an airport again, sometime soon! Back to regularly scheduled programming now.

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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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  1. Hi Ajay, I have been a follower of your content for the last few years and it has been a fascinating journey. Please keep up the great work that you have been doing.

  2. It was true heartfelt post. Happy Diwali. And wish both Shipra & Ajay a prosperous year ahead. Kudos to all your efforts & keep up the great work. This too shall pass…

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