I’m not usually the one to celebrate milestones, but today feels just the right time to write a bit of a personal note to all of you who have been with us on the journey of LiveFromALounge for the past nine years or so. I know of readers who have been around since day one, and I know of readers who have been with us just a few days now. The first thing I want to say to all of you is,
Yes. Thank You, readers, for coming back, many times daily, to read about stuff we think is relevant to your travels. Without you, there is no LiveFromALounge. I think of LFAL more as a community of readers where we just help open up new discussions and keep them going, but 4,239 published articles (excluding this one!) and 23,500 comments later, I also think of us as a family I run into at airports or hotels.
The first post just read, in Computer Science form, Hello World. What would you expect from a Computer Science graduate! I still believe, The Journey is the Reward, just as I believed nine years ago when I founded this digital property. Mistakes were made, as I did not realise many people would pronounce Live (the adverb) as Live (stay in a place).
The blog is up and the first post is on! The journey is the reward… http://shar.es/HyAFT
— Ajay Awtaney (@LiveFromALounge) July 21, 2011
The Evolution of Live From A Lounge
Over the years, LFAL moved from just being a blog to being a digital property, working with the website and getting into social media, and more recently, into YouTube. Our core focus has continued to be to build a collective platform for the needs of a traveller, rather than a tourist, which include content about airlines and aviation, hotels and hospitality, generating value with credit card spends for travel and loyalty programmes.
What has been of personal significance to me has been how, for me as an outsider when I stepped into this space, how the industry welcomed us due to our USP of being specialists on the subject, ignoring the fact that digital media was not a thing to include in interactions about a decade ago. From my conversations with people who refer to us for air travel insights, we moved the goalpost from looking for the cheapest fare to looking at air travel decisions more wholesomely, including passenger experience, loyalty and so on in the mix.
What also makes me happy is that we started to bring people to realise the true potential of their credit cards. I still get a lot of smirks from people who think of credit as a bad thing or points as pennies, but if it was all bad, I wonder how we inspired a whole league of Indian credit card review websites over the years.
Recently, we started to offer the Mileage Mentor MasterClass, for those who want to optimise their earn and burn and want to get a sense of things in an interactive environment (Next one is this weekend!), and the PointsPurse, exclusive space to start into Credit Cards for women who are apprehensive about it otherwise or don’t know how to go about it. We haven’t still reached our true potential, and more is on its way.
We are about four months into a CoronaVirus induced grounding, but I do believe that travel will come back, and it will come back strong. Virtual screens will not take over human interactions for good, and a few months will not be enough for people to be convinced to stay cooped up inside their homes forever.
The minute we can decide we want to live with the virus or we can live without it after vaccination is found, we will be able to make the switch back to planning to visit families and friends or just the unknown to us to take in cultures, food and everything in between.
For us, between Shipra and me, we have been staying indoors through and through. The last flight we took was back in March 2020, when the day after the WHO declared CoVid-19 to be a pandemic when I was at my in-laws to celebrate Holi with them, we decided to pack up and leave given the chaos we thought was up ahead. Since then, we have been on the brink of booking a plane ride a couple of times, but for now, we are holding back.
CoronaVirus and its impact on us
For those who would have closely followed, the impact of the virus has not taken away our determination to bring the correct information to you, in good time. April flew by in a second, as we tried and figured out what would we focus on at LFAL given the pandemic. We’ve held back some of our trip reports because it did not feel like the right moment to post it.
For the time being, our focus has been and will continue to simplifying the questions in the minds of everyone for how they can travel and when they can travel.
We also appreciate the fact that the CoronaVirus induced travel restrictions around the world have caused a lot of people, including our readers, to be displaced around the world. While we spent a lot of April and May helping many of them 1-1 to get back home, we have been writing a lot about special flights to/from India to help everyone get home. There are many questions, and we do hope we can answer them to the best our ability by talking to people who are undertaking these repatriation flights, to the officials who are behind the scenes working on it and so on.
The virus has also caused a lot of financial pain to a lot of travel businesses and associated stuff such as F&B, all a part of the experience. While we personally supported where we could over time, we continue to believe in the potential of travel to bring people together, and we will be doing everything we can to help businesses as well as the travellers alike. This has meant a broader coverage over a period of time, such as smaller boutique hotels where we believe customers get an excellent value for their dime.
Long before the pandemic, it was a part of the thought process to move from being an advertising revenue supported website to a reader-revenue supported one. I’ve believed for the longest time that everyone should have access to this platform we have built. Still, we also wanted people to appreciate that information won’t be available for free forever. However, the 3-5-10 stories a month free and then paid model is not something that was sitting well with me because it was too complicated to remember which site you had how many free stories left.
Also, we did not want to bar people from accessing information because they were unable to pay. So, we believed that people should be able to consume our content whenever they want and pay as much as they want for it. A sort of a freemium approach, where no amount is too small and no amount is too big.
We sat on the idea for a while and hoped to implement it smoothly in our next iteration of the website. But the pandemic hit, and we’ve seen the revenue from advertising jump off a cliff, just like air traffic, going down 90-95% in many cases. Hence, after talking to a small user-group, we went ahead with placing the Support Us footer on the website which you see repeated under every story.
I’d say we’ve received many brickbats over bouquets for this move, but I’d just like to leave it out here about our thought process behind the whole move. If you’d like to help us, you could help us from anywhere around the world. If you’d like to establish a monthly payout to us, drop us an email, and we will set it up with you.
Back to the Celebrations!
To be honest, this is not how I had envisaged our 9th year to close at. We had some exciting projects in the works which we have postponed for now as everyone grapples with what they call is the new normal. We wanted to throw a small gala to celebrate our nine years with readers, and perhaps give out some prizes as well just like we did a few years ago. But as travel finds its feet again, and it will, we thought there would be a more appropriate time to celebrate the resurgence of travel.
For now, I’d just like to thank my family and Shipra, who has been very patient through the whole process over the years, and to celebrate the occasion did also bake a cake at home for the both of us!
Thank you again, dear readers, we won’t have come this far without you. Looking forward to seeing you at a hotel, airport, airplane, or a lounge, hopefully soon! Till then, stay safe, stay home, and wear a mask when you are not home! Personally, I am excited to see the start of our golden decade!