Faizal Siddiqui started Plannen.nl in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak
Two months later, it is already a success
Entrepreneurs find opportunities where most people find challenges. They thrive on those challenges, in fact, and turn them into successful businesses. Faizal Siddiqui is one of those entrepreneurs and Plannen.nl is one of those businesses.
Nobody could have expected that the new year would start the way it started. The COVID-19 outbreak stopped many businesses in their tracks and many have had to close down. Others have been fortunate to stay afloat, while third have taken a 180-turn and reinvented themselves.
As an entrepreneur for over 19 years now, Faizal Siddiqui knows just how important it is to be agile and adapt to the changing needs of your market. So when his company CruiseReizen.nl, one of the major cruise booking platforms out there, received the first reports of corona patients on cruise ships, he had to think on his feet.
“In 2017, we were the fastest growing B2C company in the Netherlands, which brought us the Golden FD Gazellen Award,” Faizal says. “Now, we are one of the first Dutch organizations to see their revenue slip away. And we still have no certainty about what the (near) future will bring, because tourism is at its lowest.”
So, when your revenues are down and your business stands still, what do you do? You start a new one. Or at least that's what Faizal did.
Starting a company in times of uncertainty
When things slowed down at CruiseReizen.nl, Faizal couldn’t just stand there and watch. As a founder, he has a responsibility to his team, he says - and it’s not a small team to begin with. He has 40 people on payroll.
So he started looking for opportunities among the challenges. It was his personal trainer and a favorite restaurant that pointed him in the right direction. Both needed - but didn’t have - a tool to process appointments and handle the mandatory corona administration. Faizal, in turn, had the people and the know-how to create one.
And so, Plannen.nl was born. In only a few weeks, he and a team of 10 created a platform where entrepreneurs can link their agenda, plan appointments and even integrate checks in line with the corona measures of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM).
“We have been working on Plannen.nl for two months now,” says Faizal. “The platform is live but we are not ready yet. I believe that no organization can ever be ready.” And still with that, the platform is already receiving a lot of attention and registrations from entrepreneurs and businesses that need the service.
Faizal has been able to tap into a niche that has sprung up only recently, but a niche that is more relevant now than ever before. He is the type of entrepreneur that takes a good look at the current situation, finds out what he can influence and acts on it. There are too many unknowns at the moment, so his advice for fellow entrepreneurs is to “focus on the things you have influence on. The rest will only cause stress.”
Time for another business opportunity? Perhaps even two.
For those looking for the definition of ‘serial entrepreneur’, Faizal may well be it. Plannen.nl is his third business alongside CruiseReizen.nl and SpaOnline.com, the biggest booking website for saunas and wellness centers in the Netherlands and Belgium.
“Plannen.nl will stay in our company portfolio and the same goes for the two other companies that we will launch in the coming period,” says Faizal. “What these will be is a secret for now.”
There seems to be a systematic approach to how Faizal goes about his entrepreneurial endeavors. He identifies a business opportunity, develops a solution and launches it as soon as possible in order to quickly validate it with the market. It is not about putting the most polished product out there, it is about meeting a current, pressing need that his customers have. And that, in the end, is the true value of entrepreneurship: being right where you need to be, at the right time.
Going forward, he and his team will need to play it by ear. “We notice that cruise sales are recovering again, but it will take a while to fully recover,” Faizal says. “We are confident that this will happen, though.”
For now, they have two new businesses lined up and it’s only a matter of time to see what niche they will focus on. One thing is for sure: “We will keep on innovating and we will – as always – strive for perfect customer service.”
Written by: Mina Nacheva