Rochdale entrepreneurs adapt services through Covid-19 pandemic

Date published: 25 August 2020

As the nationwide lockdown took hold in late March due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, Rochdale entrepreneurs Eddie Daniels and Aftab Ali of Booking Online Ltd - a live reservation system for party rental companies - were concerned.

The events industry, which is the lifeblood of the digital marketing and software firm, came to a grinding halt. Industries such as party planning, weddings, events and festivals, bars, restaurants and schools suddenly shut resulting in shockwaves for their clients, after an already difficult winter trading period. 

Booking Online managing director, Eddie Daniels said: “As an industry largely made up of self-employed businesses, the impacts of Covid-19 restrictions were devastating. Very few businesses were eligible for any financial support and the period where the industry is most active was locked down. Our client base was put into a very difficult situation and hundreds of businesses turned to us for support and guidance.”

The first few weeks of lockdown were particularly difficult for this multi-award-winning business. Eddie, alongside co-owner Aftab Ali, was forced to take action.

Eddie, who was expanding the US branch of the business, had to make an emergency return to the UK, and their team of 18 staff began working from home, whilst Aftab and a small core team continued to work from the office working shifts to minimise physical interactions.

Behind the scenes, the management team kept a close eye on government guidelines, lobbying MPs and crafting marketing strategies to help their client base adapt to the new climate.

Aftab said: “Our industry is very sensitive to weather conditions, health and safety revisions, new product trends and ever-changing technology, so we are used to thinking on our feet and adapting to new situations.”

As May arrived, the hard work and round-the-clock shifts began to pay dividends, with the development of new marketing strategies such as ‘Stay at Home’ parties as well as time buffer tools to allow for cleaning between rental periods and a true contactless digital disclaimer system (the first of its kind) were rolled out to their global audience.

They even formulated their own EN1276 approved anti-bacterial cleaners exclusive to their clients - supplied at cost.

By June, Booking Online’s staff were able to return to the office as restrictions began to ease - the demand for their Covid-19 friendly systems rapidly increased across the world, especially in the US and Canada. The company broke many online sales records in June, closing 300% more sales in one month alone compared to 2019.

Eddie said: “We’ve been working incredibly hard behind the scenes, developing new systems and products to allow our customers to survive and thrive through this uncertain period. We have invested in huge chunks of development at zero cost to our customers and committed to a comprehensive development plan that will continue to keep our business at the forefront of this vibrant industry.

“We know that our clients’ success is our success and that is what drives us forward.”

In July, 16 weeks after the UK lockdown came into effect in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, Booking Online has seen event bookings jump from a global low of just 800 events, to 67,000 - and climbing.

Aftab added: “It really is amazing. We are a close-knit team that pulled together when things looked very uncertain. Confidence in our service and abilities, with decades of industry experience allowed us to come together and find a new lane for us, and our clients.”

Founded in 2011, Booking Online Ltd has grown to provide websites and online booking systems to over 3,500 event rental businesses, processing over 2m bookings valued at over $640m, across 14 countries.

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