PT Indonesia Assist Card, The Indonesian Arm of World Leader in Travel Assistance

Sandeep Bangara, President Director, Assist Card
Sandeep Bangara, President Director, Assist Card

PT Indonesia Assist Card, The Indonesian Arm of World Leader in Travel Assistance

“It's an honour to receive this award and the credit for this goes to my team and Mr. Federico Tarling our Global Chief Service officer who work tirelessly to ensure that our cardholders are safe whenever they travel,” Sandeep Bangara shared how he felt about the “Company of the Year 2021” acknowledgement.

Sandeep Bangara, President Director, leads in Indonesia the world’s leading company in comprehensive travel assistance founded in Switzerland in 1972, and a member of the Starr Companies Group since 2011.

Established decades back in Switzerland, Assist Card, is a pioneer in developing the concept of assisting people on trips, offering them immediate service in case of any event anywhere in the world, 24/7, in their language and without the need to disburse any money.

With a dynamic team of 1200 professionals spread across the world, it manages the world’s largest global network of providers with high-quality standards, with the ability to efficiently solve from the simplest to the most complex problems, through a single contact, either by telephone, through the website or from any mobile device with the ASSIST CARD application.

Since its inception, ASSIST CARD knew how to adapt to constantly changing needs, requirements and travel trends. Thus, it has expanded its services throughout the years, intending to always provide solutions that meet expectations and satisfy customers’ needs.

In an unfiltered conversation with The CEO Magazine’s Editor, Purnima Narang, Sandeep shared about his journey at Assist Card, challenges, leadership, pandemic and much more. Have a look:

TCM: Sandeep, why don’t you share with our readers, when and how did you incept your leadership journey at the Company of the Year 2021 organization, Assist Card?

Sandeep: My association with ASSIST CARD began in 2008 when we launched a co-branded product with Bajaj Allianz. In 2009, I started to represent ASSIST CARD from Singapore and handled the India, Indonesia, and Philippine markets. I navigated through the journey at Assist Card from Regional Business Manager – Asia and the Middle East to President Director – Indonesia in 2014 as I took over the business in Indonesia.

TCM: That’s great Sandeep! Was acceptance a challenge while incepting. Take us through your hurdles in your journey?

Sandeep: The challenge was in 2014 when I moved from being an employee to being an entrepreneur. The responsibility to the company as well as the staff is immense. One needs to start from ground level and work one way up in building infrastructure and gaining market confidence. None of it would have been possible if not for the support of my team and Federico Tarling the global CSO of ASSIST CARD.

TCM: Tell us in detail about your distinct services and products.

Sandeep: Our services are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to assist travellers when the unexpected occurs. Ranging from a high medical complexity contingency that may require a medical plane transfer, to assist in the recovery of lost luggage.

TCM: What are the most significant challenges you face today being at the forefront in your niche?

Sandeep: The market is always evolving, and we have to keep up with it. It could be in terms of product or technology. ASSIST CARD has always been ahead in the game.

TCM: What according to you is your biggest USP that differentiates your organization from similarly sized players in the Indian market?

Sandeep: I believe, the USP of our organization is that we are available anytime, anywhere and for any reason. We sell and service our products. Therefore, our responses are quick to ensure customer satisfaction. Right from the CEO, CSO and country heads our way of operating is to have a “hands on approach” that’s a clear differentiator for ASSIST CARD.

TCM: Shed some light on your team. How did you build a dynamic team?

Sandeep: My team has been with me since inception. The oldest has 17 years of service to ASSIST CARD. I look for people who have “fire in the belly” and is self-driven. My team has a free hand as I believe in empowerment. End of the day the results must show.

TCM: What motivates you as a leader? And, how do you keep your team driven?

Sandeep: As a leader, what keeps me motivated is assisting. I would say, helping travellers or people have become part of me. Rather, you can say part of my system. As a leader, I keep myself motivated and keep an eye out for new opportunities.

The team is empowered to make their own decisions that give them a sense of belonging. In addition, they receive good incentives based on performance.

TCM: What are some of the key technological transformations in your space, especially post-pandemic?

Sandeep: ASSIST CARD has always been ahead of the curve in terms of technology. We were paperless much before the pandemic started. ASSIST CARD has invested millions in state-of-the-art technology and mobile applications to prover our travellers timely and best service.

TCM: What are the awards and milestones that you are most proud of?

Sandeep: I am proud to be part of ASSIST CARD, it’s a big family. When the team achieves its goals there is great satisfaction but what is priceless is when a traveller is assisted and is happy with our services. ASSIST CARD this November, received recognition for its 50 years of leadership in the travel assistance category at the 15th edition of the Bitácora del Mensajero Turístico Awards

TCM: How would you define success? Is there a secret mantra to success?

Sandeep: My definition of success can be witnessed through the seamless workflow, smooth handling of a case, and a happy traveller.

I believe, there is no secret to success. Hard work, integrity, being humble, and never forgetting where one came from will always lead to success. Keep trying and never give up.

TCM: Could you talk about your company’s business performance through 2020, key learnings, and your expansion plan for 2021?

Sandeep: 2020 saw the complete disruption in the travel industry. We had to struggle to keep our heads out of water. ASSIST CARD was one of the first travel assistance companies to add COVID – 19 cover to its products. We are now in our recovery mode and will look at expansion in 2022.

TCM: What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs looking to venture into the industry?

Sandeep: Travel continues to evolve. According to the SAP Concur study, 38% of millennials want to take an international bucket list trip in 2021. Older travellers (55 years and up) are more interested in staying closer to home. Now that billions of doses have been administered worldwide and the number of vaccinations continues to climb, one thing is certain: the travel industry will return.

Those who stay engaged with customers now and reassure their safety will reap the rewards when those customers choose to travel again. The future of travel will include reassurance in many ways. Just as 9/11 changed travel, the pandemic will leave travellers more aware of health measures.

TCM: Has your company been associated with corporate social responsibilities? If yes, how?

Sandeep: Yes, we extend our helping hand to society and as a part of the same, we have been providing food and stationery to orphanages. In Argentina, where our head office is located, we have also built houses for the poor that was personally handled by our then CEO Ms. Alexia Keglevich. CSR has and will always be an important part of ASSIST CARD.

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