Pack light or pack heavy? This is the woe on every traveler's mind.
CEO Eyal Azoulay has made it his mission to fill this gap in the market with the first-ever brand of collapsible (and stylish) luggage, Rollink.
Frequent travelers no longer have to pick. They can pack heavy while feeling they are packing light; all while keeping sustainability in mind.
Spotlight: How did you travel before the idea of Rollink?
Eyal Azoulay: The travel industry has changed dramatically. However, nothing has really changed in the luggage industry. A couple of startups such as Raden and Bluesmart tried to bring innovation to the industry, but none of them managed to become international brands. When we tried to pinpoint the reasons for their failure, we discovered that their innovations were too complicated, or great ideas on the one hand, but not applying to the airline’s regulations on the other. This helped us to stay focused on smart, simple and practical, yet stylish product design.
What’s missing in the luggage and travel accessories market that Rollink tries to address?
Travel products and solutions that suit the needs of the new traveler. A focus on user experience and not only on the solution. When we travel, our bags, suitcase, any item which contains our belongings, are a kind of extension of our body. When thinking about luggage this way, it is clear that it must be smart, practical, easy to use and suit your style and self-impression, similarly to the Apple iWatch.
We have seen some new brands popping up in the last couple of years and have been following them carefully. However, we have not seen any innovation in the products or thoughts about user experience. If you look into their products, you can easily see that there is only a new marketing channel (online) and unique storytelling. At the end of the day, they are just replacing the old brick and mortar stores that used to sell luggage before.
Was it challenging to get investments for an innovative product such as yours?
Our investor established one of the biggest plastic companies in the world. He foresaw the changes in the travel industry many years ago and knew that there is a great opportunity for disruption. Once you believe in what you are doing, the next phases become clear. The pandemic accelerated this opportunity. By shutting off the travel industry for two years, Covid19 created a once in a lifetime opportunity for the travel industry. That is why lots of people are investing in the travel industry now.
What were the top 3 biggest challenges during product development?
- The balance between innovation and regulation: technology today has amazing solutions that can be implemented in a suitcase. However, there are lots of security and industry regulations that the products must comply with. It is a very delicate balance.
- Finding the right places to manufacture: 99% of all suitcases are manufactured in the Far East. The know-how is there, it’s a fact. This region has gone through very hard times in the past three years. Developing and moving from dev to production is almost impossible when you cannot fly and work with your partners day by day. Thanks to our connections, we found good partners and developed new skills and ways to work remotely. Today we have a strong structure of partners in different countries and we have developed methods of collaboration that eliminated all the constraints we had when the pandemic started.
- Instability of freight costs: all logistics services have been raised dramatically. A couple of months ago, the cost to ship one container from the Far East to the US was 10 times more than it was in 2019! Thanks to our patents (which are pending), we can ship 4x more suitcases than any other luggage company in the world. By doing that, our carbon footprint is much better than all other “sustainable” brands, and we are more affordable when it comes to the final price for our customers.
How does Rollink address the travel woes of modern-day travelers like digital nomads, business travelers, frequent travelers and the like?
We are following their trends, learning their needs, and loading all this data we are collecting to our Research & Development studio. We spoke to professionals in cross industries such as airports, airlines, aviation security, consumers goods, technology and blend all that data together.
Our first product line, the FLEX, comes in 3 different levels, and is the slimmest hard-shell luggage in the world. It was developed for the modern traveler, who needs a better storage solution for his luggage. Today, we travel more. We need luggage to be accessible. Not all available accommodation solutions have big rooms. Having foldable luggage makes it very accessible, easy to store, without giving up on durability, weight or functionality. For business travelers we developed the Premium range called Flex Aura with a front pocket for easy access for laptops/tablets
What did you envision Rollink to be as a brand?
Always moving, always on the go to develop smarter and practical solutions for travelers. We sell in more than 25 countries around the globe at the best departments stores and online sites as Macy’s in the US, KA DE WE in Germany and Manor is Switzerland. The brand is a huge success in different areas of the globe. We are looking into expanding our business to other countries and gaining more market share in the regions where we are already operating.
What’s next for Rollink? How do you plan to continuously produce innovative products for modern-day travelers?
In 2023 we are going to launch two new ranges. One of them is the first collapsible hard-shell 4 wheels luggage in the world. The other one, which we are going to launch in April, is going to change the way people use their luggage. We worked hard during Covid19 and prepared for this period, so there is a lot to come.
Please share five pieces of advice to entrepreneurs, startups and other businesses in the same industry so they can keep up with the new trends and thrive in the luggage and travel industry.
1. Build a good team – this is essential. Rollink is made by teamwork. We do not always agree on everything, but every morning each one of us wakes up to fulfill the same vision.
2. Believe – do something you believe in; it will help you to know you are on the right track even when things do not work as you planned.
3. Stay focused – along the way you will encounter lots of opportunities, proceed only with the ones that lead you to the goal you set when you started.
4. Know your competitors and do something different – learning what your competitors are doing and doing something similar might be the shorter way, but remember, if it was easy for you, it is easy for anyone else.
5. Find good partners – you will have to use third-party service providers along the way, so choose well and consider them as partners on the journey.
Why is sustainable transport such as having flexible, stylish and durable luggage a must now for frequent travelers?
Global warming is here. It is not a joke. We can see and feel how it affects all of us. On the other hand, we cannot change the world in one day and simply stop polluting it. We need to be realistic. Each one of us needs to try and decrease their carbon footprint as much as possible. People will move across the globe more frequently, and they will need their belongings. Luggage and bags will continue to be made of raw materials based on oil. All of this will not change in the next couple of years.
Our contribution to these situations is to focus on shipping luggage all the way to the customer with as little space as possible. By being 4x more efficient than all other luggage brands in the transportation of luggage when it is not in use, and by saving space at home, we are decreasing the carbon footprint of suitcases around the globe. When a traveler buys a new Rollink, they can be sure that they did something good for themselves and for the Earth.