Ibibo Group, the largest online travel business in India in terms of transaction volumes, is building up a portfolio of integrated consumer-facing brands, supported by an innovative approach to B2B tools.
The group founder and CEO Ashish Kashyap talked to Tnooz following its latest consumer-facing innovation - namely the launch of new function on its Android and IoS apps which allow goibibo.com users to book a flight-and-hotel package in a single transaction.
The "excellent example of technology, user experience and design innovation" comes a month or so after another tech first from the group - a meta-app for taxis which it launched under the Ryde brand.
"We want these brands to be more than just standalone - we want them to be keywords," said Ashish, who's pre-Ibibo CV include a stint as country head of Google India, effectively in charge of launching the search giant's Indian business, giving him an insight into the importance of brand recognition.
"So when people think about 'travel and hotels' travel we want them to think 'goibibo.com'; for cars its Ryde and for buses its RedBus. But we're working on some beautiful integrations in the backend as well which is great for the consumer and we're seeing the bottom-line benefits as well."
And a vital component of this beautiful integration is Ibibo Group's approach to B2B. It recently bought Djubo, a cloud-based hotel IT business, to ramp up its existing service for hoteliers.
"For us, B2B is all about creating value on the B2C side. So as an example, as we built up our hotel platform we realised that a lot of hoteliers were not using technology for operations or business reasons. So we introduced Ingoibibo as a simple web tool for our hotel partners to manage their inventory, work on improving yields, get a better idea of their competitive set.
"But we want this sell-side application to deliver results on the buy-side as well, so we encourage hoteliers to use Ingoibibo by using it as part of the ranking on goibibo.com. If a hotelier responds quickly to reviews, or if they upload lots of quality images, they appear higher up the rankings and stand a better chance of selling.
"The Djubo deal gives us a whole new range of possibilities of working with hoteliers to help them sell more on our site."
The Indian hotel sector is currently seeing the emergence of an entire new market segment - the online aggregated budget accommodation providers. Businesses such as OYO Rooms, Zo Rooms and Vista Rooms, to name but three, work with budget hotels on providing consistent experience and service under an umbrella brand, offering them direct and indirect distribution options as well.
Ibibo Group is also active in the sector via its "Go Stays" brand, but has a different approach.
"Goibibo aggregates the Go Stays accommodations onto its platform and standardizes the fulfilment of the payment process with some consistency of the offer. But we don't want to be a hotel management company. So we have a channel on the web site branded Go Stays where we sell a range of alternative accommodations.
"These properties are co-branded as 'Powered by Go Stays' because for many hoteliers their business is their life and we don't want to take their individuality away.
"Also, we think that some hoteliers are afraid of losing control of their pricing and yield as well as the name of their hotel. We work with them behind the scenes on areas where they need help, so getting the exact location is important, making sure that the pictures they use are representative.
"Again, we have a deep technology relationship with these hotels so they can perform better on our platforms."
The Indian online travel market is dominated by local players such as Ibibo, as well as Cleartrip, MakeMyTrip, Yatra and Ixigo. Most global OTAs have a presence in the market "but do not a have a significant share," according to Kashyap.
"India is very fast-moving while also being quite labour-intensive...We have 200, 300 people on the ground working with hotels. And the market is very fast moving, It's hard for a global player to operate in the market because you need an entrepreneurial approach to be able to respond and keep up."