India's MakeMyTrip has launched Rightstay, a standalone brand dedicated to alternative accommodation across the country.
The inventory includes villas, apartments, home-stays and guesthouses. The website and Android app are live today with 10,000 bookable properties in 200 cities. One reason cited for the launch is that the brand will open up to Indian travellers "remote parts of the country that were earlier out of reach as conventional stay option of hotels are scarce in these regions."
The model is familiar - hosts can register their properties and communicate with guests through the platform before booking.
And the phrasing of the release talks the talk in terms of "enabling customers to rent unique places that offer a great, authentic experience" and "connecting travelers to local hosts and building a strong community."
Airbnb is the obvious reference point here. In an interview with Forbes India in September, its country manager Amanpreet Bajaj said that India was a strategic priority for the business, and that Airbnb was currently looking to raise awareness of the brand for domestic and outbound travel.
It has a deal with Thomas Cook India, allowing Indians to book an Airbnb package at a high street agent, and has a marketing tie-up in place with The Times Group, India's biggest media group. Earlier this month it started working with authorities in the state of Gujarat to boost domestic and international tourism to the region.
MakeMyTrip's rivals also have an interest in alternative accommodation - Yatra.com operates TG Stays brand, while heavily funded IbiboGroup has GoStays.
Ad there are some smaller players involved as well - Stayzilla has picked up some $30m in funding since its launch in 2013 and claims to have 30,000 properties on its books. Airbnb has 18,000.
MakeMyTrip wants Rightstay to have 100,000 by the end of next year.
Deepak Tuli, senior VP growth business at MakeMyTrip, is running Rightstay and has a dedicated team in place. He said in the statement that "we hope to leverage the demand, traffic and brand advantage that we have to create a unique position for ourselves in the alternate accommodation category."
The fragmented nature of accommodation in India saw the branded budget aggregators such as OYO comes to fore a year or so ago. It now looks as if alternative accommodation is, as MakeMyTrip's CEO India Rajesh Magow said, "the next big thing".