Yatra.com's president Sharat Dhall has said that the launch of TG Rooms and TG Stays strengthens its position as India's largest provider of budget accommodation options.
Speaking to Tnooz, he said that Travelguru, its hotels bookings site, and its OTA yatra.com would sell both brands, "leveraging the Travelguru brand to offer a layer of assurance for guests."
The new brands, which launched this week with 500 properties, serve different segments of the market but are both aimed at the price-conscious traveller. TG Rooms is a branded budget accommodation line offering a standardised and curated product while TG Stays offers verified homestays.
"Budget hotels are buzzing with action," he said, "and are a large part of what people are buying."
The online branded budget accommodation sector has been one of the Indian travel market's success stories of the past eighteen months. Dedicated brands such as OYO and ZO are expanding and attracting investment, while other OTAs are looking at the sector. Ibibo recently launched GoStays, although Cleartrip's CMO Subramanya Sharma told Tnooz that it was happy to distribute these properties but was not interested in a budget branded play of its own.
Dhall noted that the TG Rooms will develop over time but initially the proposition is similar to the standalone brands - offering a consistent product and pricing under the same brand, with hotels directly connecting to distribution channels via an extranet.
As other in the sector have noted, the budget accommodation sector in India is fragmented with owners and managers often lacking in technical and digital awareness.
"There are two things holding the sector back," he said. "The ability for consumers to book budget hotels online but also concerns from consumers about exactly what they will be getting for their money. We can offer online bookings and the assurance for both owners and guests."
Travelguru, which Yatra bought from Travelocity in 2012, already has more than 40,000 budget properties on its books, the largest in India.
"We already have existing relationships in place and a presence in the market which gives us a great advantage when we are talking to budget hotels about rebranding - they know us and trust us."
TG Stays, meanwhile, is entering what Dhall described as a "nascent" market. Indian businesses such as Stayzilla - which picked up $15 million Series B this February to ramp up its alternative accommodation inventory - are active in this sector, while global players HomeAway and Airbnb have 1767 and "300+" rentals available respectively.
Dhall said: "We will take the time to verify every TG Stay we list so guests have that reassurance that Travelguru has curated their experience, so there should be no worries about whether the accommodation is any good, what is the host like, what the food will be like."
Initially TG Rooms and TG Stays will operate in leisure destinations "but we think there is potential for these brands to appeal to corporates and TMCs as well."
The brands will be sold through Yatra.com as well, and can be bundled with flight inventory to create a package. Interestingly, this option also extend to bus and rail, which will appeal to the most price-sensitive consumer.
Distribution through other OTAs and offline agents is a key part of the plan. "We are happy to distribute through whatever channel the customer wants and we are looking at partnerships," he said.
Dhall also offered an update on its recently launched AdventureNation business, a community-based portal for experiences. "It's getting popular young Indian travellers interested in experiential trips and we have a selection of verified suppliers. It's progressing quite nicely under its own steam. At the moment its only a very small part of the business but it's only going to get bigger.
Having said that, it is hotels and the Travelguru brand in particular which is driving the overall business. "We're seeing a huge increases in online and mobile hotel booking and that's what we're focussed on. The TG Rooms and TG Stays initiatives are part of our commitment to having the best quality and widest range of budget accommodations."