At OYO, the focus for the future is on strengthening the tech stack to increase revenues while making operations hassle-free for their patrons. In conversation with Travel Turtle, Rohit Kapoor, CEO – India & South-East Asia, OYO shares how they ensure a seamless user experience and unveil
- How do you see the hospitality industry being redefined in this post-COVID world? To what extent, do you feel there’s a need for the digital transition and tech-savvy tourism to revive sectors and businesses?
The timing of complete recovery in the hospitality sector is highly uncertain as the pandemic is still not subsided with the new omicron variant. The industry has gone under transformation. At OYO, we’ve always been a tech-focused organization. We utilized the COVID downtime to improve existing – and introduce new – technologies and products for our stakeholders – our patrons & customers. We work with over thousands of hotels and homeowners globally while utilizing our technology and revenue growth capabilities to ease operations and build successful businesses for them. OYO offers SMBs and entrepreneurs an identity, a brand, and a technology stack to compete in this new environment and create an overall transformative business lift. Our tech improvements have made OYO’s consumer app the 3rd most downloaded travel app (apps that enable hotel/flight bookings and do not include maps, cabs, railways and other local services) globally in 2020 (as per Sensor Tower).
- What is that one thing you would place your bet upon, that could transform the country’s tourism and hospitality scenario and why?
My bet would be on the industry being as tech and product-first as possible. New technologies may take the centre stage and Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning along with other technologies could continue to shape the post-COVID world. I also believe that for the young and new leaders, there’s an opportunity to introduce tech-based solutions for your customers. There’s increasing adaptability towards technology. It is being seen as an enabler.
- How did you engage with your consumers during the pandemic?
Last year, we launched several initiatives for customers, such as ‘Contactless Check-in’ which essentially lets you check into an OYO hotel from anywhere eliminating the physical touchpoints. Our initiative, ‘Sanitised Before Your Eyes (SBYE)’ provides on-demand sanitization for customers at certain storefronts. We also launched ‘Yo! Help’, a 24*7 real-time chat assistant for guests with a valid booking across its hotels and homes globally. During March 31, 2021, over 72 per cent of all responses to consumers were automated via this tool itself. In addition to this, we undertook various initiatives in the first wave, for example as part of ‘OYO CARE’ we partnered with various state Ministries and local authorities we partnered with various state ministries and local authorities to offer storefronts to be used as quarantine and self-isolation facilities at affordable prices. We partnered with government and private hospitals to provide quarantine centres and accommodation for healthcare professionals and essential workers. We worked closely with several diplomatic missions in India to arrange accommodation for stranded tourists from various countries across different cities in India during the nationwide lockdown from March to May 2020. During Fiscal 2021, we provided thousands of booked nights to hospital staff and asymptomatic patients, accommodation to returning expatriate Indians during their mandatory quarantines and last-mile accommodation support to corporate customers during various lockdowns in India.
- The industry has evolved more in the past 18 months than it did in the past decade. OTAs have taken the industry by storm. What do you have to say about the dynamics changing so rapidly?
Customer interactions with businesses, including the ones in the short-stay accommodation market, are increasingly becoming digital as the growing preference for convenience and seamless experience takes customers online. COVID-19 has further propelled digital adoption with an increased preference for convenience and safety.
In the fast-growing on-demand use case category, OYO is well-positioned to cater to the rising on-demand bookings, along with the usual leisure/business demand, due to its large footprint, wide choice of accommodation types available to cater to customers across various paying capacities, D2C channel to provide ease of booking and a promise to offer a standardised experience. This has powered OYO’s share of same-day bookings to be 4x+ of organised hotel chains on an average in India, in the pre-COVID period.
- It’s been said that countries that are able to vaccinate their population will be racing ahead of their counterparts. There is enough scientific evidence to prove that fully vaccinated people carry lesser health risks compared to non-vaccinated people. In what ways and period will our vaccination drives be bringing tourism back on track?
Most countries have made progress in vaccinating people against COVID-19 over the last 6 months. Developed countries such as certain European countries and the United States have been ahead of the curve in terms of vaccination coverage, and are planning to provide booster doses to older and vulnerable populations in autumn of 2021. Developing countries such as India and Indonesia plan to complete vaccinations for the entire population by the end of 2021. As of September 20, 2021, 808.6 million vaccination doses have been administered in India. Hotels and homes across the world have adopted safety practices for activities relating to reception, concierge, technical and maintenance services, cleaning and housekeeping and common areas such as restaurants and gyms, amongst others. Besides these basic practices, businesses have been deploying technology to facilitate online and contactless interactions and transactions across various touchpoints.