Ashish Kashyap is one of the few names that resonates hard in the Indian ecommerce space. He truly understands this domain having tapped its potential with ibibo Group and its array of travel properties such as Goibibo.com, redBus.in, YourBus, Ryde and TravelBoutiqueOnline. He is the CEO and founder of ibibo Group.

He has significant experience in building internet and technology businesses from scratch and scaling them, investing in entrepreneurs, driving large acquisitions and exiting assets such as Gaadi.com and PayU India.

Prior to founding ibibo Group, Ashish was the country head of Google India, wherein he set up the India facing operations from ground up. Prior to that, he founded the ecommerce businesses at Indiatimes.com and propelled it to a profitable and scale position.

In an exclusive conversation with Inc42, Ashish Kashyap talks about Goibibo’s latest initiatives. Its venture into the budget accommodation space, the acquisitions, competition and the exciting journey of ibibo Group.

Inc42: Please shed some light on Goibibo’s latest “flights +Hotels” initiative. How will this development impact the business?

Ashish: Launch of “flights + hotels” on mobile is an industry first from Goibibo. It enables consumers to buy the combo in a single flow and cart. The value proposition to the buyer is price and user experience. We are already seeing 40% growth in uptake on a week-on-week.

What is the economics behind this? We do get unique prices from sellers which we cannot display on the front end, in an unbundled state. In a bundled state, on the other hand, we are able to deliver value and savings to the travelers.

As the largest hotels aggregator in India, we want to make accommodation as the centre point of a lot of future innovations at goibibo.

Inc42: What was the reason behind acquiring a minority stake in Djubo? What are your plans for impacting the budget accommodation aggregation space?

Ashish: If you look at the ibibo ecosystem, we are solving pain points for both the sellers (hotel owner, bus operator etc) and travelers. In the hotels space, we have an application called inGoibibo that enables property owners to manage their rankings, ratings, conversion rates, content scores, yields and last minute offers. Think of this as the Google Analytics for hotels. This is one of the main reason for goibibo to have created a lead in the accommodation segment.

Investment into Djubo is further a backward integration for ibibo. Djubo, in the cloud, delivers reservation engine, channel management, booking engine and payments for the hotel owners.  Thousands of properties which lacked such a technology will now have the ability.

[Quick note about Djubo : Djubo is a one-stop 360 degree cloud-based solution for hotels. It solves 3 key challenges for hotels through a single interface: (i) it provides an app-based centralized reservation platform; (ii) it offers mobile-friendly website templates for hotels along with a booking engine & payment gateway and (iii) it provides online channel management for seamless, automated integrations with multiple online travel aggregators (OTAs). This solution has enabled hotels to not only digitize their price and inventory, but also manage their bookings from all channels, be it OTAs, their own websites, customers walking in or through travel agents, through an easy to use cloud based tool. 

Mr. Ashish Kashyap, CEO, Ibibo Group

On your question on budget accommodation, please refer to the notes below:

Ashish: Goibibo.com has officially launched GoStays on its mobile apps as well as desktop. GoStays aggregates unbranded budget accommodations across india. The platform is live in 72 cities, 862 properties, translating to 10000 rooms a day. 

GoStays value proposition is to partner with the property owners to deliver a consistent experience comprising free Wifi, breakfast, AC, television and hygienic washrooms along with a 100% money back guarantee backed by neutral ratings and reviews by the community. 

We carefully looked at all the problems and pain areas being experienced by budget hotel owners, with respect to the online brand partners as well as travellers on the other hand. As the market leader, we hence, constructed GoStays to solve these pain points with the aim to create a healthy marketplace of budget accommodations.

There are 5 significant value differentiators for GoStays .

To begin with it is the 100% money back guarantee. There are significant trust issues in this unorganised space and Goibibo wants to remove this trust deficit.

By booking GoStays on Goibibo, travellers get to stay in exactly the property and location that they have booked. As per Goibibo’s research, travellers checking into the current branded budget properties get bounced around which creates massive dissatisfaction levels. GoStays ensures to deliver the property and location that has been booked by the travelers.  

GoReviews, user generated content and reviews by Goibibo. GoStays is the only budget platform with neutral user reviews and ratings comprising real pictures by guests.

Robust technology & processes for each property that enables the owners to increase their yields and manage a better fulfilment process. GoStays is leveraging technology to increase the yields for the hotel owner.

All properties are co-branded, thereby not taking away from the long term identity of the hotel owner and at the same time ensuring that the hotel’s own brand is not hurt. 

Inc42: MakeMyTrip recently launched the country’s first vernacular railway booking app and plans to do the same for its flight booking service as well. How do you plan on creating a disruption in the transportation and ticketing space?

Ashish: My personal opinion is that creating interfaces in local languages is valuable to some extent, but not a disruption. I think that as mobile internet further penetrates the problem will need to be solved by not just local languages but by use of “symbols”, “pneumonics”, “pictures” and “sound”.  And this will need to be unique for India.

The way we look at it is that there are 250 Mn to 300 Mn internet users. Of that there are 50 Mn online travel users (end users and not agents).  We believe that there is still a massive headroom to grow amongst the current audience and we want to constantly improve the user experience via all our properties. Our reach via Goibibo, redBus etc. is already the largest in the country.

From our vantage point, we will first take redBus into local languages because of its reach in II and III tier cities and towns. We have already made the redBus platform global, multi-language and multi-currency ready.

There are several things that we are doing in the transportation and ticketing space. redBus live-tracking for travelers and bus operators is a massive value. redBus bus operator facing analytics platform is yet another unique value. The recent launch of carpooling app, Ryde is yet another effort towards solving pain points in the transportation space. Multi routes, multi air and bundling flights + accommodation are several other things that we are executing in the transportation and ticketing space.

Inc42: What caused the fiasco where Ixigo’s content was posted on Goibibo? What steps have you taken to avoid such incidents?

Ashish: From our vantage point it was not a fiasco. On the other hand, this episode helped us to organise the hotel generated content even better and remove a lot of less value content and focus harder on user generated content.

Hotels in India are given an app, ingoibibo.com, which they use for uploading content, pictures, offers, last minutes deals, amenities, rules, policies as well as a short description (besides powerful analytics). We verify every property listing along with meta information such as location and amenities. There is a physical verification and onboarding process too. However, the unstructured short descriptors uploaded by hotel owners had these common pieces of content. The minute we discovered that there are commonalities in this part of the content, we not only solved the problem, but also removed the short descriptor all together from all 30000+ hotels so that there is no room for any discrepancies in the future.

Why did we do so? We realised that the unstructured short descriptors, in any case, was not valuable from a buyers’ point of view, and the content in every website will always have similarities as we cannot think of hotels imagining unique descriptors for every platform where they distribute.

What matters to buyers is structured content and clear communication around price, booking rules, location, nearby locations, amenities, policies and room level content.

Furthermore, we have a very large volume of proprietary user-generated content and user-generated picture reviews, which is not only valuable for the bookers, but also creates unique content on our platform which will never be similar to any other website.

Inc42: What new launches can we expect in the flight ticketing segment of Goibibo?

Ashish: We will take our flights plus hotels to outbound as one of the next steps. Our flight search engine’s performance is further enhanced and is multiple times faster than any engine out there in the market. We will be deploying this across routes and mobile shortly. I would encourage people to take a performance test on the desktop app of goibibo.

We are also launching new exciting features on GoCash. On the hotels side, we are enhancing our community and user generated content play.

Inc42: What are your expansion plans for the Ibibo Group?

Ashish:

  • Increase the width and depth of accommodations on Goibibo to 100k
  • Penetrate redBus in new territories both domestic and international
  • Scale our carpooling app, Ryde
  • Scale the recently launched GoStays
  • Build more technologies and tools for bus operators, accommodation and car owners
  • Enhance our user generated content platform

Inc42: From being a social network to an OTA, what are some of the major challenges that you faced during this journey of Goibibo? After ecommerce, travel, gaming and payment, what other domains are on Ibibo’s radar?

Ashish: ibibo started as a green-fields incubator. We incubated several ideas. For me, this was an exciting phase of my life as I got hands-on exposure to every sphere of internet. As is with every incubation platform, some ideas fail while some take off. For us the travel and payments play took off. As we further scaled and then acquired redBus, we further decided to single mindedly focus on solving problems in the online transportation and accommodation sector. Therefore, we exited auto and payments and developed ibibo into the largest online travel player in the country.

There have been several challenges in our journey. In the earlier part of our journey, the key challenge was deciding when to kill and when to step on it. People management, hiring and training are the other big challenges we came across as we scaled. We overcame the same via highly inclusive culture and at the same time driven by the “Done” spirit, i.e value of execution is greater than an idea.  Furthermore, in the travel space we decided to focus on categories with network effects. Ex : Bus, hotels and car pooling.

Inc42: What lies ahead on the product roadmap for Goibibo?

Ashish: We are building several mobile first features that will deliver disproportionate value for travelers and accommodation owners. We are taking the user participation and contribution to yet another level. Soon to be announced!

Inc42: Are you planning any mergers/acquisitions in the near future?

Ashish: No comments

According to IAMAI, the Indian Online Travel Industry was worth $7.3 Bn in 2013 and is estimated to reach $12.5 Bn in 2015. It also states that online travel in India, over the years has been the largest Digital Commerce segment in terms of revenue generation. This space has a lot of potential and even though there are other major players like MakeMyTrip, Cleartrip and Yatra operating in this space, ibibo Group seems to have a steady footing. Its decision to diversify into the budget accommodation space with GoStay might prove to be key differentiator for the group.

There is a lot happening in the online travel space. Even Paytm is gearing up to launch its online travel agency (OTA); and with Alibaba investing close to $830 Mn in the mobile wallet and ecommerce company for an extra 30% stake, the OTA is expected to be modelled after Alitrip – Alibaba’s online travel business. Let’s wait and watch!

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