Recently listed Indian travel technology company, RateGain, is making a dent in global markets with innovative technology, aimed at helping travel and hospitality companies gain a higher wallet share of their customers. Post-pandemic, the need for tech adoption has accelerated multi-fold, which has put RateGain in a sweet spot to capture the opportunity. BusinessLine spoke with Bhanu Chopra, Founder and CEO, RateGain Travel Technologies Ltd, on the company’s plans, outlook for the travel sector and new innovations being developed to capture the opportunities ahead.


Are you concerned about rising inflation impacting travel? 

No. I’m not concerned is the quick answer, but we live in a very volatile world so maybe my answer might change a quarter from now. I feel travel has become such a huge need for humans that I see a whole lot of pent-up demand translating into a crazy amount of bookings.

You look at airfares and hotels, it’s all going through the roof, given the demand. I usually hear people say ‘Roti, Kapda, Makaan’ . I say its ‘Roti, Kapda, Makaan and travel.  Tourism markets in 10 of the top 20 markets, already exceed pre-Covid levels. 


Post-pandemic the travel industry is looking for newer technology. How has that impacted the way you develop your products?

There is much faster digital adoption post-Covid 19. There is a much greater need for digitisation. As a result, we saw an acceleration in adoption of our tech products, especially our new AI- and ML-based products.

We actually doubled down and built a bunch of new products. A new department I put together called RG labs, rolled out a bunch of new products. Prior to Covid, wehad 2-3 products in 2019, and then we acquired a bunch of companies. Now we have 10 or 12 products, and this has helped us build the company’s position as an innovative industry leader. We continue to focus on innovation and solutions that will help our customers engage better with guests, and also lead to a wallet-share expansion.


What kind of products are you currently working on in RG labs? 

The overall vision is to build an integrated tech stack, which is completely customer focused, that enables our customers to acquire guests. We want to build this one platform through which they can acquire customers digitally, engage with them, and then cross-sell and upsell to them for a wallet-share expansion. So, we have two moon-shots right now. One is taking all of these different capabilities and putting it in an integrated tech stack, which is completely customer-focused. The second big moon-shot that we are working on is a new product, which is all-round engagement.

Example: Let’s say you come into Delhi and are staying at the Taj hotel. Now, you’re coming on the morning flight, and want to find out if you can have an early check-in. We will power the hotel to give you a virtual assistant. We call this virtual assistant Jennifer, who will answer all your questions on WhatsApp. So you message Jennifer and say, I’m arriving early, can I check in early? Then when you arrive at the hotel and want to know where the breakfast is, you can ask Jennifer.

I was in Europe recently and it took me an hour to check-in and they were so busy that they would not answer phone calls. So if you wanted to order room service, or if you had any questions, there was nobody available to answer. To solve this problem, we came up with this big idea, which is like a virtual bot assigned to every guest. I’m hoping that we will release that in the i July to September quarter. 


Your share price has dipped drastically since the IPO. Did you overvalue the stock?

It is not up to the entrepreneur to value the business, Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. It’s the investors that determine the valuation and it’s the investment bankers that play the conduit to determine that value, basis market demand and supply. So they are the ones who set the price. This is also a function of how the overall market is doing, as you can see with this whole recession fear. We follow what happens in the US and the US tech markets have crashed like crazy, stocks are down -- 50-90 per cent -- considering that, we’re not doing as bad.

So, while it might be painful in the short term, in the long term, I’m very confident it’s going to work out. The next five years are going to be a golden period for Rategain.


What are your targets for the near term ?

For the immediate next fiscal, we will be targeting over 30 per cent top-line growth and our margin expansion should be 200 to 300 basis points. So we were at about 10.3-10.4 per cent adjusted EBITDA margin, and we will see a 200 to 300 basis points increase there as well.

We’re in a very solid position, we already have the customers, the trust. It’s all about us, penetrating deeper in each of these customers, through the offerings that we have. So without giving you actual numbers I’ll say that we aspire to continue to grow at the same pace over the next three to five years.

Our audience is about a million hotels and if we look at the mid-market, we’re after almost 1,400 customers that have about 300,000 hotels - that’s an immediate market. We have about a third of that mid-market, and then we have a long tail in independent hotels. But in terms of total hotel coverage, we are at 1,25,000. I’m hoping we will get to at least 300,000 and my goal is not so much to increase the number of hotels or the groups, but get more penetrated in each of these groups.