Launched in April 2012, CheckInTonight is a last minute hotel reservation website that has a unique concept and targets a niche, which makes it different from existing travel portals. With the aim of being an enabler of last minute travel in India, CheckInTonight allows one to book hotel stays starting the same day or the next day only, but at discounted prices that may not be available elsewhere.The site is targeting people travelling on unplanned vacations, last minute out-of-town business meetings or emergencies, or those just looking for a weekend getaway. Hotels can currently be booked in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune and Goa with other cities to feature soon.
Abhyuday Prashad, the founder behind CheckInTonight grew up in Kolkata and studied at The Doon School. After studying Finance and International Business at Georgetown University, he worked as an analyst in the Technology/Media/Telecom (TMT) Investment Banking group with Citibank in New York. He was also an investor at Francisco Partners, a technology-focused private equity firm based in San Francisco. He says “While I was always tech-curious, the stints at Citibank and Francisco Partners really whet my appetite for working professionally in the tech space.”
He eventually moved back to India to work in the family business but Abhyuday had his eyes on a different goal. He states “Having moved back, I thought there was an as yet unserved opportunity to provide a platform that is an enabler of last minute travel in India and to specifically provide last minute hotel bookings at affordable rates and thus was born CheckInTonight.”
Abhyuday Prashad says “The last minute travel market in India is restricted due to a lack of offerings. Whereas demand is increasing as lives get busier that does not allow advance planning. Multiple locations/towns/tourist destinations around tier 1 cities are now developed/being developed and are easily accessible, cost of air travel has declined and made it more affordable, and developing road/highway infrastructure has made driving to destinations easier. We have also endeavoured to provide a user-friendly experience and have spent considerable time on the design and UI.”Their development work is managed by a 4 person team and 2 of them manage the sales, marketing and general operations.
The space of last minute reservations in India has very few players in it as of now. Their opening advantage as first movers is an edge over others. Abhyuday says “The idea has been well received but it is obviously still very early in the cycle.
The plans at the moment for them are to stick to their basic product idea and rapidly increase their offerings by introducing new cities quickly and regularly.
When asked what would set them apart from the emerging competition like Cleartrip Quickeys Abhyuday answered “We are focusing on a specific niche within the online travel space and in fact are focusing on a niche even within the online hotel reservation space which inherently limits competition. We knew that the established OTA’s could easily introduce a similar service but we have the first mover advantage, are very focused on providing the best service possible and the most pleasant online booking experience, which translates into providing select hotels, the lowest prices, a user-friendly UI (clutter-free and easy to use website especially important as last minute bookers are usually in a rush) and great customer service.” Their future plans are geared towards becoming the go to service for the growing last minute travel market.
This particular niche is not without its own set of trails and tribulations. Abhyuday states that “Marketing an online/web-based business and spreading awareness is tougher than most people think in terms of time, effort and capital required. Also, there is an inherent hesitation amongst suppliers (hotels in our case) to tie up with a company that has not established itself yet even though it makes tremendous business sense to do so.”
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