Rooms Tonite aims to be the Tatkal IRCTC for hotel bookings
For entrepreneurs and business persons who have erratic and ever changing schedules, booking hotel rooms in advance is not an option. Same goes for leisure travellers who wish to indulge their last minute impulses. Finding a convenient hotel room on the go is not very easy. Rooms Tonite aims to address this pain point.
What is it?
RoomsTonite is a hotel booking mobile app that provides consumers good hotel rooms at competitive prices at the last moment. The startup claims that it is among the first of its kind in India and has real-time connectivity with over 600 hotels across 100+ destinations in India. The direct connectivity with hotels ensures that their users are guaranteed a room booking on the same day or for the next day.
They have witnessed good traction with more hotels signing up, repeat customers and the booking window shrinking. Through technology they now want to revolutionize how hotel reservations are made in the same way that Uber revolutionised the taxi industry.
How it works?
Users need to download the app, enter their destination choice and date, which is, today or tomorrow, and browse through a list of hotels based on their preferences. Users can book from one to three nights and upto three rooms through the app in one transaction. Users can also get overviews of the hotels with pictures, amenities provided, terms and also the location on Google maps.
They recently included a new feature ‘check-out as a guest’, where a user can book a hotel room on the platform without registering.
“This was a big decision for us. Since registrations help us serve our customers better, we would like to have few details about them. But, we decided to go with feedback we received and our teams spent four days to implement this feature,” says Karthick Prabu, CPO.
Hotels can request for a tie up with Rooms Tonite to get their rooms listed on the platform free of charge. Rooms Tonite verifies if they meet the criteria and takes small commissions on rooms that are booked through them.
Hotel curation process: “Before on-boarding a hotel onto RoomsTonite's platform, our hotel on-boarding team checks the hotel's online reputation score, rating and reviews. Only the hotels that pass the quality check process will be approved to be listed on the app,” says Karthick. By this process, they wish to ensure that only good quality hotels are listed on their platform.
Dynamic pricing calculation: The hotel prices seen in app are dynamic. Similar to the airline industry where the prices (of flights) change depending on various parameters such as flight occupancy percentage, time to travel, travel destination, and number of legs in the journey etc, they have built a dynamic pricing engine into RoomsTonite.
Depending on parameters such as hotel occupancy percentage and time to checkin etc, their engine optimizes the price and ensures that it is still extremely competitive.
Suresh John identified the need for such a service and founded RoomsTonite, which became operational in June 2014. Suresh is also the Founder and Executive Chairman of IDS Next, a technology solutions provider for the global hospitality industry. A technology enthusiast, John also founded Travelanza.com, a B2C Travel portal in 1999, and led to the launch of RezNext, a B2B room distribution company in 2012.
Karthick Prabu joined Rooms Tonite as the CPO in October 2014. He had also founded Travopia.com, an online media platform for travel technology enthusiasts, which was later acquired by Tnooz. He then worked as the GM for Asia at Tnooz. In addition, he has experience working at various companies in the travel industry, including Port of Singapore Authority, SITA (UK), TravelCLICK (US), Rezopia (India), and Travelocity.com etc.
By December, the team strength at Rooms Tonite had grown to a size of almost 15 and by February 2015, it reached 35. Their focus now is to invest heavily in technology and hire new people to help them boost marketing and hotel sign ups etc.
From June to December 2014, the team relied on word of mouth and good customer reviews to gain traction. Karthick told YourStory that in terms of traction, Tier 1 cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad etc are doing well, while there is interest from Tier 2 cities and towns such as Madurai and Trichy as well.
With their model validated and backed by data, the team is now marketing their product through all possible mediums such as social media and Google ads.
Talking about competition, Karthick said that they consider every enterprise that assists booking hotels room online as their competitors. While the startup claimed that they were the first to offer this kind of last minute service on mobile devices, there are a few others who offer services similar to this on web and mobiles.
Makemytrip offers last minute deals on flights only, rooms only or for combination of flights and hotel bookings at the last moment on their website and mobile app.
Travelguru has a separate section titled ‘Last minute deals’ where users can book rooms for up to 10 nights and also cancel their bookings for free. They do not have a mobile app though.
Expedia also claims to offer Last minute deals on hotel bookings, but users are not restricted to booking rooms for ‘today’ or ‘tomorrow’ and can book for any available time frame.
Tripadvisor also offers last minute deals for various cities on their website and users can pick options such as ‘tonight’, ‘this weekend’ or ‘next weekend’. Tripadvisor aggregates this data and offers bookings from Travelguru, Goibibo, and Cleartrip etc.
The other mobile-app-only competitor we came across which also offers last minute bookings is SavvyMob, founded by Bikram Sohal and Gappan Annamalai.
While there are many competitors in the sector, Rooms Tonite’s aim is to focus only on the niche ‘last minute’ segment and their USP include competitive price points through their dynamic pricing algorithm and confirmed bookings through mobiles.
The mobile app provides a nice UI and UX, devoid of ads, the only drawback is that users cannot cancel their bookings once confirmed. Rooms Tonite said that this is done deliberately so that they can offer the most competitive prices and avoid confusions.
Rooms Tonite wants to provide a better payment experience in the future and the team is in talks with digital wallet companies about possible integrations.They also wish to categorise the hotels listed on their platform in a more efficient manner and provide information about hotels near the user, using their GPS location. They are also considering offering another service to compliment room bookings through their app.
The startup is self-funded and they are now focussing on scaling the platform, reaching more customers and signing more hotels. They are planning to raise funds in April this year and look to expand to other countries as well in the future.
Website: Rooms Tonite
You can download the app here for Android, iOS, Windows and Blackberry devices.