DJUBO, an end-to-end hotel sales management platform with a centralised reservation system, has over 2,000 clients and aims to help small and medium-sized hotels become profitable.
Tarun Gulati, an IIM-Bangalore alumnus with close to eight years of work experience in private equity and investment banking, comes from a family that owned hotels. Much like his friend, Sankalp Goel. Both friends agreed that the many products available for hotel management on the market were making the hotel sales process more complex rather than simplifying it.
Each hotel tech player serves its own niche, which ultimately means hotels need to implement multiple systems to manage different processes. Connecting these systems in most cases means manual intervention, essentially relieving any efficiency gains that may have been gained from automated systems.
This is what gave birth to DJUBO, a tech enabler platform for small and medium accommodation providers.
Building a clear differentiator
While the duo was toying with the idea for a while, it wasn’t until late 2013 that Tarun and Sankalp seriously started discussing it.
The growing number of hotel aggregator platforms like Oyo and MakeMyTrip and other fullstack platforms like Treebo and FabHotels had led to a growing need for hotel management systems and platforms.
A platform like Hotelogix, a cloud-based hotel management system, touched over 100 countries last year. Other similar platforms include AxisRooms, Opera by Oracle and roomMaster by InnQuest.
However, Tarun believes that the current hotel tech landscape is made up of disparate products dealing with just parts of hotel sales and operation processes. This means hoteliers must use a plethora of products to handle core tasks.
“DJUBO intends to bring management of the entire guest lifecycle, from discovery to stay to retention and re-engagement, on a single platform and make it accessible to small and medium accommodation providers,” Tarun says.
He adds that currently, products are not able to “talk to each other”, meaning they are only partially able to bring the automation desired by the hotelier.
“It creates barriers for small and independent accommodation providers to adopt technology vis-a-vis capital and manpower requirements to manage and connect data streams between multiple solutions. This leads a large section of the accommodation market, particularly in developing countries, to remain an unorganised operation,” Tarun explains.
Working around the challenges
The DJUBO team claims their product suite brings together sales, operations, distribution, marketing and online reputation management, analytics and market intelligence.
“Our product is aimed at the long-tail segment of the accommodations market, which essentially comprises 80 percent of the global accommodations market,” Tarun says.
While the market size is large, the audience is price-sensitive, averse to change and lacks an inclination to adopt technology.
The DJUBO team, therefore, had to provide technology that catered and benefited everyone on the accommodation scene, from large hotel chains to small homestays, but at a price point within the grasp of that 80 percent.
Next up, for such a feature-rich product the UI and UX had to be simple enough to be used by someone with basic computer knowledge.
And lastly, Tarun adds, they had to educate their clients and help them evolve beyond sales management practices of managing reservations in physical diaries, Excel sheets and standalone products like just a channel manager.
“We have introduced some unique partnerships such as those with Google to run Google Hotel Ads on a commission model, which till now wasn't offered by any Indian product. We offer TripAdvisor integrations to allow hotels to sell directly on TripAdvisor [this is offered by some, but adoption was pushed heavily by us], Trupay to enable UPI payments for hotels and are working on bringing, even more, partnerships to solve major pain points for hotels on top of a highly robust, integrated and reliable product to manage their hotel,” Tarun says.
The first two challenges were met by spending countless hours designing the app workflow, automating as much as possible, and taking on the responsibility to get hotels on board rather than having an auto-onboarding system.
The last challenge was tackled by creating an on-ground sales force that focused on educating and showcasing benefits to potential clients and deploying a training regimen for the clients, post-sales, that helped them understand the true potential of deploying integrated technology like DJUBO.
Workings of the platform
The sales and distribution part of the platform includes a Centralised Reservation System (CRS), which as the name suggests allows centralised management of all reservations, room inventories, and room rates, across multiple properties. The CRS is designed to cater to online and offline sales channels for hotels, automates guest communication and simplifies collaboration.
A built-in sales and inquiry management system help keep track of offline sales and automates quotation generation and reminder emails. Pay-at-hotel is another pain area for most hotels. While preferred by consumers, it often leads to a false assessment of the hotel performance, especially during peak season. When a pay-at-hotel guest does not check in, the room night goes waste.
“So, we created a tool that allows pay-at-hotel bookings to be marked in the CRS and ensures that a pay-to-confirm link is automatically sent to the guest. The booking is automatically confirmed if the guest makes the advance payment. Reminder emails are sent automatically at set intervals,” Tarun reveals.
The team also offers DJUBO Fireball, a product designed to get more bookings from sources that aren’t traditionally accessible to hotels.
Helping hotels understand, manage reviews
“We also have StarSight is to help hotels not just manage and reply to online reviews, but extract and collate valuable information for hotels. Hotels are barely able to keep up with managing TripAdvisor reviews. StarSight connects to all major OTAs and meta-search engines such as TripAdvisor, Google Reviews, Booking.com among others and gathers all reviews in a single dashboard for replies. It also analyses all reviews and ratings to identify your hotel’s performance, department by department, and serves as an indicator of service performance,” Tarun explains.
StarSight informs hotel owners about sales channels they have poor reviews on and which might be affecting sales performance on that particular channel. Machine learning and natural language processing help analyse each review and classify it so you can understand problem areas and know areas of excellence.
Driving strategic decision-making
The tech solution also provides a competitive analysis so hotel owners can identify what their competitors are doing right and where they need to get ahead. This tool, used in the right way, is extremely powerful and can help hotels take strategic decisions that affect pricing, improvement areas, departmental process pitfalls, marketing focus and much more.
The CRS is equipped with everything from automated welcome mails and SMSs to managing check-ins, invoice management, and front desk management.
The team has also developed a POS that makes it easy for hoteliers to get onboard. Hotels can use the POS on a tablet, mobile or desktop, effectively app-ifying the whole POS experience.
Another operational hassle is keeping track of payments. The e-collect solution spans the DJUBO product line to allow hotels to collect and track all payments online, be it for a room or a meal someone had in the restaurant. The quick-pay solution allows hotels to collect payments of any amount from any of their partners.
“Our recent integration with Trupay brings the power of UPI payments to hotels,” Tarun says.
Every data point needed to identify hotel sales performance is made available and visualised for easy understanding in DJUBO Insight. DJUBO Foresight brings rate intelligence to hotels, helping them understand pricing patterns of the competition.
What’s in the offing?
DJUBO claims to have over 2,000 hotel clients, who have been acquired over 18 months. The team follows a SaaS-based monthly subscription model.
The team is also looking to enter international markets and claims to have over 50 active paying clients/acquired clients in 19 countries. It has established a base of strategic partners to push DJUBO into international markets and says the response has been “very positive”.
Funded in September 2015 with 12 paying clients, DJUBO claims to have grown 12 times in terms of revenue and client base between FY 16 to FY 17. The team has raised $2million from Naspers and GoMMT in two rounds.
“In FY20, we are projecting revenue of Rs 92 crore with an EBITDA margin of 40 percent and a client base of 12,000 customers globally,” Tarun says.