[Startup Bharat] This Bhubaneswar-based SaaS company helps hotels provide best stay for travellers
On a regular trip to the US in 2014, Bhubaneswar resident Sibasish Misra realised hotel booking agencies often charged a high commission fee to hotels to facilitate their online bookings.
While checking out, the hotel management suggested he should directly book with them and offered him an additional 15 percent discount for the next time, and not go through third parties like Booking.com or MakeMyTrip.
Upon enquiry, he understood that hotels pay nearly 30 to 35 percent in commission to booking agencies, which led the first-time entrepreneur to launch.
“As someone from the sales and banking sector, I can tell you this was a loss-making percentage. Every $100 we spent on a hotel room, the hotel received only $70,” Sibasish Misra, Founder and CEO, Bookingjini, tells YourStory.
While back in India, online travel agencies charge hotels somewhere between 20-35 percent per booking.
The Bhubaneswar-based travel-tech startup—founded in 2017—operates a business-to-business (B2B) mobile-friendly website to help hotels automate their booking process and improve their online presence and revenue without third-party intervention.
Bookingjini started with a team of five employees and onboarded about 20 hotels from Puri and Bhubaneshwar. Today, the team size has increased to over 70 employees.
At present, the platform is used by over 3,000 hotels, some belonging to state tourism authorities, including those of Kerala, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Nagaland, Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Andaman and the Nicobar Islands, and a handful of hotels in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and the UK.
How does it work
Bookingjini believes that by helping hotels earn better, the benefits would eventually trickle down to the travellers.
Sibasish explains, “Hotels bump up prices of rooms by keeping in mind the commission they pay to the booking agencies. But, once we improve the supply side of the tourism ecosystem, the demand would follow suit. Rooms will be cheaper with more amenities, making hotel accommodations more comfortable.”
The travel-tech startup’s mobile-friendly website offers hotels an operating system (OS) with a single dashboard to manage their online travel agency, website hosting and maintenance, along with services like a central reservation system, distribution engine, rate recommendation engine, social media booking engine, marketing engine, customer relationship management, and an AI chatbot.
Hoteliers can customise the website with the help of pre-saved themes to automate their booking process and add interesting content.
Bookingjini's smart booking engine ensures the URL of the hotel’s website is not altered with other third-party booking panels, creating a sense of reliance for both travellers and hoteliers.
Using deep tech, the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) startup offers hoteliers price comparisons with other hotels, helping them modify their prices accordingly.
Sibasish claims, “We make it possible for hotels to sell, market, and manage their rooms, and no other player handles all three operations together.”
Bookingjini competes with hotel booking engines such as Cloudbeds, STAAH, FrontDesk Master, and RateTiger, and larger players like Hotelogix, OYO, and Treebo.
The startup charges an undisclosed monthly subscription fee.
According to the ROC filings with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, the startup clocked about Rs 1 crore in revenue as of March 31, 2021.
As a startup from Tier II city, Bookingjini had its fair share of hurdles. For two years since its inception, the startup had difficulty finding the right talent for its team.
However, things got better after it raised $100,000 in a pre-seed round from Neotec Hub and angel investors like Kapil Chopra, former President of Oberoi Hotels, and current CEO, Postcard Hotels and Resorts.
In 2019, Bookingjini raised Rs 3 crore in a seed round from Mumbai Angels Network.
Commenting on the investment, Nandini Mansinghka, Co-founder and CEO, Mumbai Angels Network, had said, “BookingJini has truly established its presence in nearly every state in the country and has also expanded beyond India’s borders. We are pleased that the platform’s recent fundraising has resulted in an increase in valuation for our investors. Bookingjini no doubt has the potential to grow and scale further, and we are confident that they will soon be an industry leader.”
The COVID-19 pandemic proved to be a challenge for the startup, which had to make salary cuts. But this was also the time when Bookingjini saw the potential in working from home.
“When the pandemic hit, many young people returned to their hometowns, mostly in Tier II and III cities. The work from home option allowed them to find jobs while sitting at homes in these small towns, and we banked on this to find the right talent,” he says.
Bookingjini plans to adopt an offline-to-online (O2O) model, where it would identify potential travellers online through marketing and advertising for hotels and motivate them to book at the hotel directly without availing of third-party services.
The model is already used by ecommerce giants Amazon and Alibaba.
The startup is also improving its Android and iOS app, launched in December 2021.
Edited by Suman Singh