BW DISRUPT: Book by Slot, The New Way of Booking Hotels.

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Travel start-ups like bookbyslot.com are re-defining the way hotel industry operates in India.

A recent TV ad-campaign by a leading telecom operator in this country has caught people’s attention and has become the talk of the town. The advertisement talked about the data user haven’t used but paid for it and questions the value for money.

A similar question struck Anubhav Agarwal way back in 2016 when he checked-into a hotel only to stay for a few hours but ended up paying for the whole day. Later on he came across innumerable instances when he needed a hotel accommodation only for a few hours and had no choice but to pay for the whole day.

The second big issue he faced was of convenience. “For business travelers- time is their only currency. There is a report by McKinsey International that establishes that Asia’s business travellers place the greatest importance on one preference: convenience. To them it is more important than service or even value for money. The present system of restricted check-in and check-out time does not enable hotels to offer that level of convenience desired by the business travelers. I then realised that there are a few inefficiencies in the hotel booking system which can be translated into an opportunity benefitting both the demand and supply side of the system i.e. the travelers and the hotels,” shares BookBySlot.com co-founder and CEO, Anubhav Agarwal.

Later, I discussed these issues with an old friend Atul Krishan, an advertising professional based in New Delhi and the discussion gave birth to an idea that resulted in bookbyslot.com– a unique travel engine where you can instantly book a hotel room of your choice only for the hours you need with flexible check-in and check-out time”, adds Anubhav.

“I and Anubhav; being an advertisement and management professional respectively; have a profile that requires a lot of travelling. And there have been countless instances when those long layovers were spent in some coffee shops or airport lounges with no choice left to book a room instantly with a flexible check-in time and hourly tariff”, shares Atul Krishan- the co-founder and CMO.

Founded in Apr, 2016- BookBySlot aims to disrupt the existing eco-system of hotel booking by offering hotel rooms on hourly basis with flexible check-in and check-out times. Apart from the full day conventional booking (12 pm–11am), BookBySlot offers its users a choice to book a hotel room on hourly basis for 6, 8 and 11 hours slot. Stayers can book an appropriate slot or combination of slots and pay only for the hours they need to stay. This not only caters to the needs of frequent business and leisure travellers who require rooms for less than a day or with flexible timings but also gives hotels a channel to increase their profitability by smartly diminishing the scope of vacancy and monetising the room additionally.

Remember the time when you had to book a cab for an entire day and the Taxi service guy was charging garage-to-garage pricing. Irrespective of the fact, whether you needed the cab only for a few hours. But app-based taxi services like Ola, Uber, TaxiForSure disrupted this system and made it more convenient, fair and ethical for commuters. Similarly, it is kind of unethical and unfair to be billed for the full day even if we use the hotel room only for a few hours. BookBySlot aims to break this old-fashioned trend by introducing the new way of booking hotels.

“It’s a win-win situation for both travelers and hotels. As our tagline, ‘My Stay, My Way’ suggests- bookbyslot.com offers a cost-effective, customized and more convenient way of booking hotels for travelers where you pay only for the hours you stay. Whereas for hotels it’s a tailor made system. We are not displacing any of their existing business rather we are getting them additional opportunities to maximise their inventory as allotment by slots (pack of hours) helps them optimise their occupancy rate by selling the same inventory multiple times i.e. twice or thrice in a day,” Anubhav adds further.

“We are primarily targeting the business travelers such as businessmen needing to freshen-up or prepare for a meeting or travellers in transit who are trying to catch up with some sleep or work but we see a lot of scope even further. For example, Sales or Business Development Executives who travel to another city for the day to attend meetings with one in the morning, one at lunchtime and one in the afternoon. If the lunchtime one is cancelled they may have to kill the entire day at a coffee shop where they are going to have to share a poor internet connection with a lot of fuss around. We wish to offer such travelers a nice place to work, relax and freshen up during the day time. Then there are a lot of millennials who have to work from everywhere and they tend to use our service quite a lot. Western concepts like ‘daycation’ or ‘staycation’ have also become an emerging trend in India where people want to have some me time or treat themselves as VIPs for a time. All they want is an experience. All these people are our potential customers,” adds BookBySlot co-founder Atul Krishan.

BookBySlot has successfully partnered with more than 350 hotels across the country having both luxury and budget hotels in its kitty. Currently they are operating in all major cities of India by successfully collaborating with chains such as Treebo Hotels, The Piccadily, The Lalit Group of Hotels and Resorts, The Mapple Group as well as premium hotels such as The ITC Fortune, Piccadily and The Park in New Delhi, The Plazzio and The Fern Residency in Gurugram etc.

Initial Investment and Funding

“I and Atul promoted the company with an initial investment of about INR. 30 lakhs. We are presently looking forward to bootstrap the business first by generating more revenue and becoming a profitable venture post which we would look for seed funding to penetrate in Tier-II cities. After the soft launch about two months ago we have gained good visibility among customers, hotels and the industry. There has been a decent traction in the market and we have clocked around 100 bookings in two months of time”, informs Anubhav.

Competitors and Differentiation

This flexible approach to accommodation has been around in developed economies like USA and UK for a little while (existing major EU players include DauUse, ByHours and HotelsbyDay). Yet this trend seems to be emerging in India with players like BookBySlot.

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