The travel, tourism and hotel industries are driven by customer experience and engagement, and have a nuanced understanding of using digital tools to automate their processes. They work stringently on both filling gaps in employee productivity as well as optimizing customer experience.
This is reflected in a report published by the India Brand Equity Foundation. The GDP contribution of this sector is expected to grow at 7.2 percent annually, through 2015 to 2025. It is meant to reach a whopping USD 160.2 billion by 2026. As for the aviation industry, the figures indicate total freight traffic to touch 4.14 million tonnes exhibiting growth at a CAGR of 7.27 percent between 2016 and 2023. India is therefore among the five fastest-growing aviation markets globally with 275 million new passengers.
To get a perspective on how IT is transforming these industries, we spoke to three CIOs representing some of the biggest names in these sectors: Ravinder Singh, CIO, Vistara; Rajesh Chopra, SR VP IT, Oberoi Hotels and Resorts; Amit Madhan, President and Group Head IT, Thomas Cook.
As a CIO, what are your priorities this year?
Ravinder Singh: Vistara bets on IT as one of its core differentiators and continues to invest in state-of-the-art business software, mobility, IoT, machine learning, big data and cybersecurity. Further, we focus on improving people and quality of the workplace. We are optimizing processes and operations, along with developing new profitable revenue avenues.
Rajesh Chopra: This is a year of consolidation and we are addressing IT security around hospitality.
Amit Madhan: The biggest priority is digitization and automation, for this year.
What are the typical business challenges you that your company faces?
Singh: The challenges are to do with cash constraints and the culture.
Chopra: There is a big pressure on costs as well as acquiring new guests.
Madhan: I think with the pressure on the business and the margins, we will have to keep working on cost reduction. And the cost reduction can happen only by increasing the productivity of the employees. We will have to work on a lot of process reengineering, automation and tools for performance improvement.
How do you intend to leverage IT to overcome business challenges?
Singh: While most airlines or rather the overall aviation fraternity was debating cloud as a technology, Vistara demonstrated its thoughtfulness and innovative strategy to build its future foundation on this state-of-the-art technology. Today, revenue channels and operations of Vistara are driven and enabled by technology investments.
Chopra: Basically, it is all about bringing efficiency in the systems and various processes under the given time. Then, it includes helping the organization with the social media and guest information. In case we retain some guests or have new guests coming in, we infuse this guest experience with technology as a tool.
Madhan: This would mainly be identifying the apt tools to enable better productivity for our employees, along with automation. Moreover, it is about solving each of the business problems looking at the best solution tool. So, in case of our billing and finance team, it would be about how I have an in-house or a new tool which could help in reconsiderations in terms of processes and accelerate productivity. This is therefore subjective to the business challenge or the problem itself.
As companies are transitioning to digital technologies, skills become a major issue, how easy or difficult has it been for you to find the right skills?
Singh: I’m a technologist who can build and fly aircrafts, and have always been a student first. Hence, I have involved myself in organizations which truly want to build something to disrupt and create remarkable services. So, finding like minded and smarter people has never been a challenge. India is a great place full of talent.
Chopra: Adoption of the digital platform is more of a business decision than a technology decision so there is no dearth of skills for digital technologies. The challenge is to rev-up processes to adopt digital, in that case hospitality has been a little slow, but is picking up now. I do however see good adoption of digital technologies in our group.
Madhan: There is ample talent available but getting the right talent for the right problem is the challenge. We have to keep looking out for talent and identify various sources or forums for collaboration. There could be an investment in a platform where a lot of co-sharing of resources can happen.
What are your IT initiatives focused on? Is it mostly customer experience or cost optimisation, or both?
Singh: It is both, we are in an airline business in India, one of the toughest playgrounds but remarkably attractive. Hence, creating the highest standard of customer experience within an optimum cost is key mantra for success of any airline, including us.
Chopra: It is both. It is also about bringing in new technologies and guest optimization which is our priority this year.
Madhan: Travel and tourism is increasingly becoming more of a DIY platform and we will have to empower the customers to do a lot of self-service and that is the path ahead.