Vishal Sinha, Chief Executive Officer, Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) shares his perspective on the evolving Corporate Travel Market in India
Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) has been taking innovative routes to help corporate and SMEs to adopt managed travel programme. The company is designing all its services for end employee. CWT has constantly been simplifying the processes to offer a seamless experience to its customers. Excerpts from interview:
How do you see corporate travel market evolving in India?
The Corporate Travel market in India is worth about US$47 billion by end of 2019. It is growing at a CAGR of 12 per cent YoY. We would be a US$90 billion market by 2030 only from the business travel point of view. The opportunity and the size of the market are enormous. However, only 10 per cent of the US$47 billion business is actually managed corporate travel. Managed corporate travel includes travel policies, compliance, negotiated rates and booking tools in place.
Initially, we had global corporate and we were servicing them out of India. Now, more and more Indian MNCs are looking at being able to consolidate their travel program. And, the benefits come in terms of savings, compliance and duty of care.
It is just not about saving money by booking cheap hotels but to make sure that employs are productive while travelling. Traditionally, our platforms were more of helping in securing better rates to make bookings. Now, the focus is on offering a better end user experience. We need to make sure that we are helping the employees. Business travellers are travelling to be able to connect with business partners to grow the business. Hence, we are looking at productivity of the business.
Indians are price sensitive. They do look at prices but they are value driven too. So, price cannot be the only consideration.
What is Business-to-Business-for-Employees (B2B4E) and why it was needed?
Our core function of making a booking, securing rate for the corporate and making sure that we are choosing the right airline still remains the same. We want to make sure to offer seamless experience to employee. Travel by itself needs an extra effort and how can we make sure that we are making it easier when one is actually looking at the booking process. There are four important elements for a corporate travel : Plan, Book, Fly and on the road, and submit expenses on return. We are making sure to make these four elements absolutely seamless for an employee. So, planning is easy as we are offering them tool of personalization. The tool looks at giving best options to finalise and book in one click. This is the personalisation that making sure that we are picking up the choice of the customers and than making the booking for him. Also, this is in line with the company’s travel policy.
What sorts of challenges do you see in terms of policy compliance?
We have only 10 per cent of business under managed corporate travel. In this 10 per cent, we see a high level of compliance. We are seeing more and more companies looking at the changing their policies. It is also been able to look at the policy from different perspective. So, more and more companies looking what exactly policy needs to drive. We are at a stage where corporate travel business is evolving in India. There is an element of discipline which needs to be mandated. We are making sure that people are adhering to it. Gradually, it is happening. Most of Indian companies which are actually looking at consolidating their travel business, the compliance level is pretty high. The adoption of SBT or OBT is also high. It also depends on traveler’s generation. We are working towards making sure that our app has content and it is easy to use. We do help our clients in drafting the right travel policies and manage the change. The policies have to be under laid with the booking patterns. So, we are integrating a couple of systems to give them a seamless experience. Here, we are investing a lot of time and technology.
How many corporate clients CWT serves in India?
We have close to 220 large corporates and around 2,500 -3,000 SMEs as our clients. For SMEs, we have a product called CWT For You which enables SMEs for airline and hotel booking. There are no commitments from travel point of view. Anyone can book and fly. We offer very good rates as CWT has negotiated rates with airlines for SMEs. The rates allow SMEs free cancellation, book seats and meals but it is the part of the low cost carriers. We have our own contracted rates with hotels which gives SMEs the facility of early check in and late check outs.
Are you finding difficult to convince SMEs?
We have given SMEs a platform for hotel and air bookings. So, rather than going to five different airlines or hotels, one can get all booking related services at one platform. We are creating the awareness though our marketing campaigns. We are working with some of our partners to be able to promote CWT For You, an online tool. We are using social media to reach out to customers. We see a lot of repeat customers on this tool. We are also seeing the increasing adoption of this tool by SMEs. Our SMEs client count grew from 700 to 2,500 -3,000 without any big advertising.
What is B2B4E’s impact on strengthening your leadership position globally and in India?
We make sure that employees are happy while booking their trips. We are helping the CFOs to make sure that they are able to save money through their travel policies. The whole procurement of travel is changing. Initially, it was probably the procurement and travel managers who used to have a major say to look at what exactly are being chosen from TMCs point of view. Now, there is a lot more involvement of CFOs because they are not only looking at saving money but also looking at trends and bigger picture and here we help them from data point of view. Secondly, from CHRO perspective, it is the well being of the employees. Travel is not about savings and bookings. We actually work on happiness index to make sure that employees are happy when they have travelled as duty or care and well being is very important.
Where do you see TMCs in triangle of business module of suppliers, corporate and TMC in driving travel spends for a corporate : as partner, advisor or fulfillment wing?
We are the connect between the suppliers and the corproates. We are giving the platform to corporate and suppliers to be able to reach out to the right client, make sure that we are giving them the content, the relevant content. We work very closely with our suppliers and corporates. We work in a very transparent way. We are making things easier for them. We are working towards having a win-win situation for everyone. We cannot work in isolation. If you give traveler an experience at par with what they get in the personal life, they will come back to you. We are at a stage where corporate travel segment is evolving in India. In US and Europe, it is an evolved space. We need to make sure that travel policy is mandated.