Bhanu Chopra is the founder and CEO of RateGain, which has grown rapidly since 2004 as a provider of technology platforms for manage hotel revenue, reputation and online distribution in a unified manner. The company, with more than 550 employees, now boasts over 12,000 clients worldwide. Chopra earned his master’s degree from Indiana University and began his career at Deloitte Consulting. Prior to launching RateGain, he co-founded Riv Consulting, a company that helped organizations with systems integration on CRM software. This may explain his, and the company’s, unwavering focus on customer satisfaction. “We are a customer-obsessed company and making our customers happy is our primary focus,” he says.
Tell us a bit about your career trajectory.
My motivation and inspiration for starting RateGain was the rising trend of online bookings and increasing demand and popularity of online travel agents (OTAs). Online inventory distribution was becoming an important domain, however complex and challenging too. Both hotels and OTAs identified the need to compare their room rates with the comp-set rates. In addition, with an increase in the share of online booking, there was much need for automation in online channel distribution. I decided to convert my interest into my job. I invested my efforts to bring into existence a company that would provide hospitality the tools they need to compete and stay ahead in this current digital era. We wanted to be a sought-after company that can provide this kind of service and much more.
I consider that my primary responsibility is to translate my vision for the company into the brains of each of my teams. Apart from that, I personally ensure that our company core values are imbibed into the actions of all RateGain employees.
My daily job consists of interaction and brainstorming with my leadership team in understanding how we can help our customers make more revenue every day. A typical day for me comprises of interaction with teams handling different responsibilities like engineering, product development, sales and marketing. However, what I enjoy and find most satisfying is spending time in stimulating and thought-provoking discussions with our young and brilliant team to challenge traditional concepts, invent new and innovate processes, and enable customer growth etc.
How has the hospitality industry changed, especially in terms of technology, since you began your career?
Acceptance of technology is fast increasing in the travel industry. The industry is more open to using technology solutions for their daily operations. I have seen the industry evolve from the stage where the majority of booking was coming from travel agencies to now a major chunk of travel booked online. This led to the emergence of OTAs and then expanded to Metasearch sites. Hotels and OTAs witnessed online distribution become much streamlined with tools for Online Distribution Channels. The industry saw travellers shifting to mobile instead of laptops and desktops for booking. This kind of market dynamics brought a change in the way travellers booked hotels and flights. Simultaneously, the service providers also looked for innovative ways to reach out their prospects. This compelled the technology solution providers to offer tools, which are more comprehensive and cater to the needs of the modern traveller. Further, the industry witnessed that introduction of new competition in the form of disruptive and sharing economy. Vacation rentals posed new threats and opportunities to the industry.
Technology certainly has helped solve these new challenges. However, with technology came new challenges, though, experts are fast realizing the importance of making the processes automated, as it saves them a lot of time and brings in a lot of efficiency in the overall processes.
What, in your view, are the biggest challenges hotel operators will likely face over the next few years, especially in terms of technology?
No doubt technology has made guest and market data collection easier, but the actual challenge is data churning. The ability to derive meaningful insights from the huge pile of data is where you can differentiate a mediocre tool from an advanced one.
While we all will agree that, the hospitality industry is getting more share from online booking platforms. However, the challenge is identifying and balancing your inventory distribution on right channels, not just prominent online channels, but other important channels as per your target audience and your market.
Keeping the operating cost in check is another challenge for hoteliers, where technology is pitching in to support. Another could be difficulty in identifying your major source market to derive maximum benefit from it. Your Social media reputation and presence play an important role in the booking preference of consumers. Hence, hoteliers are compelled to focus on their online reputation management and remove any challenges that might come their way. Luckily, technology is available to remove this hurdle.
In such a competitive environment that hospitality industry operates in, hotels have to guarantee some differentiating factor to their consumers to prefer them to other hotels. Offering a personalized customer experience is the biggest challenging task for hoteliers to have more repeat and direct bookings and increase their revenue easily.
What, in your view, are the biggest opportunities that are now available to hotel operators due to recent advances in technology?
Technology tools make the daily operations of the hotel industry much faster, accurate and data backed. The biggest advantage is hoteliers no longer have to make decisions based on an estimate and guesswork. Technology provides logical and data-backed insights for making decisions that are more accurate and real-time.
Collecting customer data is a cakewalk now, thanks to technology tools. However, the real opportunity lies in exploiting this data to get valuable acumen from it. Technology solutions that can provide you an easily consumable and real-time insights are the biggest differentiators that will take you ahead in the game.
What problem does RateGain’s solution solve? What customer benefits do they deliver?
Our services involve providing, hotel of all sizes, hotel chains, hotel management companies, Travel companies, etc. the tools to automate and simplify their daily operations like – Competitor Rate Intelligence, Price Optimization, Online Inventory Distribution, Rate and Availability Parity Management and Online Reputation Management Solutions. With our tools and services, we help our customers solve their issues related to pricing, inventory distribution challenges, keep a tab on rate parity, guest reviews and ratings provided by their guests.
The benefits that our tools offer are measurable and can be compared to the past performance. Our users can very easily map, compare and track their performance based KPIs like Average Daily Rate, Revenue per Available Room, Occupancy, etc.
In the past year, we have launched upgraded versions of our tools. We are very happy to share that our customers are deriving a lot of value from the new features added. Yes, we have added many new partners across the globe and added many new logos to our esteemed customer club. We are very bullish about our expansion and growth; we have taken new people on board in our leadership team who will help us achieve our goals. I am excited for the year ahead
What are RateGain’s plans going forward? What will be the primary focus over the next year?
Our goal is to be the most dominant player in travel and hospitality revenue management solutions. We are focusing all our plans towards this objective. We have recently acquired Archipelago International, Indonesia’s largest operator of hotels. Apart from this, among so many things that I have on my list, I would like to make customer satisfaction our number one priority. We are making a considerable effort to enhance our products and, also, to keep our customers ahead of their competition. We will continue to provide the most innovative solutions so hotels can earn more revenue every day.