Staybazar, a marketplace for accommodation for corporate customers, is set to expand outside India as well as into the retail consumer space as it scales up its business.
The Bengaluru-based firm has around 160 corporate customers, who seek affordable places for their employees on travel in large and small towns. These customers, largely technology and back-office firms in Pune, Mumbai and Bengaluru, are also looking at clean and affordable accommodation in southeast Asia, where they have operations.
“The corporate customers offer a huge opportunity. They need a single agency to handle their room requirements, even it is priced higher. It is more about convenience,” said G Anand, co-founder of Staybazar. “If we are looking at huge scale, expansion to consumer market is natural.”
The firm is in talks with venture capital firms to raise funds, he said. He, however, did not disclose timelines.
Staybazar is founded by four friends — Prem Kumar; Anand (business development); Sajeev Kumar (supplier partnerships); and George Padath (chief technology officer), who have experience working for information technology product distribution houses, retail and property development across cities. They have collectively invested Rs 2.5 crore in the start-up.
The firm has signed up around 2,000 properties across India offering 100,000 rooms for their corporate customers as well as employees of its clients.
Staybazar has followed a model of rating the properties through physical visits, technology and surprise visits by its officials, in addition to bringing in a social rating by customers. The focus here is to ensure the properties are maintained well and customers are serviced properly, said Prem Kumar, co-founder who runs the operations.
The firm sets up virtual travel desks for corporates, integrated with its inventory for customers to book places. In addition, the firm has expanded to organising conferences, sales meets and even help in bulk bookings for large events such as weddings.
The online accommodation market has multiple start-ups such as OYO Rooms and Stayzilla, which have attempted aggregation of rooms for travellers. Yet, hotel bookings is one of the least penetrated segments within travel in India and online bookings account for only 16 per cent of the total hotel bookings, according to a September report by ICRA. This is expected to grow to 25 per cent in 2016.
The report also said India’s hotel sector is estimated to touch $1.8 billion by 2016 from $0.8 billion at present, buoyed by a rise in online bookings.
Close to 8.4 million Indians like to book hotels online by 2016, up from 3.5 million in 2014.
“There is opportunity for more players. Service would be a differentiator,” said Anand.