Gone are the days when you need to plan a month before going out for any trip. In today’s time you just need to click a button to book your hotel or to plan a holiday trip. All this is possible just because of the growing internet penetration, which has made everyone life simpler and easy going. If we look at the figures stated in Google India report, the online hotel booking industry is set to zoom as it is estimated to be worth $1.8 billion (Rs 11,226 crore) in 2016 from the $0.8 billion (Rs 4,989 crore) in 2015. It further highlights that the estimated 8.4 million Indians are likely to book hotels online by 2016.
Sensing the opportunities, start-ups like Zo Rooms, Oyo Rooms, Room on Call (ROC) and many others are mushrooming in this space. They are not only seeking great customer traction, but also attracting high quality investors towards themselves. Room on Call is one such start-up, which has recently received backing from the investor.
Room on Call, a branded budget accommodation marketplace has recently secured $300K in angle funding led by Payal Syal, the US based Senior Executive at Yahoo. The venture plans to utilise this round of funding towards team expansion, increasing its geographical reach and its facilities.
Commenting on the investment, Syal said, “There was thorough study on their module, segment and market size before considering Room on Call as potential venture. It is a platform, which is catering to the entire mobile population of the country. Their hotel helpline number added value to it, wherein anyone can book accommodation of their choice by just making a call in real time, which has been ignored by most of the companies as focus of the Indian e-commerce has been shifted to get the app downloads rather than focusing on business.”
It was majorly the concept, team and market, which collectively drew Syal attention to invest in their platform. The company is further in talks with investors to raise another $10-15 million to scale up its venture.
Founded by Pradeep Sajjan, Amit Goel and Nirupma Dhawan, ROC provides a platform to business and leisure travellers to book a quality and affordable room online across geography. “The idea came in early 2014 while travelling to Agra with a couple from overseas. We came to know that the rooms sold to us were at a very high price comparatively to Indians staying there. Even food menu has different rates for Indian as well as foreign travellers. We then realised that there is a need of transparency and restructuring in the segment with standardization .We took the initiative and started the venture in 2015,” said Sajjan, CEO and Co-founder, ROC.
Based out of Gurgaon, ROC makes travelling for everyone quite comfortable irrespective of late night landing of flights, delayed trains or last minute reservations.
How it works?
Formed with a vision to provide branded accommodation at affordable price, the start-up operates on an asset light model, where they acquire properties at certain rates and then brand them. In this process, the margins vary from 25-35 per cent.
“The idea is to get the properties under one banner, wherein the investments have been made by the property owners, but they do not have brand to sell or lack standardisation. We at ROC, aim to put together those non-star category under one brand, standardise properties, get the actual picture clicked and provide required training to the staff so that customers can get fair pricing by comparing it and by seeing the actual room pictures they are going to stay in,” elaborates Sajjan.
The travellers can book their rooms by using ROC’s platform, with access to actual pictures of the rooms to customers before they book them online. Further customers have the liberty of making the payments either online or at their selected hotels. To ensure quality assistance, the start-up has stringent norms to maintain quality right from finding property to acquiring. There are periodical audits and routine checks of property, so that they can offer best quality to their customers. Before putting property for sale, it goes under 3 layers of quality checks.
What makes it unique?
Apart from the web portal, the travellers can also book the nearest accommodation in real time by just making a call on the company’s 24/7 Helpline, which is the most convenient way to book in the absence of internet facility. Further ROC also assigned a dedicated relationship manager, to the one who books room with them, to guide them 24/7 and ensure that their stay goes smoothly. “We aim to grow at lightening trajectory to provide rooms in every nook and corner, that are more comfortable and affordable,” said Sajjan.
Growth and Expansion
In the very first month of starting its operations, ROC received more than 10,000 calls and selling more than 3,000 room nights in Delhi-NCR only. Currently operating with the team of 27 professionals, the company has its presence in 24 cities across the country with the availability of 4,100 room nights.
ROC plans to expand its network with adding more than 10,000 room nights in another 30 cities during current financial year. “We are already in metros like Mumbai, Delhi-NCR, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Jaipur, Goa, and Pune etc. Now we are planning to map cities like Hyderabad, Chennai, Trichy, Kochi, Chandigarh, Bhuvneshwar, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Varanasi, Shimla, Jodhpur, Udaipur etc very soon,” shared Sajjan.
Moreover, the company is also planning to launch a unique mobile application studded with a range of features just to enable the customers to book their accommodation more conveniently.
ROC faces tough competition from the leading players like Zo Rooms, OYO Rooms, RoomCentral, FabHotels, Treebo, Wudstay, and Vista Rooms dealing in the space. Recently, Bangalore-based start-up RoomCentral had announced to raise $2 million from angel investor Karanpal Singh, Managing Director, Nameh chain of hotels in Delhi, Goa and Odisha. Similarly, OYO Rooms had also raised a $100 million from SoftBank Corp, while Zo Rooms was recently funded by Tiger Global Management and Orios Venture Partners.