Dhaka : Haltrip, an online travel agency, known as OTA in travel trade, is working on attracting foreign investment. The OTA is going to invest the money on infrastructure development, technology, market analytics, operations, network etc.
Tajbir Hasan, Managing Director, Haltrip said this while talking to The Bangladesh Monitor at the latter's head office recently.
In 2017, with the support of the current investors, Tajbir started Haltrip. It currently has six offices in Bangladesh and two abroad.
So far, the OTA has invested BDT 72 crore, 80 per cent of which came from local banks.
This is a strategic investment. They put faith in the OTA's ideas, focus, planning, data and transaction value. Also, Haltrip's well-maintained structured corporate governance lets the banks feel fully covered.
By next January, Haltrip intends to relocate its head office. At the same time, they are opening an office in Kolkata. Haltrip already has an office in Bengaluru.
They are considering Kolkata and then Chennai as the major cities for expansion as already many flights operate daily to Kolkata from Dhaka. Also, many travellers seem to fly onward in Business Class from Kolkata at a much cheaper rate than from Bangladesh in Economy, said Tajbir Hasan.
The OTA is also working to expand in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.
Tajbir Hasan said, Haltrip is more than a ticketing platform, it is best evaluated for the technology and the workflow they have designed.
On leading market
One can only justify the amount of value by the market share. For any startup, it is important to earn a position first. For that, one must spend money. "So we are basically investing money to increase the market share."
For OTAs, one must have a strong financial backup. "You need to invest layer by layer to develop. You need to fund Series A, B and then C gradually. So it requires continuous investment," said Tajbir Hasan.
The domestic and regional market are seeing growth, about 26 per cent together. However, we are only witnessing a growth in short-haul connectivity. The long-haul international market is falling.
Tajbir Hasan said, the long-haul airlines still consider Bangladesh a 'high risk' market. To this purpose, the aviation policy of the country should be at par with those of developed countries.
For instance, the local airlines only operate point-to-point flights. On the other hand, foreign airlines only carry 20 to 30 per cent of their passengers via point to point. The rest are carried via a hub-and-spoke network. Thus they have better yield.
Also, there is a good amount of foreign investment opportunities in this sector. The locals should prepare a platform for them, he felt.
Haltrip has more than 150 staff currently. By December, they will be hiring 30 to40 more. Moreover, after moving to the new office, the OTA will need 100 more.
For a long-term sustainable growth, the OTA industry needs a huge workforce. Therefore, Haltrip is ready to provide a good career opportunity to the freshers. Those who have experience in travel trade and commitment, Haltrip is hiring them and providing them necessary training.
"A three-hour crash course is enough to understand the operations of OTAs. However, it is mainly about training the right thing on the right time," said Tajbir Hasan.
Nonetheless, OTAs have an upper hand over general travel agencies because the former requires three times less workforce than their brick-and-mortar counterparts.
Most of the work process of Haltrip is automated, thus handled by the system. This requires less handwork. "Everything is converted in computer language and input to Haltrip's software. If there is any exception, we solve it and put that into the software as well," he said.
Company evaluation process
The evaluation is done based on some financial logics - market share, number of clients, number of bookings, the comparison of market turnover and the company's turnover and predictive analytics.
"It took some time for Bangladesh to see a rise in the OTA industry because it required a combined knowledge of finance, industrial engineering, IT etc. Also the industry DNA is a bit complex. One must understand the DNAs of three industries together - financial market, technology and travel industry," concluded Tajbir Hasan.