Credit to Author: MAAN D’ASIS PAMARAN| Date: Sat, 26 Jan 2019 16:29:26 +0000
It is his nomadic life that led to the inception of a platform that is set to revolutionize the way others travel. “I basically live out of a suitcase,” grins Rishabh Singhi, chief operating officer of RedDoorz, dubbed as Southeast Asia’s fastest growing value hotel chain. It is true — after meeting with press in the Philippines where the company started operations only last year, he is set to go back to his headquarters in Indonesia.
As a millennial traveler who did not have the means to spend on luxury accommodations on his trips, Rishabh had some horror stories to share about his low-budget journeys. “One instance that stands out was when my flight to Jakarta arrived late. I got to the small hotel where I booked my room in, and I was looking for the concierge. I found him under the front desk, sleeping, half naked,” he laughs.
The bleary-eyed hotel employee simply handed him his key and sent him on his way. “When I got to the room, I discovered that it was filthy. The sheets were stained, the bathroom was dirty,” he recounts. He checked out the next morning, and while the hotel staff, who did not speak English seemed apologetic enough, that did not change his mind.
A better way to get booked
These are the incidents he wants other travelers to avoid — through the RedDoorz platform. They first started by renting properties out themselves. Their first foray was also in Indonesia. “We had rented out an apartment, took photos and advertised it online. The next day, as my partners and I set out on a safari tour by the time we got to our destination that was three hours away, we already had a booking. We rushed back to clean the apartment, move our things and welcome the guest.”
They had 15 serviced apartments under their portfolio when they realized that the operations side was too taxing, and that they would rather focus on the sales and marketing part. This led them to start talking to small property owners with the idea of having a partnership where they would be able to provide the tech and the training side, while leaving the owners to handle the day-to-day operations under the RedDoorz standards of clean rooms with cable TV, Wi-Fi, free mineral water and toiletries, coupled with good guest services.
This was a segment that was untapped, he said, as many small properties are mom-and-pop operations whose owners don’t have the time to set a clear vision of the brand and no time to manage it. In the Philippines, these are the local boutique hotels, inns, apartels, condotels and other privately-owned accommodations. There is a lot of excitement on the owners and staff on the tech side in particular, because managing bookings and payment options are easier, and the feedback on services and amenities is almost instantaneous.
Their group find a lot of enthusiasm from property owners when they explain their concept. “We don’t want to take over the business, but enable them. Within six months, we had five properties, and while we were solving their problems, we began to understand customers more in order to give them the predictable service that will keep them coming over and over again to our properties.”
The business model is that of profit sharing, with RedDoorz handling the sales and training on how to use the platform, along with housekeeping and guest relations. There are a few weeks of face-to-face training, and this is supplemented by online modules. The platform not only helps the hotel modernize their operations, it also lets the employees get in touch [through] tech. Rishabh shares an instance when an older Filipina housekeeping staff learned how to go online because of their training. “She had a smart phone but was only using it to text and call. Now, she has downloaded Whatsapp, and can do video calls with her relatives,” he says proudly. “They are seeing the value of embracing tech in their daily lives.”
RedDoorz, which started in July 2015 in Indonesia, now has presence in the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam, with many clients coming from domestic tourism. “Our guests are usually from 24 to 35 years old. These are the millennials from growing Southeast Asian economies who have disposable income and want to travel. They are not the ones who can afford the luxury stays. With [their] travel budget for rooms that cost $20 to $25, [they] look for value through good guest experiences,” he says of his fellow millennials.
Another big draw for the customers is that RedDoorz has made these budget accommodations easier to book and pay for. Payment options include credit cards, DragonPay (via bank transfer and 7-Eleven outlets) and pay at hotel without credit card guarantee. RedDoorz also incentivizes repeat guests with the RedCash rewards system and exclusive discounts and partner deals through RedClub membership.
In the Philippines, RedDoorz accommodations are already located in popular tourist destinations — Metro Manila, Tagaytay, Cebu, Pampanga and Davao. Within this year, they will expand to Baguio, Boracay and Iloilo.
More startups needed
Rishabh, who worked in the tech sphere prior to engaging in the hospitality industry, says that there is a need for more start-ups, particularly in developing countries. “The problem is that there is a big population, and the government does not want to provide more government jobs. The bigger corporations are slow to expand because of all the bureaucracy. Where will the jobs come from? I think that since we are producing a lot of graduates, they should not think about getting employed, but of being an employer.”
Not all startups make it, and that’s okay, he adds. “If only 1 out of the 10 startups become successful, then that one startup can hire the other nine later on.” Economically speaking, this is a great time in history, he says enthusiastically. “You don’t have to rely on experience to build your own business. There are a lot of materials that you can find online to guide you. You do not have to have a physical store to start your own brand.”
This is the time