If 2020 was difficult for one industry, it was hospitality, but homegrown hospitality unicorn OYO used it to accelerate its product and technology because “as they say, never let a good crisis go waste”, said Abhinav Sinha, Global COO and Chief Product Officer of OYO Hotels & Homes.
During a fireside chat on Day 2 of one of India’s biggest product and design conferences, YourStory’s Future of Work, Sinha said OYO has always been a tech-first company that believes in and reflects fast decision-making. This, he said, helped the company emerge strong from 2020, as it used the year to strengthen its tech and innovation.
Sinha said that after being resilient last year, 2021 will see OYO’s resurgence, as the company has been focusing on building best-in-class products and experience for its guests, partners, employees, and other stakeholders of the OYO ecosystem.
During the chat, Sinha gave a peek into some of OYO’s lesser-known tech and product arsenal, empowering consumers and small hotel and home operators.
He talked about an artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning-driven photography and photo editing product, OYO Frames, which he said solves a basic operational need: Any new hotel that boards the hospitality aggregator can use OYO Frames and request a photo shoot of its premises.
“And then, you choose vendors, which are available on the platform, and the vendor, after the photography, uploads the pictures on OYO Frames, and that is where the magic happens,” Sinha said. “The AI in the platform accepts or rejects the photograph.”
He said the platform also uses AI for other things such as choosing a sequence of photographs, which is key to a consumer selecting a particular property.
Sinha also talked about Switch, a product for OYO’s hotel partners. The Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled product lets OYO integrate its tech with the electrical circuit of hotels and also with the front desk operating system, OYO’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) product. This allows appliances in the authorised room to be operated from the front desk itself and offers more control to the hotel partners.
“So if the front desk decides to check someone in but not share it with the hotel partner, the hotel partner immediately comes to know.”
Sinha said OYO is excited about technologies such as machine learning as “data is king” for the company and its business model.
“We are very fortunate to sit on top of a lot of data from the partner side, as well as from the customer side, especially on our consumer app,” he said. “It is a very powerful source of getting to know our customers. So, really, you know, one area that we are very excited about is how do we use this for personalisation.”
He said attributes of personalisation are a multifold activity in the hospitality sector and OYO is bringing this on its platform and guiding users to make better choices.
Last year, OYO launched its Data Science Academy in India, as part of its employee upskilling initiatives. Under this programme, OYO helps its existing talent to learn and implement data science during on-the-job training. The initiative helps anyone at OYO to build a data science suite of skills and, hence, a career in this space.
Sinha touched upon various other aspects, where the company has leveraged more sophisticated tech, and emphasised that OYO is as much a technology company as it is a hospitality company.
OYO has two large suites of products: one that sits at the front desk to empower hotel owners with better revenue management, operations, and control for the hotel; the other on the distribution side, like the consumer app.
Sinha said the company worked on all these fronts and brought several innovations, especially last year.
“On all the innovations at all the sides, the principal formula OYO follows is that it keeps interacting with consumers and hotel partners. We spent a lot of time talking to them.”
From the first interaction with consumers to the last and afterwards, OYO added more innovation, especially last year, said Sinha.
He said he is confident all the innovations are here to stay, even after the pandemic is over.
“As I said, every crisis does present its own set of opportunities. Of course COVID presented a challenge, but it came with a unique set of opportunities,” he added.
SPONSOR SHOUTOUT: A big shout-out to our Future of Work 2021 Co-presenting Sponsors Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Unique Solutions; Digital Excellence Partner Google Cloud; Associate Sponsors HP and Intel; and Sponsors Atlassian, Freight Tiger, Archon I Cohesity, TeamViewer, and Pocket Aces.