I was thinking quite a bit about whether to write this as a post or to add on to the previous post, but I guess ‘new post’ won.
The one problem that a lot of service apartments face is the lack of a full fledged kitchen. There might be breakfast, but that would still be fairly minimal. In the US, when I go for a business visit, a lot of the hotels would have a menu of a near-by restaurant which would deliver ~ within certain working hours of course. Most times this is a little expensive, but there are days, when you just come back to your room and plop on your room (or the ottoman) and do not want to get up. You just want someone to come and give you the food in your room.
This should be feasible in India too right? A tie up with a nearby chain? In fact, with most of these chains going the app-way or have an online site where you can order, there exists infrastructure to make this more streamlined.
- There could be a tablet in each room or with the reception (the first could be a premium room feature vs the latter is a normal room).
- Tie-ups with one restaurant for each of the four categories
- These would not redirect to their websites, but to potentially APIs exported by the infra from these restaurants (or an aggregator like zomato). Some restaurants and food service providers already have a good backend such as Mast Kalandar, freshmenu, spoonjoy, etc to which you should be able to link.
- Why not a web-site? And why API driven? I would want the tablet to be aware of my service apartment address and room number, and also, have the ability to add the bill amount to my hotel bill. So all, I would need to do is to browse, and click. End of story.
- Stringent SLA for delivery and quality of food can be established (failing which – you cease to be a preferred partner and will be swapped out to competition).
I sense a business opportunity here as well. This need not be something that hotel chains like oyorooms or stayzilla need to build. This could be very well be an independent platform. Well, somebody like zomato can potentially build it though.
There were serviced apartments that started popping up in cities like Bangalore a few years back. These were good alternatives to expensive full service hotels. A lot of frequent IT travelers liked these service apartments, because they were really good quality rooms, and they were inexpensive because they were no-frills. No service. Mostly no restaurants attached. This fit their bill perfectly.
But there was a problem. These service apartments were unorganized. You could only book them by calling them by phone. Some of them had a website, but most did not. Discoverability was a problem. This is being solved by a slew of new start-ups like OyoRooms, Ziproom, and stayzilla.
Now, allow me to add one more level of complexity into this problem – which could be a potential area where start-ups can spring up.
Personalized rooms. Seasoned business travelers love service apartments because of their no-frills approach, and are the ones who are fueling the reservation of these rooms through the new startups. But that does not mean to say that these travelers would not mind some personalization.Let me list a couple of immediate ideas that come to mind:
- Toiletries – For those who follow me on twitter, you would notice that this is a big peeve of mine. I am not a big business traveler, but I get irritated every time I am put through the “you-cannot-carry-toiletries-in-cabin-baggage’. This is the biggest bummer that happened after 9/11 in the US (which naturally percolated internationally). I would love to not carry toiletries at all during international travel. And you might ask – hey most hotels give you soap and some of them give you paste. I would want my brands to be there – cinthol/dettol soap + vicco tooth paste + fresh new brush + gillete mach3 razor+blade (disposable is fine) + nivea after shave gel. Now, if this is an add-on package to any of the room booking start-ups, I would glad plonk money on it.
- Travel – What if I can book a day cab or a cab for airport/station pickup or whatever need I have, while booking the room. Would that not be awesome? Sure, again, you might ask me, I could always use Uber/Ola/whatever to get the cabs on demand. But when I am on a business trip, I would like everything to be perfectly planned. I may sound pompous here – but I want my car waiting for me every time I want it. I would not want to be fiddling with my phone and getting a “No cars in your vicinity” message and getting stressed about it. Sure, the hotel could very well book an uber/ola on my behalf – I dont care, but I want it to be waiting for me.
- Food – What if the hotel can offer me a fixed simple veg meal when I return back to my room at 8:30PM. A simple Mast Kalandar HP2 would be perfectly fine. But I would not want to be the one ordering it on the way back to my hotel, and giving directions, picking it up, paying, and all of that. It would be so much value for money for me to just get into the hotel, my food is waiting ‘hot’ in the reception, for me to take to my room, and have it in peace. Sure, the hotel can tie up with swiggy, mastkalandar, urbanspoon, whatever. They can even ask me where I want the food from. But again, sounding as pompous as I can, I want the food waiting for me, when I get to my room, after a tiring day. Hey they can get fancy too – they can save my preferences, and just confirm if I would like to order the same as last time. I know a lot of travelers do that. You could get fancier, by enabling the service apartment reception to call you once just to confirm if you would be needing dinner (what if – you suddenly get pulled into a client dinner type situation); or perhaps a push notification on your phone. A lot of stuff can be done in this area.
Well, enough dreaming for now. Got to get to my boring day job. 🙂