Google Cloud Results
Google Cloud Vision pilot expanded from 1K to 5K hotels
• Gained the scalability and agility to establish a presence in new markets in Southeast Asia and the Middle East
• Delivered a new identity-scanning feature that reduced guest queueing times and improved net promoter scores at hotels
• Reduced the time, effort, and risk associated with sharing documents and improved workforce collaboration
If you’re looking to book a hotel, airline, bus, or train in India, there’s a good chance you’ll do so through Goibibo. Founded in 2007 and entering the travel market in 2009, Goibibo has grown to support 21 million users, 98% of whom are based in the country. “We specialise in domestic Indian bookings and outbound bookings for Indian residents looking to travel to other countries,” explains Vikalp Sahni, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Goibibo. “We are also growing our presence in inbound travel to India.”
Goibibo started with two engineers and three business managers—a workforce that has grown to 200 engineers and about 300 business managers, including a large business development team. “Our business development managers are integral to our growth, as they help build relationships with partners such as hotels,” Sahni says.
Goibibo’s growth received a fillip in 2016 when parent company Ibibo and travel portal Make My Trip merged. Goibibo now runs the most popular mobile application in the travel category in India. Furthermore, about 50,000 hotels now sell their inventory on Goibibo.
Fast, innovative culture
“Close collaboration between workers and teams is essential to our business. As we started looking at our options, we found G Suite applications such as Gmail, Google Sheets, and Google Docs provided beautiful collaboration capabilities.” Vikalp Sahni, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Goibibo
Goibibo prides itself on a culture of fast-paced development and innovation. However, it had initially elected to run traditional workforce productivity applications on in-house servers. These applications forced team members who needed input into proposals, presentations, spreadsheets, and other business documents to send out drafts, and then aggregate and consolidate feedback from multiple sources. This process was not just time-consuming, but vulnerable to version control problems as several versions of the same document could be in circulation throughout the business.
Furthermore, Goibibo had to expend considerable time and resources maintaining and upgrading hardware, software, and associated facilities. This ate into the technology team’s ability to improve the features and functionality of the company’s websites and applications.
Dynamic, agile, and scalable
As Goibibo grew and set ambitious business targets—including market leadership in India and establishing a presence in other regions—its executives looked for more dynamic, agile, and scalable solutions. “We did not want to continue moving spreadsheets here and there between team members,” Sahni explains.
In particular, Goibibo wanted to improve cooperation, decision-making, and outcomes from teams distributed across offices in Bangalore in southern India and Gurgaon in northern India. “Close collaboration between workers and teams is essential to our business,” Sahni says. “As we started looking at our options, we found G Suite applications such as Gmail, Google Sheets, and Google Docs provided beautiful collaboration capabilities.”
“G Suite has helped bind our people more closely and has reinforced the cultural value of collaboration to our business. These applications, and the principles underlying them, provide a springboard for us to expand into new territories and improve the value and experience of our products.” Vikalp Sahni, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Goibibo
Goibibo has moved its engineering and product teams to G Suite and is already reaping the rewards of greater agility and improved productivity. Goibibo team members now create documents, presentations, reports, and spreadsheets and store them in Google Drive where they can be shared more securely with other relevant workers.
“G Suite has helped bind our people more closely and reinforced the cultural value of collaboration to our business,” Sahni says. “These applications, and the principles underlying them, provide a springboard for us to expand into new territories and improve the value and experience of our products.”
Faster hotel check-ins
G Suite is just one Google product to have helped Goibibo realise its business ambitions. Google Cloud tools have enabled the business to trial a feature that improves the experience of both customers and hotels when processing guest identifications such as drivers’ licences and Permanent Account Number (PAN) cards.
“When a customer books a hotel through Goibibo, he or she can upload identification to our system through our auto check-in functionality,” Sahni explains. “We then use Google Cloud Vision API to extract information from the images on the pieces of identification. Once this is complete, we subject the piece of identification to an optical character recognition scan to confirm the customer’s name.”
Customers who have undertaken this process can avoid standing in queues while hotel staff verify their identities. Furthermore, checking in online means customers simply have to pick up the keys to their rooms. For hotels, Goibibo minimises the load on staff when reception opens and several guests may be queueing to check in.
In early 2018, Goibibo was piloting the functionality with about 1,000 hotels and planned to extend this to 5,000 hotels by the end of March. “The feedback to date has been very good, with participating properties reporting improved net promoter scores (a measure of customers’ willingness to recommend products or services),” Sahni says.
Firebase at the core
“We reviewed our options and found Firebase Realtime Database in particular was best suited to our requirements. We have extensive functionality in our application that needs to stream data from our back-end systems.” Vikalp Sahni, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Goibibo
Furthermore, Goibibo has turned to the Firebase mobile application platform to manage a large number of real-time communications with back-end systems. “Firebase Realtime Database comes with beautiful technology that helped Goibibo build functionality like contact book synchronisation, chat applications, real-time synchronisation of customer bookings, and offline storage for small but powerful mobile-only features such as shortlist and planning,” says Sahni.
“We reviewed our options and found Firebase Realtime Database in particular was best suited to our requirements. We have extensive functionality in our application that needs to stream data from our back-end systems,” Sahni adds. “If a user books a ticket through the Goibibo mobile application, but cancels it on his or her desktop, this small data change needs to be processed through Firebase back to the mobile application so everything is synchronised.”
Sahni describes Firebase as residing “at the heart” of Goibibo’s mobile products, with its mobile chat application also running on the platform.
With Google providing its workforce collaboration and productivity tools, mobile application platform, and image extraction tools, Goibibo has started operations in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. “These markets are closest to India and are visited by considerable numbers of consumers from this country so, with Google’s assistance, that is where we plan to scale up,” Sahni says.
“In addition, hotels are our biggest bet as a business and we intend to continue playing in that sector,” Sahni concludes. Goibibo is now exploring opportunities to move to a serverless and container-based architecture so it can scale even faster and more cost-effectively to support its growth targets.