Integrating emerging markets like India into your global business travel program can be challenging.
Your recipe for success must include a well thought out strategy. Active engagement of in-country stakeholders and a clear “Go To Market “ roadmap are equally important.
Such markets have unique complexities and challenges. It’s important that you have a knowledgeable in-market business travel consultant/ India expert like ProKonsul. Prokonsul can help solve local market complexities and align the project with global objectives.
In commencing your India integration initiatives, some of your top concerns will include:
- Demand for legacy high touch service delivery
- Desire to maintain “Status Quo" in view of “unique India specific needs”
- Strong resistance to change
- Complex operating models & varying degrees of technical maturity - self-booking technology, expense management & payment systems
- Limited MIS, Data & Analytics on the health of the program
- Absence of a structured employee CSAT & vendor performance scorecard
To secure success, one would need to start by understanding the dynamics of Indian business travel. Always consider employing an external business travel consultant who can help you navigate the road ahead to achieve success.
1. Market reality
Indian business travel market is the fastest growing business travel market worldwide. The market stands at US$40B approximately. It will grow north of 10% YOY for the next 3-5 years.
Despite the exponential growth in business travel, most India corporations still regard business travel as primarily a fulfilment activity. In-adequate attention is given to matters of strategy & forward planning. Success in business travel, is still largely deemed to be securing the lowest possible transaction fees.
Often, service fees are so skewed that the only way the travel management company (TMC) can operate is at a sizeable loss !!
It’s not uncommon for travel agencies/ Travel management company (TMC) to offer
- Minimal transaction fee
- Free account management
- Free Onsite staff or implants
- Extended credit and on-account payment facility
Many global travel management company’s have a very different (and truncated) technology, operating & service delivery model in India v/s their global offering.
There is very limited engagement from the senior leadership in the corporate business travel program. Most Indian CXO's recognize that travel is a big cost. However, they are limited in their ability to drive meaningful change due opaque systems & lack of quality data/ analytics. Predominantly, buyers & travel partners share an antagonistic relationship, driven by lack of trust & transparency.
2. “Unique” India specific needs
Often, in market's like India, there is very strong resistance to change. It’s important to take an objective neutral view of such situations and understand the underlying drivers that fuel such comment.
Engaging a business travel consultant or India expert like ProKonsul allows you objectively navigate the dynamic's and develop relevant market-specific responses.
Yes - there are many operating situations in India that very different from European & American markets. These have to be understood & taken in account when planning a transition.
Indian’s require a visa to most countries. Further consular requirements can be complex. Requirements can vary even by the respective consular location where the visa is applied. This poses additional challenges when planning a self-booking tool (SBT) implementation. These would need to be thought through and planned to ensure an effective migration.
Credit cards & Foreign Exchange advances
Many companies in India do not provide their employees with corporate credit cards. If provided, they can be limited to senior management. There is preference to work with foreign exchange advances. Alternately employees are equipped with foreign exchange advances using a debit card that is preloaded with the relevant currency.
Traditional Cheque payments
Most companies still pay their travel agency/travel management company using a cheque payment or on account models. There is still limited lodge cards/purchase card implementation.
This results in a unique eco-system of travel advances for domestic & international travel. Supplier payments are made on-account payments with attendant reconciliation challenges. There are many organizations that still dont implement automation in business travel expense management , which pose additional challenges.
Enterprise business travel in India has just remained behind in innovating and accepting new ideas. A large part of the problem rests with the business travel industry, who have been unable to change the narrative. They have been unable to verbalize and ideate value. Concurrently, buyers have not evolved and understood best practice. They remain focussed on fee minimization & using the lowest common denominator. Hence the the old adage gets repeated often “ if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”.
While these realities exist, it would be correct to point out that .... Indian’s don’t live on another planet! What’s required is the need to understand issues, socialise the change and drive an effective transition.
3. Engagement with the India stakeholders
The size & criticality of your Indian business travel program mandates a robust transparent engagement with your India team. This would require a multi-level employee engagement commencing with the India leadership team.
The best way to take this forward is to do a detailed objective assessment that includes
- Survey the Indian employees & secure CSAT with the current program
- Use this CSAT to establish new service delivery parameters / set expectations for the future
- Establish a check list of mandatory service deliverables & expectations of local India team across levels of management/ function
- Evaluate the strengths & gaps in the current Indian business travel
- Evaluate the value of current incumbent travel agency/TMC V/s benefits consequent on implementation of the global program partner
Such analysis requires an external business travel consultant like ProKonsul, who can objectively assess inputs and connect the dots. Once the baseline assessment is done, plan a formal presentation to the India leadership team. This is a key step in securing their formal buy-in which is essential for future success.
It’s important for your India leadership to share this mandate with the wider organization. This will give confidence to your India team that your recommendation is based on solid facts. Further it will eliminate needless debate and pushback.
4. Operationalizing the Mandate
Getting the mandate operationalized is now the next big challenge. This is the most critical part of your project. A lot of your success requires balancing your global objective with local business needs including cultural / operational nuances.
The first step is to build a clear commercialization plan that outlines landmarks, tracks milestones & service delivery stats.
Start with smaller pilot groups in SBU/ Regions, establish success and then widen the scope of the project.
Periodic CSAT surveys and benchmarking travel management company’s service delivery standards are crucial.
A project plan with scheduled check-in’s and sign-offs is imperative. Plan regular update sessions the senior management/executive sponsor in-country at periodic landmarks so they are kept abreast of the progress.
Based on your evaluation, you will probably find that you will need to conduct negotiations with your global travel management company (TMC) to meet India specific operational & commercial expectations.
High quality account management support from your preferred travel management company would be required both globally and in-country. This is essential to ensure your internal objectives interlink with your partner's ability to deliver locally.
The assumption here is that you intend to perpetuate an existing relationship rather than conduct an RFP for a new vendor. Conducting a new RFP will require a different approach.
Your travel management company must assign a transition team, which project manages the implementation.
A note of caution - account management service delivery and project management can be widely different in-country versus global standards. This is a reality even with the established global travel management company’s (TMC). Be sure that you have effectively evaluated the process as also the specific candidate who will be responsible for this from your TMC.
Once the negotiations & commercial considerations are finalized alongwith the operational delivery, the stage is set for the actual program rollout!!
5. The Moment of Truth - “Going Live”
Planning a smooth “Go Live” can be both exciting and nerve wrenching !!
Getting to the moment of truth will require several components to work in tandem:
- Structured Employee engagement
- Roadshows to socialise the changes in program management & operational processes
- A continuing user feedback & survey mechanism through CSAT Surveys
- A “Success Scorecard” that recognizes vendor program management & success with business-critical initiatives
- Smooth de-implementation of the incumbent travel management company, if required
- Progressive rollout of new phases in the project
The focus in this stage is to make the transition as free from “noise & smoke”, as possible.
It’s a fact that something’s will not go as planned …. It's important to tackle this with minimum fuss thru an escalation matrix and tiered levels of support
6. Tracking Success
While the the program transitioned successfully, its important not to move your foot of the gas pedal! A program, especially in a market as complex as India should be monitored by you directly for at least 6 months post the “Go Live”.
This stage requires active involvement of your entire team and your an in-market business travel consultant. Progress needs to be tracked effectively against targets and challenges mediated.
This will include:
- Frequently scheduled meetings with your project leader & in- country support teams
- Close tracking of employee CSAT Surveys & Vendor “Success Scorecard”
- Re-training & refreshers so the employee user-base clings with the new program
- Present regular executive leadership reviews on performance, gaps & steps to improve.
- Active involvement of your in-country executive leader to drive unambiguous messaging
- Set the agenda for the next set of important transitions related to business travel.
Securing success in complex markets like India requires a clear understanding of market dynamics & unique user needs.
Welcome to India !!!
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ProKonsul ® optimizes the business travel lifecycle of its clients. It deliver’s domain expertise in enterprise business travel. Established in 2014, it is the pre-eminent business travel consulting firm in India, Asia & emerging markets. We are located in Gurgaon, India
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