managed business travel

Indian CXO’s – Waiting for a Black Swan moment ?

5 reasons why Duty of Care in Indian business travel programs is non-existent !! 

Business Travel Duty of Care is largely ignored by Indian CXO’s who pay scant attention to this aspect, given their exclusive focus on cost/ fee minimization. As the premier business travel consultant in India and emerging markets, ProKonsul has evaluated over 250 programs in the last 5 years. With some exceptions, there is very little CXO oversight to managed travel programs.

Despite being recognized worldwide for their talent and business acumen, it is surprising how shortsighted Indian CXO’s have been when it comes to their business travel programs

Most of CXO’s regard business travel as more an act of fulfillment and purchase. Priorities like strategy, technology best practice & due diligence to limit corporate liability, are largely ignored. In addition, the effective cost rises due the opacity of legacy operational models. 

CXO’s have ceded total control to their travel gatekeepers, who have limited ability to introduce best practices and ideate innovation internally. The approach hence becomes one targeted at perpetuating the status quo.

Overall program hygiene is a low priority. Indian business travel programs focus excessively on the lowest ticket cost / lowest fees. 

There are some exceptions, but honestly, they are still few and far between. These include Global MNC’s who have a globally consolidated travel program in India & some Indian transnationals. These organizations have evolved their travel program to include traveler risk & duty of care.

1.Working with Travel Agencies V/s TMC’s 

Most companies in India execute their corporate travel programs with “Travel Agencies “ and not “Travel Management Companies (TMC’s”). 

“Travel Agencies’ – are generally non-specialists in the business travel domain & generally win business largely on price/location & relationship attributes. They don’t deliver the full range of managed business travel services. These agencies could also be ticketing consolidators or tour operators for whom corporate ticketing is a useful add-on.

2.Highest focus on lowest fees 

The most important  KRA of most Indian travel administrators & travel sourcing departments is fee & ticket price minimization. Travel agencies / TMC’s are appointed based on the lowest transaction fee pricing or the highest levels of discount. Many of our travel managers & procurement professionals place a far higher value on fee pricing rather than the qualitative aspects of their vendors’ capabilities like 

  • Technology 
  • Strategic account management 
  • Cost optimization 
  • Risk management 
  • Management reporting 

3. Managing travel using the “IT/ ITES Industry ” model 

The IT / ITES industry, who should be leaders in best practice implementation, have sub-optimal travel programs. They follow a very unique business travel operating model. They put each travel request out to “bid” amongst multiple travel agencies / TMC. In this situation, the lowest bidder wins the ticket and fulfills it. 

This places in question, how they ensure data consolidation of all tickets purchased through different vendors & track their employee, amongst multiple other areas.

4. Hotel reservations disaggregated 

Another very unique situation seen in India, is that travel programs don’t consolidate their hotel reservations with their preferred TMC or Self Booking Tool (SBT),  if implemented. 

Bookings for hotels especially international hotels are done in multiple forms 

  • through room aggregators
  • through OTA’s and public websites
  • directly with the hotel concerned on call/email 
  • through secretaries and administrators 
  • on reaching the destination from the airport by the traveler 
  • by the overseas office staff 

Tracking and consolidation of booking information on hotels booked is a major grey area. Consequently, there is limited or nil visibility on where an employee is staying. Such dis-aggregation also impacts data analysis and optimal sourcing of room rates.

5. “Per Diem Advances” for foreign travel 

Many Indian firms give their employees a “per diem” – The employee is expected to arrange their stay in their destination country using this per diem. This can vary from $25-$60 per day, generally. 

The employer may not mandate receipts for the stay from the employee. IT / ITES companies actually regard such a practice as being “employee-friendly”. This is presented as a staff incentive, since the employee could technically stay with friends & family, retaining the per diem. 

However, what is completely ignored is the fact that the employer has little or no information on 

  • where the employee is staying 
  • the quality of the accommodation 
  • the health & safety standards 
  • risks to employee  

Overseas medical travel insurance is still not a mandatory part of Indian business travel programs. Implementation is erratic. Hence the overall approach with some exceptions in largely reactive – The overall motto can be summed up as  “Let something happen, the travel team will firefight the issue”. 

As a business travel consultant, ProKonsul believes the approaches outlined above, create corporate liability, generate traveler friction &  negative employee CSAT. They directly & indirectly impact the cost of the program. The resultant inefficiencies inflate indirect costs, creates complexity in processes & reduces the ability of the enterprise to reduce overall spend.

Wake up before its too late! 


Business Travel Duty of Care is defined as the corporate obligation that an employer has to secure the welfare of their employees when the employees travel on official work. The concept of Duty of Care emerged and become a major component of business travel policies worldwide post the incidents of 9/11. 

In many parts of the world – like USA / Canada & Europe / Australia, this is a legal obligation of the Directors & management of the company. There have been many instances where the courts have found the officers of the company legally & financially liable for negligence. The negative impact of a brand & hiring standpoint is incremental negative liabilities.

This is not yet a legal obligation in India and in most emerging markets. Which is why there is limited or nil CXO visibility or focus amongst most Indian companies. 

Modern business travel is not purely about pricing and fee minimization. It is built solidly on the principles of program optimization. There are multiple aspects that have to be accorded priority to build a program that protects enterprise and employee interest while optimizing spend. Partnering with a supplier agnostic business travel consultant like ProKonsul, can bring objectivity in decision making & allow program maturity to leapfrog to the best in the industry. 

There is an innate desire, when it comes to Indian business travel, to keep the head buried in the sand. The approach here is that what is not seen or heard or recognized will not impact the business! 

India is targeting to be a $5 Trillion Economy by 2025. It’s business travel market is the fastest-growing worldwide. Ranked 7th largest globally. 

For a business to scale and become efficient, Indian CXO’s have to spend time understanding and strategizing business travel. They need to take advantage of external business travel consultants like ProKonsul, who can simplify this complex domain, prioritize goals and deliver global best in class business travel programs. 

Don’t wait for a Black Swan moment to happen, before you wake up !! 

               Want to set up your 30-minute FREE consultation with a ProKonsul business travel expert?

                            Drop us an email [email protected] or call +91-9873196115. 

                                                 We would love to work with you! Call us now !! 

ProKonsul ® optimizes the business travel lifecycle of its clients. It delivers domain expertise in enterprise business travel. Established in 2014, it is the pre-eminent business travel consultant in India, Asia & emerging markets. We are located in Gurgaon, India.

ProKonsul ® advisory services are supplier agnostic & governed by a robust integrity policy.

                                             2019 © ProKonsul – All Rights Reserved

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Globalizing your Business Travel program

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.

The Challenge

In commencing your India integration initiatives, some of your top concerns will include:

  1. Demand for legacy  high touch service delivery 
  2. Desire to maintain “Status Quo” in view ofunique India specific needs
  3. Strong resistance to change
  4. Complex operating models & varying degrees of technical maturity – self-booking technology, expense management & payment systems
  5. Limited MIS, Data & Analytics on the health of the program
  6. 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.

Market conditions

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 …. Indians 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:

  1. Frequently scheduled meetings with your project leader & in- country support teams
  2. Close tracking of employee CSAT Surveys & Vendor “Success Scorecard”
  3. Re-training & refreshers so the employee user-base clings with  the new program
  4. Present regular executive leadership reviews  on performance, gaps & steps to improve.
  5. Active involvement of your in-country executive leader to drive unambiguous messaging
  6. 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 !!!


Want to setup your 30 minute FREE consultation with a ProKonsul business travel expert ?

Drop us an email  [email protected] or Call +91-9873196115.

We would love to work  with you ! Call us now !! 


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

ProKonsul ®  advisory services are supplier agnostic & governed by a robust integrity policy. 

2019 © ProKonsul – All Rights Reserved

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