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Thursday, 22 February, 2018, 12 : 15 PM [IST]

‘Using Insteract, companies save an average 20% on their travel bookings’

Insteract Technologies, a cloud-based platform, offers a transparent and convenient way to buy business travel for SMEs. According to Balaji Ramakrishnan, Founder and CEO, Insteract Technologies, most companies in the SME space are unaware that they can achieve better savings and outcome on their travel spend if they take a fresh and critical look at their existing travel programme from a traveller perspective and look for solutions that help the travellers. Excerpts of an interview by P Krishna Kumar.

Q What are the kind of inefficiencies you see in corporate travel management today in terms of, compliance, approvals, etc.?
The problem in Indian corporate travel today is the lack of tools and the means to automate the travel programme. Most companies in India still use email to plan their travel.

In addition to this, rules are not updated or benchmarked often to capture the supplier changes and the behaviour of the travellers, i.e. welfare of travellers.

Most companies in India have a pre-trip approval process. Since planning is fragmented, trip requests sent for approval do not contain all the necessary information for approval. Approvals are uninformed and inconsistent across the company.

This makes it difficult for companies to audit their spend or look for gaps in their policy. As a result, non-compliances occur which cost the company money. Inefficient process and lack of tools increase the cost of managing their travel spend by 30-40%.

Q What are the key solutions Insteract offers to corporate entities for building efficiency in travel and expense management?
Insteract offers a transparent and convenient way to buy business travel for SME. It delivers an innovative buying experience by doing three things:

a. Based on the available market options it calculates a benchmark for the lowest logical option for the trip. This cuts down the time in researching multiple websites to see what the best fare for a trip is;

b. Uses data analytics and machine learning to show only a few relevant trip options. No more filtering and sorting just see the top 7 options that are relevant to the traveller and agreeable to the company; and

c. Use rewards to align travellers with company.

For large companies, Insteract data-led services like auditing, benchmarking and finding savings after they have booked with their service provider. The service is easy to Integrate with their existing process and requires a one-time data setup.

Using Insteract companies save on an average 20% on their travel bookings.

Q What kind of trends do you see in Indian corporate houses in adoption of tools and mechanisms which deliver efficiency in managing travel?
The adoption of various tools depends on the maturity of the travel programme within the company.

Large corporates need end-to-end process Integration while SME’s are looking to improving their sourcing process.

Regardless of the size and maturity of travel policy, all companies value transparency and automation that is affordable. They want transparency in their sourcing and approval. They want control and convenience in how the expenses are monitored.

In terms of adoption, corporates are looking for tools that will augment. Some even feel the need to virtualise their travel desk function using technologies like machine learning. This includes tools that will allow them to benchmark their options and book directly.

The trend is to look for cloudbased solutions which are cheaper and easier to implement. The goal is to bring everyone on board within the company and not just a few because of high implementation cost.

Q What is the kind of savings that business houses can leverage if they use proven travel and expense management systems? What are the current bottlenecks that prevent the adoption of such systems?
Business can expect to save as much as 20% in cost of sourcing and 40% in the cost of managing their travel.

The main bottleneck is awareness. Most companies are unaware that they can achieve better savings and outcome on their travel spend if they take a fresh and critical look at their existing travel program from a traveller perspective and look for solutions that help the travellers.

Q How do the new indirect tax regime, GST, make a stronger case for more robust T&E systems at the corporate level?
GST impacts are across all products and transactions. In the case of business travel, it has a significant impact on the cost of travel for companies. While some products have become cheaper some

have become costlier. However, companies can control these expenses and claim input tax credit through GST compliant invoices.

It is important for companies to align systems to capture and track the invoices so they can claim credits and derive the true travel cost. While accounting packages are great for capturing the cost they are not suited for configuring rules of spending, approving and tracking business travel spending.

Q What are the Corporate Travel trends you expect in 2018?
In addition to the growth of booking tools and expense systems in SME, 2018 is going to be about personalizing the experience across the entire trip. We are already seeing some of these innovations in parts, enabling the traveller to have an improved travel experience. For example, the use of AI-powered messaging apps to engage travellers or using augmented reality to experience a location. At the backbone of these new services will be AI and data analytics.

We expect Machine learning to be applied to spot new opportunities to make savings and take some of the stress out of travel.
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