Who says an old and established group cannot be a startup at heart? And why just at heart, why can it not have a vertical that functions like a startup?
That’s exactly what the Bird Group set out to achieve. And did.
Founded in 1971, the travel and IT services company, which owns and runs luxury hotels like Roseate, and provides travel, IT, and other services to businesses has launched BirdApps - a consumer-centric digital app business to cater to the evolving travel, hospitality and lifestyle segment.
Set up in 2017, BirdApps is the Ventures and Innovation Lab at Bird Group, says Himanshu Kumar, Business Head at BirdApps. He adds that the arm will create apps and offerings that tie well with the group’s services. And its first three products - Launderette, Odigos and Placard - do just that. The fourth app, Audio Odigos, is in its beta phase.
“We wanted to foray into the B2C segment to create products with novel solutions to consumers,” explains Himanshu.
The Launderette app is a laundry marketplace, providing on-demand laundry and dry-cleaning services. What is unique about is that it works with five-star hotels.
“We work with top-rated laundry and dry-cleaning partners to ensure clothes are laundered with care and to perfection,” says Himanshu.
“It started off as a way for five-star hotels to effectively make use of their unutilised capacities. Given the popularity and the scope for growth, Launderette also partnered with standard laundries and dry-cleaners,” Himanshu adds.
Within a year of its launch, it has onboarded over 100 partners in Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Pune, Ghaziabad, Greater Noida, and Faridabad, and wants to scale it to more cities. “We have received a lot of queries from customers residing in Tier II cities, and that is something that we are definitely looking into,” says Himanshu.
The company is currently in the process of finalising more five-star hotels and bringing more standard laundries and dry-cleaners on board. It is also looking to expand to Bengaluru, Kolkata, and some smaller cities by the end of 2019.
Odigos app caters to travellers. Meaning ‘guide’ in Greek, Odigos is an online marketplace connecting tourists with certified, multilingual guides across India.
All a tourist needs to do is put in dates, destination, and preferred language and the app will offer tour guides and curated itineraries. All tour guides affiliated with the app are verified and get a quick training at the Bird App facility.
“The app also provides a platform for tour guides to showcase their experience, expertise and language proficiency. We have attempted to organise the unorganised market of tourist guides as well as create job opportunities and additional revenue for them,” says Himanshu.
Within one year, Odigos has helped travellers discover 100 Indian cities with the help of around 500 verified guides over 2,000 tours – from architectural walks to food trails. Bird Apps now plans to scale the app’s operations by adding more cities and guides.
It is also tapping B2B partnerships. “We are already in the process of tying up with travel agents and solution providers in the B2C and B2B space. Through our upcoming guide education and training programme, we plan to train 500 guides in 2019, and also venture into smaller cities, adding 2,000+ guides,” says Himanshu.
Bird Apps is currently focusing on scaling Launderette and Odigos apps. At the same time, it is also working on Placard, an app that essentially turns tablet device into digital banners. This will allow companies to do away with manually writing names of guests on paper while receiving them at any transport hub.
Under the ‘Adopt a Heritage’ project of the government of India, in collaboration with Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Culture, Archaeological Survey of India, the Bird Group developed the Audio Odigos app, a personal tour guide that can help travellers discover the rich heritage of India through immersive audio-guided tours.
Himanshu adds that the current focus is on scaling each product and grow them into individual units. Bird Apps functions as a separate division and has a portfolio of SaaS, web and app products. The Gurugram-based division has a 35-member team.
“Every product will be self-sustaining with its own team and product managers. The core team is now moving from a 50 percent tech member group to shifting the scale to marketing and operations,” says Himanshu. Bird Apps plans to initially have a portfolio of five apps, and later scale up to more, he adds.
A startup within a corporate can have immense advantages and now, only time will tell if it can put these to its bet advantage.