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Anil Goel, Chief Technology Officer, OYO Hotels & Homes
Anil Goel, Chief Technology Officer, OYO Hotels & Homes

AR, VR can help guests make the right selection: OYO’s Anil Goel

Anil Goel, OYO Hotels CTO, believes that technology enables the hospitality firm to map end-to-end customer experience, right from the search and booking process to service-delivery and check-out

Technology is at the core of hospitality start-up OYO Hotels & Homes. Responsible for driving the tech strategy is Anil Goel, Chief Technology Officer. He believes that technology enables OYO to map end-to-end customer experience, right from the search and booking process to service-delivery and check-out. He spoke to Mint on how the company is leveraging new technologies for growth. Edited excerpts:

How is OYO Hotels and Homes using technology?

Technology is core to OYO’s growth and is a competitive advantage for us in the global hospitality industry. We provide hotels with our proprietary property management system called OYO OS, which helps property managers manage all aspects of the property. We have built a number of apps in-house like the Co-OYO app that enables asset owners to monitor progress and access payment-related information in one place. Through the Co-OYO app, asset owners can have complete visibility on cash flows, business performance, pricing, customer reviews and recommendations. The app includes advanced analytics which enables a deep dive into asset performance over time, intuitive interface which is easy to navigate and make decisions regarding value-added services, boosting performance by providing insights and easy-to-understand metrics and graphs that allow for daily monitoring of performance. Then there is Krypton, OYO’s mobile audit app that enables OYO managers to audit properties. During the initial years, the audits were done physically limiting the number of rooms and hotels that are being audited. Now, with Krypton, a single OYO manager is able to manage the audit of over 300 rooms while improving the guest experience at the same time.

How are you using Data Analytics, Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

We're using ML for dynamic pricing while AI and NLP (Natural Language Processing) are helping in customer services. IoT (internet of things)is a big area for us where we are experimenting with smart switches and smart lighting so as to significantly improve the guest experience. This pilot is helping us determine ways to save electricity, enable unassisted check-ins with smart locks as well as determine guest room temperature and lighting preferences that can be activated pre-check in.

From a customer experience standpoint, data science and analytics helps us improve the guest experience at every step. Through AI and machine learning, we look at multiple metrics from time of day, weather, location to local events, to be able to learn more and more about what kind of a room a customer prefers, and what are the search results the customer is most likely to appreciate. Data science and machine learning help us understand guest behaviour - both preferences and implicit behaviour, how they interact with our search results and app and the interactions they carry out while staying at our hotels.

What about new technologies like Facial Recognition?

We are in the experimentation space here. Facial recognition could potentially have great customer experience improvements. Imagine a scenario where guests can check in online directly via an app or web, and then they could straight walk into the room without having to even show the QR code or the system key. But at the same time, you have to balance the privacy and security concerns. So anything we do will be fully with permission, having a choice to opt in or opt out of the system. I see a big play for Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in helping guests make the right selection. Imagine if your guests can actually feel like what it would be to stay in the hotel room before they booked a hotel. We do believe the hospitality and real estate industry is ripe for technological disruption. And we are at the forefront of it.

How big is your tech team?

Globally we have a team of 2100 plus engineers, primarily based out of India and China, though we do have smaller presence in many other countries. We are hiring the top 1% of the technology talent in the world that includes a combination of campus hiring and hiring engineers from other tech companies.

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