Amanpreet Bajaj, Country Manager for Airbnb, India, discussed the graph and growth of the revolutionary b&b company, in a brief e-conversation with Utsavi Jha and gave him insights about Airbnb’s relationship with the tech world and its vision for the future.
“ Home sharing as a concept is picking up in India for travelers and especially hosts in cities beyond metros. Rising personal income levels, a growing economy, affordable air travel and deeper internet penetration are leading to the emergence of a more avid, prudent and adventurous Indian traveller. ’’
Exhibit: Can you talk about your role at Airbnb in depth?
AMANPREET BAJAJ: I oversee the operations for the Indian market, for Airbnb and as the Country Manager, I am responsible for the growth of the company in the country. As the lead for Airbnb in India, my aim is to bring the growth in the country’s digital travel ecosystem and capacity by adding an element of personalization and customization to the way Indians travel.
Exhibit: Airbnb is becoming more and more specialized, and has a lot of options to customize the staying experience. Can you elaborate a little more on that?
10 years ago, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia inflated three airbeds in their apartment in San Francisco and introduced a new phenomenon in travel, empowering millions of people around the world to become hosts and welcome strangers into their homes. People said it would never work and yet a decade later, people have checked into an Airbnb nearly 300 million times. Hence, we now want to go further by supporting and expanding our community, so that in 10 years time, more than 1 billion people per year will experience the benefits of magical travel on Airbnb. We are known for our alternative accommodation, but by bringing different types of accommodation together, we want to offer something unique for any and every traveller that they can customize based on their needs and as per their convenience.
Exhibit: What alterations does the portal have to make to fit into the Indian travel scenario?
Home sharing as a concept is picking up in India for travelers and especially hosts in cities beyond metros. Rising personal income levels, a growing economy, affordable air travel and deeper internet penetration are leading to the emergence of a more avid, prudent and adventurous Indian traveller. In the Indian context, travel has become of the important leisure activities that Indians indulge in. Overall, we see an appetite in the Indian market for more personalized and unique experiences however, these are early days and we will continue to learn from user behavior and adapt to their requirements.
Exhibit: How has been the response in India?
The success of Airbnb in India, so far, is reflected in the incredible growth we have witnessed among the host and guest community alike. Since 2008, one million Indians have travelled on Airbnb globally. With over 30,000 listings in the country, Airbnb listings in India have grown by 115 percent over the past year. Right now, our biggest focus in India is to get more people to become acquainted to the value that Airbnb can add to their travel experiences, and to reap the benefits of home-sharing.
Exhibit: After looking at the other online accommodation booking portals that are present and coming up in the market, do you feel that the competition has tightened?
We do not usually comment on competition but we believe that the travel space has immense potential for diversity and it is encouraging to see a shift in the domain, as people increasingly know what they want from their travel experiences. We also feel that as travel habits and consumer demands evolve, businesses are constantly innovating to deliver to these demands.
Exhibit: Where do you see the travel industry heading and what would the future trends be like?
It is certain to say that India is noticeably undergoing a phase where there is a massive outlook change in the way the country wants to experience or even experiment with its travel. Today travelers want to immerse themselves in the unique local experiences and the little nuggets a city, town or neighborhood have to offer. This evolution of travellers across the world and the overall transformation of travel and tourism industry has encouraged us to take further steps to promote this interesting concept of homestays.
Exhibit: What do you think of the Tech scene in India and where do you see it in the next 5 years?
We see a huge potential in meeting the demand from the urban millennials in India for unique ways to travel. These urban millennials are extremely very tech-savvy and use the internet to do everything from discovering new places to finding recommendations before planning a trip on their own. Gone are the days when people used to be dependent on agents to plan their trips.
Also, with the government promoting initiatives like Digital India, it is becoming simpler for individuals to establish sharing businesses which rely on technology, and even simpler for their customers to access these services.
Exhibit: What are your thoughts on India as a startup hub?
India is fast emerging as a start-up nation. We have seen a tremendous growth towards creation of innovative start-ups that have emerged as one of the fastest growing companies in the country. And I believe, entrepreneurship is about spirit. India as a country is not lacking in talent whatsoever, every day we see new businesses and start-ups innovating and creating products and services that will shape our future. This shows a great deal of potential in our country and youth and it is very endearing to see this.
Exhibit: Tell us about your thoughts on social media, travel bloggers and how they’re capitalizing on travel. Is Airbnb open to collaborations like that?
Today’s youth feels a strong connect with the social media influencers, especially the celebrities they follow and love, as well as with the media they consume; and their aspirations and desires are often inspired by trends that their favourite personalities set. Airbnb has collaborated with leading lifestyle social media influencers and celebrities like MissMalini, Rohan Joshi, Mandira Bedi, etc. to build a stronger connect with their followers i.e. potential Airbnb travellers. By associating with social media influencers and Bollywood celebrities, we see a huge potential in establishing the connect between films and travel, in the endeavor to meet the demand from the 230m urban millennials in India seeking a more exciting way to experience the world.
Exhibit: According to you, in which part of the world is Airbnb the most developed?
At present, US tops the list of destinations as well as origins for guests, followed by France. Having said that, India is one of the fastest growing markets for Airbnb, and this was reiterated by our CEO, Brian Chesky who predicted that in about 10 years from now, India will be one of the world’s biggest markets for Airbnb.
Exhibit: Can you name some of your favourite books?
I generally like to read about various business leaders and their journey. These days, I am reading Hit Refresh by Satya Nadella which is an interesting read.
Exhibit: Describe Airbnb in a statement.
Airbnb, the world’s leading community-driven hospitality dedicated to making travel truly magical by giving travellers the ability customize their travel so they belong anywhere at any given point of time and discover the world on their own terms.