AWS Travel and Hospitality Partner Conversations: IBS Software
Anand Krishnan, CEO at IBS Software joins Judy Pitchford, Head of Travel for for AWS Travel and Hospitality, for a broad-ranging discussion around how AWS Partners are helping customers build resilience and prepare for what’s next in travel and hospitality.
During this unprecedented time for the industry, we have been inspired by the innovations that have been born out of disruption and will impact and improve the way we fly, eat, stay, and experience our world for years to come. Now more than ever, AWS wants to help customers succeed by connecting them to AWS Partners with deep AWS technical expertise and proven customer success to help travel and hospitality organizations build a resilient business and accelerate innovation. That’s why we’re honored to have IBS as a launch member of the brand-new AWS Travel and Hospitality Partner Competency.
Judy Pitchford: Describe your company, the types of travel and hospitality work you do, and key travel and hospitality clients.
Anand Krishnan: IBS Software aims to redefine the future of travel through the power of technology. We believe that anyone that considers themselves a travel company must also call themselves a technology company. Our opportunity is in helping airlines, hotels, cruise lines, and others do that. We help them change the way they operate through the power of our next-generation SaaS platforms. This governing vision has been our North Star for over two decades.
Our customers include airlines, hotels, cruise lines, tour operators, and travel companies of every size. In aviation, our platforms help airlines manage complex functions such as aircraft and crew operations, fleet maintenance, passenger reservations, staff travel, loyalty programs, and cargo management. In hospitality, we help our customers by connecting them to one of the largest leisure distributions network in the world as well as in growing their direct business through our sales platform. For the tour and cruise sector, we deliver an integrated platform that powers the key onshore, online, and on-board processes required to deliver complete and seamless customer-centric experiences.
Collectively, our customer base is spread across 37 countries and includes 12 of the 20 largest airlines, six of the 15 largest hotel chains, and two of the five largest cruise lines.
JP: Many companies across travel and hospitality have been managing through a period of unprecedented disruption. What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced during this recent period and how have you helped clients manage through them?
AK: We are in uncharted territory. Leisure travel is operating at a fraction of normal levels. Business travel and the conference business have virtually ground to a halt. Most travel operators are running at significantly reduced levels and the timeline for recovery remains hard to predict.
However, there is also cause for optimism. Air cargo has become an even more critical part of the global supply chain and remains a profit-generator for airlines. Similarly, customer loyalty programs have become more critical as travel operators focus on retention, personalization, and ancillary revenues. Even in passenger travel where the impact has been the greatest, the past months have shown evidence of significant pent-up travel demand waiting to break out, along with positive longer-term indicators of travel demand.
All of that collectively makes the current crisis an opportunity.
The current lull in demand creates space for customers to accelerate the transformation needed to thrive in the post-recovery world. Our focus over the past months has been on helping our customers create this “Roadmap to Recovery.”
We do this by bringing together our technology expertise, product set, and 20 years of travel industry experience to focus on four main themes:
- Ensuring the safety and health of customers and employees
- Optimizing costs
- Unlocking incremental revenue
- Managing risk in the current environment
Ultimately, these are all steps in the direction of the longer-term transformation across business and technology that will be critical as things return to normal.
JP: It’s been an incredibly difficult time for travel and hospitality companies, but we’ve seen many companies investing for the long run. With all the uncertainty, why has your company chosen to invest in travel and hospitality at this time?
AK: Transforming the travel industry has always been our mission, and our view on this is long term.
We believe that the industry will recover from the current crisis and that the future of travel will be better than the past. Most travel and hospitality companies continue to be powered by IT systems that are collections of point solutions, stitched together in complicated ways and unable to adjust to changing business reality. While this was already a limiting factor for most, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought these failings into even sharper focus. We believe we have an opportunity to deliver comprehensive solutions that can power the agile travel businesses of the future.
Additionally, we know that real value creation requires sustained innovation, in other words, that we continually push the boundaries of our solutions. Our view on investment is long term and we see the current crisis as a short-term speed bump. Consequently, despite the crisis, and as most of the travel and hospitality sector was cutting back, we grew our R&D spend by over 30% in 2020. We remain focused on driving the innovation that will define the “new normal.”
In other words, I firmly believe that our opportunity now is greater than ever before.
JP: In the face of the current disruption to the travel and hospitality industry, we’ve observed incredible innovations coming from across the industry. How has your company innovated through these challenging times on behalf of your customers and what are you most proud of?
AK: It has been an extraordinary time. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to become more efficient, agile, and responsive. In late February, we shut down offices in 10 countries and shifted 3,500 employees to working remotely – a switch that happened nearly overnight. Shortly after that, as various countries and customers entered lockdowns, a significant portion of our customer engagements moved to that mode as well. We found new ways to stay connected and continue to progress large, complex initiatives. As a result, we have now had multiple large, mission-critical deployments of new customers on our platforms. Our internal tracking tells us that our productivity has actually gone up over this period. Our view on team composition and organization has evolved. All of this is capability that we will continue to leverage even after normalcy returns to the corporate world.
Speaking of customers, over the prior months, many airlines have come to rely on the continuing strong performance of their air cargo and loyalty programs. We’ve helped airlines use their loyalty programs to generate revenues from customers who have stopped flying. To reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, we have also introduced features in our cargo management platform to facilitate contactless shipments, ensuring the safety of our clients’ employees and customers. We helped cruise lines implement innovative packages to retain and rebook customers who would otherwise have cancelled their bookings. These are just a few of the many creative ways in which we are using the current crisis to help customers develop capabilities that are impactful today but also important in a post-recovery world.
JP: The travel and hospitality industry is incredibly resilient. As you look toward recovery, what role does technology play for your company moving forward? How do you see technology enhancing the customer experience and improving operational efficiency?
AK: Regardless of the crisis, the technology world continues to push the envelope and given our heavy R&D focus, we continue to look for and incorporate cutting-edge technology into the solutions that power the future for our customers.
This could be a long answer but to cite just a few such areas: combining AI with buyer profile information to deliver better personalization, predictive analytics that can help optimize both costs and yields, and intelligent orchestration of flexible infrastructure that can improve the efficiency of our SaaS products. Examples such as these reflect our ongoing focus on innovation and aren’t necessarily tied to the crisis or the recovery. We believe the potential to leverage technology to transform the industry remains as strong as ever and the current situation should not distract from that.
JP: How does building on AWS allow you to prepare for whatever the “new normal” in travel and hospitality will look like? How does the new AWS Travel and Hospitality Partner Competency help companies do the same?
AK: Our customers rely on us to power mission-critical business processes and we expect to see every customer increase their reliance on agile, resilient technology platforms. This is the rationale behind our rapid innovation velocity and the cloud-first architecture of our products.
Consequently, we are always looking to take full advantage of AWS and its various offerings. We rely on AWS to provide mission-critical, highly-available services with the corresponding levels of resiliency, security, scalability, and disaster recovery (DR). The flexibility of the cloud also allows us faster time-to-market on new innovation and the ability to quickly change direction.
IBS is proud to be a part of the Travel and Hospitality Competency Partner launch at AWS. The recognition acknowledges that our technology proficiency and proven customer success across numerous innovative solutions for the travel and hospitality industry.
We expect to leverage our AWS partnership to develop a Cloud Centre-of-Excellence that can drive both consistency of best practices across our diverse product portfolio and the rapid prototyping of emerging technologies. Among other things, we are looking forward to exploring the emerging AI Ops capabilities we see and being able to use predictive analytics to improve service levels.
The AWS Travel and Hospitality Partner Competency highlights innovative and trustworthy travel and hospitality technology providers. It further validates our expertise and ability to implement leading-edge digital solutions at sensible costs, bringing significant time, money, and environmental savings – that we can guarantee.
JP: What makes you excited for the future of travel and hospitality? As a traveler or guest, where are you looking forward to visiting next?
AK: Both my wife and I have always been avid, vacation travellers and a lot of our best memories (and nearly every picture on our walls) come from various destinations around the world. In recent years, we’ve taken our two kids along on these journeys, giving them a choice of destinations but allowing them to pick where we finally end up. As a parent, nothing beats the joy of watching your child discover a new place and culture and re-shape their view of the world.
So we can’t wait to hit the road again. So many possible choices but if I had to pick a few that we’ve talked about recently, Japan, Iran, and Brazil would all be fascinating experiences.
Learn more and team up with AWS Travel and Hospitality Competency Partners.
See more Partner Conversations and industry insights on the AWS Travel and Hospitality Blog.