Skift Take

Asia’s corporate travel management startups have been rather quiet as of late. An Accel investment in Travelstop, which has also announced Traveloka as a new supply partner, will stir things up.

Top Silicon Valley venture capital firm Accel is backing Singapore-based Travelstop with $3 million in funding, its first investment in corporate travel and expense management in Asia.

At the same time, Travelstop has announced a partnership with Southeast Asia’s online travel agency Traveloka, as part of its mission to simplify business travel bookings and offer comprehensive travel options at affordable prices on a single platform.

Accel’s investment is good news for Travelstop, and for the sector in Asia. Its track record in early-stage startups include Series A in Facebook in 2005 and seed funding in Slack in 2009. Apart from the nod to Travelstop, Accel’s investment says something about prospects for the region’s business travel and expense management.

The company has invested in Asia’s travel industry before, but more in online leisure platforms such as India’s peer-review site HolidayIQ, India’s budget chain FabHotels, Middle East’s Muslim travel HolidayMe, and Singapore’s homestay Travelmob, which was founded by Prashant Kirtane, co-founder and CEO of Travelstop.

Accel’s investment in Travelstop is joined by Strive and existing investor SeedPlus. The latter, along with veterans from Expedia and Yahoo!, seeded Travelstop’s birth in August last year with a $1.2 million funding.

As part of this new round, Accel’s Prashanth Prakash, a partner at the firm, will join Travelstop’s board of directors.

Ripe for Disruption

As Skift wrote in January, the sector in Asia is ripe for disruption.

Asia-Pacific is the largest business travel market in the world, comprising 40 percent of the global total, according to Travelstop. Yet more than 90 percent of the spend is unmanaged, that is, unbound by formal policies and compliance.

Traditional business travel management is “complicated, disjointed, expensive, and does not offer choice,” said Kirtane, while a new legion of Asian millennial business travelers demands a tech-driven approach that removes those pain points.

Accel’s Prakash said, “Travelstop is building a locally relevant solution for the millennial generation of business travelers. In less than a year, they’ve built a solid, category-defining business and launched a world-class product that has been adopted by a growing number of companies and their employees.”

Travelstop plans to use the new funds to further invest in technology and accelerate adoption of the platform across Asia. Kirtane claims that sales have grown 100 percent month over month since launch, while customer satisfaction score is 98 percent — according to its own feedback monitoring. Most of Travelstop’s users are international companies originating from Asia, although “we have already seen decent traction from companies in the U.S. and EU,” Kirtane said.

His game plan to increase adoption, therefore, is to keep focusing on “product market fit and customer engagement,” since the more this improves, the higher the adoption will be.

For instance, Travelstop is working on launching a new 24/7 feature that proactively supports business travelers in the event of a flight disruption or schedule change.

“The post-booking support experience on most travel websites is not that great,” said Kirtane. “It’s either a long wait on the phone or endless emailing back and forth with the travel agents, and it’s always reactive.”

“We want to offer a much better experience for our business travelers. It starts with offering proactive support — building tools that constantly monitor schedule changes or flight disruptions, and reaching out to the travelers proactively to reschedule and plan alternatives.

“We also want to make sure that the travelers can reach out to us at any time with ease, with chat support, and that the median time it takes for our team to respond is less than two minutes.”

Another feature is offering hassle-free travel insurance on the platform. “Currently, companies use separate platforms to buy flights, hotels, and travel insurance. We want to change that and bring it all together in a single easy-to-use experience, saving companies time, money, and boosting their operational productivity at the same time,” said Kirtane.

Boosting Choices

Adding Traveloka as one of its key providers is an interesting move, considering the Southeast Asian online travel unicorn is leisure-oriented. But Kirtane said it offers “the best inventory and rates for flights and hotels for Asia,” while Indonesia is one of Travelstop’s largest markets, whether for inbound business travelers to the country or high-growth companies sending road warriors to domestic markets or internationally.

Traveloka, meanwhile, has announced a partnership with West Japan Railway Company (JR-West) to distribute its train passes in Traveloka’s iOS and Android Apps.

It targets sales for these passes from Southeast Asia and Australia to Japan. Under the agreement, Traveloka will have “the most competitive” prices and complete selection of passes, and customers will be able to get the passes conveniently via e-ticket, airport pickup, or direct shipping by courier.

That is good news for Travelstop’s business travelers to Japan.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Travelstop is one of Skift’s top travel startups to watch 2019


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Tags: asia, corporate travel management, travelstop

Photo credit: Prashant Kirtane, co-founder and CEO, Travelstop. Travelstop.

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