'ALT Industry Needs Well-Integrated Solutions'

Vipul Jain, MD and CEO, Kale Consultants, in conversation with Biztech2.0, shares some interesting technology trends in the airline, travel and logistics industry. Excerpts.

Kale Consultants has never been a typical IT Company, can you briefly describe the company’s business and revenue structure?

We started as a product company creating products for the airline industry. Passenger revenue accounting was our first product. As we went ahead, some of our customers suggested that they were happy with our products and would like us to handle end-to-end processes for their companies. That is when we set up a managed processes service centre. Unlike other service providers, we do not charge our customer on a per hour basis, instead we charge them on per transaction basis.

We have also started to offer our products on hosted basis. Now we are concentrating on building a layer of data analytics and consulting capability, which will allow us to understand the customer’s pain areas and also find opportunities for improving processes.

What are some of the latest developments at your company?

This year onwards our additional focus will be on travel and logistics. We have already created some solutions for these verticals while some are under development. For example, in the logistics industry, we are working with freight forwarders, container management companies, 3PL providers etc to come up with a solution, which will provide end-to-end integration between these various stakeholders.

We are trying to come up with solutions, which will be affordable to large as well as small and medium players. We will be using SaaS and pay-per-use kind of models for this. Our vision would be to provide end-to-end solutions to our customers covering front office as well as back office operations.

Cargo Management is a critical part of ALT industry. What are some of the typical issues related to management of cargo and what solutions can IT offer?

In a typical airline cargo, there are cargo agents who make bookings and hence they need to access the website, they need tariff information etc. The entire cargo movement involves various stages like bar-coding, documentation, ground handling, warehousing, custom clearance and final delivery to customer. From a customer viewpoint, the ability to track cargo at any of the above stages is very important.

The unique thing about cargo solutions is that you need to think about the requirements of not only the airline industry but also of the other parties involved in the process. EDI (electronic data exchange) plays a very important role here as it allows cargo operations to function smoothly. The other significant parts of cargo management involve pricing, accounting, revenue management, optimising revenue, decision support systems etc. All these are equally important to run the business in an efficient manner.

The solution, which we have devised, is like an ERP for entire business and takes care not only of the core operation but also the decision support layer. It enables customers to communicate with all their partners.

What kind of challenges is the travel industry currently facing?

The travel industry is going through a very interesting period of change. Airlines have either made commissions zero or have reduced them. There is also emergence of online travel players. In this scenario, players need to be extremely efficient and should be able to source content from across the world at good prices.

Travel companies are currently using point solutions like booking engine, accounting package, car rental packages etc, which are not well integrated. In order to fill this gap, we are currently developing an ERP kind of solution for this industry. The product under development is named ‘rainbow’, which will cover all processes from booking to settlement and will provide end-to-end connectivity with all suppliers and customers.

Could you please share your views on Dynamic Packaging?

As the business model between the airline, travel and logistics industries become blurred, we are seeing convergence taking place in their approach to customers as well as underlying technologies. Traditionally, airlines never sold directly except very little through their offices; their main distribution was through travel agencies. Now, airlines directly sell to customers and are also keeping an eye on what customers require. This has led to Dynamic Packaging and other ancillary services.

From a technology perspective, you primarily need a platform and booking engine, which should be integrated with your own airline fare and inventory as well as with third party products like hotels, cars, tours etc. Airlines will have to develop the ability to source all these ancillary products, package them and then offer the same as a bundle on their websites or call centres.

What are the main technology trends that you foresee in the ALT industry?

RFID is gaining significance, as it enables tracking at not just the consignment level but even at the piece level. RFID is being used on both the passenger and cargo sides and there are experiments currently on to test its use on airport floors as well.

The Web has already become a powerful tool. Customers are able to book their tickets, print their boarding passes etc. A lot of these things will soon be made available on mobile phones. So the mobile and Web media will see convergence. From a technology perspective, application integration will gain additional significance. Airlines, airports, customs, cargo agents, travel companies – all of these have their own systems, which will now be made to talk to each other.

Apart from this, what I am very excited about is 'innovations in business models'. Models like SaaS enable even the smallest travel agent, cargo agent or airline to have access to the best technology. I think this platform-based outsourcing of end-to-end processes is very exciting.

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Updated Date: Jan 01, 2009 14:51:21 IST