Waiting for one’s turn in a lengthy check-in queue at a hotel front desk is an experience that every traveller wishes to avoid, especially after a long journey. In a situation like this, technology-driven services, such as contactless check-in and check-out not only play a crucial role in elevating guests’ experience but also streamline front desk processes.
Hotels continue to invest in some of these technologies and services that gained popularity in the last few years, including contactless, self-service technology, as well as workflow automation and digitisation to assist guests, lower expenditure, and increase productivity.
However, installing multiple systems with major changes can complicate existing workflows. This is where a customisable digitisation platform can simplify business operations. And this is what Belagavi, Karnataka-based startuphas developed. Its artificial intelligence (AI)-powered platform can provide guests with a contactless experience from arrival, dining, and spa, to right until departure.
“Change is always difficult. Ecobillz does not require customers to change any software or processes that they already have. The platform seamlessly works with all existing property management system (PMS) and point of sale (POS) software and captures data within seconds without requiring any tight integration,” says Dr Ameet Patil, Founder and CEO of Ecobillz.
Founded in 2016 by Dr Ameet and Nitesh Singh Rathore, Ecobillz is a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) platform that can capture, read and accumulate documents and data in real-time for use as a document management system and advanced business process automation.
The platform gives guests access to registration cards via email or WhatsApp in advance, enabling them to perform check-in through their phones.
During their stay at a hotel, guests can access a digital food and beverage menu on their phones to place orders. To complete the contactless loop, guests can gain access to all invoices and documents on their phone or on hote l’s iPad, then sign the invoices and make payments through payment gateway integration for an easy virtual check-out.
Between check-in and check-out, guests can access and perform other contactless operations as well, depending on the availability of other linked services in a hotel.
A recent study by Oracle Hospitality and Skift surveyed more than 600 hoteliers and 5,000 consumers across the world in 2022. More than 60% of hospitality executives worldwide said that “a fully contactless experience for all basic hotel transactions, including check-in/out, food & beverage, room keys, etc.,” would be the most likely feature or technology that the industry will adopt widely in the next three years.
“The pandemic has established technology’s role in the guest and associate journey, and the industry is never going back,” said Alex Alt, Senior Vice President and General Manager at Oracle Hospitality. “Whether a hotel organisation has two properties or 2,000, guests are looking for the highly digital, self-service experience they have come to expect in other parts of their lives, from banking to ordering food.”
Nearly 73% of travellers want to use their mobile devices to manage their hotel experience, including checking in and out, paying, ordering food, and more, as per the study.
Ecobillz uses AI in the digitisation process. Once digitised, the platform acts as a one-stop solution to access historic data and perform useful analysis.
The AI engine, which has access to a large amount of data helps with processes such as automated reconciliation, revenue assurance, and income audits.
The platform can automatically collate invoices from different sources into one place, bundle them into a single package and send them to the end customer for payment. The startup claims that this process can reduce receivables turn-around time by 80%.
In addition, the platform performs day-of-audit process in real-time and highlights discrepancies to respective departments.
Ecobillz works with some of the leading hotel chains in India, providing customised solutions based on the necessities of these hotels. It competes with firms such as Billtrust, Vyapar, Grabango, FloBiz, and Zervant.
The startup’s solutions are live in more than 150 top hotel properties across India. The company has started talking to resellers in other countries, such as the Middle East, Africa, South East Asia and Europe, to expand the reach of its products, Ameet notes. Ecobillz plans to offer its solutions to quick-service restaurants, as well as three-star and four-star hotels in the future before exploring other sectors such as insurance and banking, he adds.
The company’s revenues stood at Rs 120 lakh in the financial year ended March 2021, up from 75 lakh in the year-ago period.
Ecobillz has raised a total funding of $225,000, including $174,000 in a seed round from 92 Angels, Ghosal Ventures and others in 2019. The company plans to soon raise Series A funding.
The smart hospitality market size is projected to grow to $49.9 billion by 2027 from $13.6 billion in 2022, at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 29.8% during the forecast period, according to a Research and Markets report.
Meanwhile, the workflow automation market size is expected to reach $39.5 billion by 2027 from $8.1 billion in 2019, growing at a CAGR of 23.68% from 2020 to 2027, as per research and consulting firm Verified Market Research.
The Ecobillz team, which started with only four people, including two founders, now comprises about 28 people, predominantly working on product development, with the rest of the members involved in admin and support.
Ameet, who has a PhD in computer science, handles the technical aspects of the company. Nitesh, Founder and CMO of Ecobillz, takes care of product design, marketing and sales. The duo met about 10 years ago through a common mentor, and have since worked together on multiple projects.