As this is the first Bow-tie Briefing edition in 2021, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all readers Happy New Year! We are very honoured to commence this year with an interview with Rajdev Bhattacharya who is the global head travel & hospitality and business head of Way2go Wipro Ltd. On top of his daily travel management role, he is also our CTC – Corporate Travel Community founding Asia Council Member. With an annual travel spend of over USD150 million spread over 58 countries under normal circumstances, Wipro’s travel programme is one of the largest to manage on a global level. I am extremely honoured to share a recent in-depth interview with Rajdev over the next two editions of Bow-Tie Briefing.
Benson: Rajdev, thank you for joining our discussion today. As a long-time veteran in the corporate travel industry, particularly leading a huge travel programme of a top-notch technology firm, can you share with us your number one challenge?
Rajdev: Thank you for this wonderful opportunity. Figures don’t lie, or statistics is the biggest liar is the dilemma. For ages, we have been trained to scrutinise data and find the ghost and the gods and now it is back to perception and trust. The industry contacting mechanism has changed forever, or at least the foreseeable future. Typically, the corporate travel manager is living a three “R” model this year.
Benson: Wow, I’d love to learn more from you on this new notion. Can you elaborate more on the three “R” model? What do the Rs stand for?
Rajdev: I call it the “Rescue-Rebuild-Return” era. Let’s me explain more. Firstly, ‘Rescue’. The last few quarters have been mostly getting back stranded passengers and an overdose of the phrases “duty of care”, “international charters” and “government approvals”. Now it’s time to reset the timer to zero. A word of caution though, this is no time to rest. Then there is ‘Rebuild’. Let’s face it, we have been building airlines and hotel contracts based on the previous baseline. With numbers to back and justify any negotiation thereof. Now, it will be different. l have made a possible template which you can use right away:
- Predict the travel volumes: This is a gamble and your guess is as good as mine, however, I would rely on three sources:
- An estimate from the company CFO and other stakeholders & travel approvers based on their discussion with sales team and client meetings: Creating a policy with legal and HR should give you insights as who would be allowed to travel. The CFO may already have a budget in mind.
- The Traveller – The willingness and suggestions of the core 80% of your regular road warriors: Travellers will now have a lot to say about choosing the hotel and airlines. Listen to their worries, what determines their choice.
- Government mandates – This is now the most difficult to track. I had earlier written in one of my LinkedIn posts jokingly that we may require VISA experts for domestic travel, which to my horror has almost come true with the ever-changing regulations and state-level complexities.
- Industry corrections: The next step should be working with your TMC and online content providers to understand their capability to handle new travel policies and the scalability of such providers. If this is not done, you may soon face audit issues and differences with the fulfilment agencies due to lack of understanding and communication.
- Supplier’s appetite: Now that’s a big one. You should immediately try to gauge, if possible, their willingness to do business. Hotels and airlines have a fair idea about their schedule and capacity deployment for at least the next two quarters.
In the next edition, we will continue this in-depth dialogue to further elaborate “Rebuild” and to discover “Return”. Moreover, Rajdev will share his frank view on the future of corporate travel. Please stay tuned! 😊