Dubai-based TPConnects Technologies, a pioneer travel technology company and the leading provider of travel technology solutions focusing on NDC (New Distribution Capability) and ‘One Order’ initiatives from IATA, recently strengthened their technology roadmap with a strategic investment by Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG).
The new partnership will reinforce the company’s plans to expand their technology capabilities to new partners and new markets across the world. IATA’s NDC has been a key enabler that TPConnects embraced, to accelerate this transformation and keep up with the rapidly evolving airline retailing market.
Rakshit Desai, who was recently appointed as the new CEO of TPConnects Technologies brings in the right synergies and competence to enable this vision, as he moves from his previous position as Managing Director, India for Flight Centre Travel Group.
Speaking about his new role Desai said, “I am very optimistic about TPConnects’ potential and am very excited about working with a phenomenal team here. We are well-positioned to address emerging opportunities in this rapidly evolving space.”
“The way technology and retailing has evolved, is reminiscent of the early days of e-commerce, where we knew change was imminent but did not understand the rate of adoption and that it would soon become the dominant channel. With technology, we often underestimate the degree of change it can deliver in the long run and overestimate what it can achieve for us in the short run,” he said.
Desai believes that when IATA launched NDC, they were driving home the point that it was time for a new model in the marketplace. “It is after all about strengthening the ecosystem’s capabilities and freeing the traveler from restrictions such as limited bundling options, limitations on ancillaries or not being able to meet IATAs One Order framework and so on.”
“At TPConnects’ we are pioneers in a fairly novel space and have already achieved strong traction in the marketplace. Now, with a stable investment and investor- partners who are willing to back us up, we want to take the platform to the next level and be the leading travel distribution, aggregation technology company.”
“We will continue to build pipes that deliver content to the travel seller and we want to do it smartly and at a price point that effectively lowers the cost of travel for travelers and brings the price point for international travel down,” added Desai.
“Travel makes the world a better place and to enable and empower more people to travel, we want to make it more affordable and what lies in our capability to enable that, is to bring down the distribution costs involved,” he added.
One of the challenges aggregators have faced is the uneven adoption of servicing that has been implemented through the NDC platform by various airlines. Desai believes that this makes it difficult for agencies to adapt to various flows.
“Right now NDC content is still not universal and so we still need multiple sources of content. To enable a more universal adoption to NDC, the content provider has to provide differential content.
“Once again, this is like the early days when the OTAs sold largely at a loss. The idea was to proactively get a market share but then the airlines discounted their rates so they could build direct relationships with the customers. So, there absolutely needs to be deferential content for users to gravitate towards it,” he added.
“Secondly, we need to make it easier for sellers to consume the content we send their way. If you have to go to the GDS to check the GDS fare and then to the NDC aggregator for the NDC fare and another website for hotel rates, it is going to create friction in the whole booking process, both for the seller and the traveler.
Our product, the combined API, offers a single source for all your booking content. We add intelligent layers which can help the seller sort, screen, filter, present, merchandise, and commercialize their content for their end users or end travelers.”
According to Desai, the lack of incentive to book on indirect channels is another key factor that must absolutely be resolved.
“We have seen some early reactions to how this works. For e.g. Oman Air offers an NDC rebate while many European carriers have gone the other way and imposed GDS surcharges – so, it doesn’t matter if it comes in the form of a carrot or a stick, a penalty or an incentive – what works ultimately is the access to rich content. And the more rich content we have, the greater the motivation to adopt and then more people like us can streamline the function of that content.
“I don’t believe the airlines will ever turn their backs on GDSs but I definitely believe that all airlines will have multi-distribution policies and strategies, giving them greater control over their distribution and content. This is something that the entire ecosystem needs to gravitate towards,” added Desai.
The Airline Distribution category, for all its great strides in recent years, is still in its nascent stages and Desai says that evolving the technology to simplify and further service the sector will continue to be the key focus for the business. Since IATA launched the NDC, the GDSs too have created robust and scalable platforms to roll out NDC solutions.
“It is a very complex ecosystem and working together in partnership with the GDSs, is essential to ensure the customer benefits from all the new contents and new offers. The evolution of our API interface has enabled us to put out a more agile form of technological intervention.
“We will continue to work with the GDS, when our customers expect a combined API that offers full content from the GDS as well as NDC. The end goal is to ensure that the customer, whether it is the airline or the seller, has the benefit of choice. And everybody recognizes that.” added Desai.
“At TPConnects, this allows us to innovate and advance commercially by keeping the extension of content choices as relevant and flexible as possible for our customers.”
Looking ahead Desai speaks about two areas of focus for the company.
“One is the product. The actual supply and aggregation capability is functioning in good order and we now want to add layers of capabilities to it, to specifically reduce any friction at the booking level. So, we ask ourselves, how can we make the pipes smarter?
“The second area of focus is growth. We have seen strong success across the MENA region and have been working successfully with airlines including Oman Air, Gulf Air, Air Cairo; have spread East to add Singapore Airlines and towards the west, where we recently announced our partnership with Finnair. We now want to continue to scale globally and that remains a core focus for the company now going forward.”
“We have had a substantial investment from FCTG and this gives us the visibility on how to industrialize at scale. We are in a place today where we need to provide industrial-scale platforms for our airline and seller partners.
“Besides the financial capital, there is the knowledge capital and the global reach that comes on board too. FCTG has a wide global reach and access to markets that we do not currently operate in and together we will be able to open new doors and access the right opportunities to grow.”
FCTG has been working with TPConnects since 2019 to deliver specific airline NDC content to its corporate customers.
“We are at that point of convergence, where we can provide a wider option of distribution. Our start point is that all customers need and deserve choices and we think that TPConnects is viable because there is a market for choice” added Desai.
“We are also focused on organizational building and have plans to double the workforce by the end of 2022. We have the resources and the vision and we are in execution mode at the moment,” he concluded.