US-based online travel company Expedia Inc is setting up a research and development (R&D) centre in Gurgaon, near Delhi. With 100 people already on board and another 200 still to be added, Expedia will have the biggest R&D facility among the online travel companies in India.
"It is a strategic investment which will help us grow our business in India. We are investing millions of dollars into this venture," said Edmond Mesrobian, chief technology officer, Expedia.
Among other online travel companies, Yatra.com has a similar facility in Hyderabad with around 35 employees. MakeMyTrip and Cleartrip.com call it product and innovation team which is a separate department to develop technologies and applications.
In fact, MakeMyTrip recently got on board its chief technology officer, Sanket Atal, who joined from Computer Associates. "We believe that to be a great global company, we have to be a great local company. For our technology centre in India, we will be hiring Indian talent, from senior leadership team to the engineers," Mesrobian said.
For Expedia, this will be its largest R&D centre in the Asia-Pacific region followed by Singapore and Beijing in China. The centre will be an integral part of its global research teams and address technological problems world-over. However, the main task is to develop supply solutions in order to leverage the global footprint of Expedia in India.
As to why the company did not choose to outsource this service, as it has done in several markets, Mesrobian said it was because of the talent pool that India offered. So far, the company has recruited people from top IT companies.
"We are very soon going to launch the new version of airline bookings on our website. It provides us a foot in the door opportunity to secure a customer to try other products too," said Vikram Malhi, country head, Expedia India. Expedia also operates portals like Hotwire.com, Hotels.com.
While several online travel companies have shown interest in developing their technological competence inorganically, Expedia does not want to go by that route. "We are developing our applications and doing data analysis internally. We don't need to acquire," Malhi added.