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Last updated: 29 Oct, 2019  

Saurabh.9.Thmb.jpg Technology changing fast, cos need to re-skill, up-skill: Saurabh Limaye

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SME Times News Bureau | 29 Oct, 2019

In an exclusive interview with SME Times, Saurabh Limaye, Managing Director, Jet2 Travel Technologies, emphasised the need for re-skilling and up-skilling for companies to remain competitive in the market.

Excerpts of the interview…

How did Jet2 Travel Technologies come into formation?

Jet2 has grown impressively over the last six to seven years, its key strategic focus being, to give its customers memorable holiday experiences by offering great products and excellent customer service at affordable prices. Revenue has almost tripled since 2015, from £1.25 billion to £3.14 billion in 2019, while profitability has grown from £52 million to £180m in the same period. IT has played a key role in supporting this exceptional growth story and it is fully expected that IT will play an even more important role in the coming years for Jet2 as the world becomes more digital.

As such, Jet2 needed to further strengthen its IT team to keep pace with business growth and it was decided to strengthen and expand the current IT teams in Leeds and Sheffield (UK) and also set-up its IT delivery function in Pune, India through launch of Jet2 Travel Technologies. Given the a large pool of IT professionals in Pune, it is expected that the Pune centre can ramp up quickly while maintaining a high quality of technical talent.

What are the services offered by Jet2TT? Is Jet2TT working on any innovative technological platforms? If yes, how is it adding value to the company?

Jet2TT will work on some very exciting strategic projects this year– mainly greenfield projects that will including looking at some leading edge solutions around AI, RPA and workflow.

Some examples of the applications/ software development that Jet2TT will be getting involved with are:
  • Revenue Management and Optimisation
  • Mobile App Development
  • Financial System (Accounts Payable/Receivable, Invoice matching and Optical Character Recognition)
  • Oversees Operation System
  • Product Information Management/ Digital Asset Management

All these applications will be built using latest technologies such as .Net core & Kafka, and deployed in to multiple Cloud platforms using Kubernetes.

The applications created by Jet2TT will address critical areas such as customer experience management, revenue and profit optimisation and building process efficiencies – as such the contributions will help Jet2 to strengthen it’s top line growth and profitability.

How is up-skilling of talent an important aspect in today's evolving market scenario? How is Jet2TT ensuring the same? How is Jet2TT helping in the growth and development of resources and talent

At Jet2TT we are very finicky about hiring the right talent. We only hire people with a go-getter attitude who are confident to communicate and work with a multi-national teams and possess top notch tech skills. This is an extremely niche combination, we have had to go through around 1200 applications to hire the first 25 team members that meet our requirements. As such, we strongly believe in retaining top talent as it is very difficult to find in the first place. We therefore focus on re-skilling and up-skilling our existing teams rather than hire externals.

In today’s market it is extremely important to re-skill/ up-skill because

Technology is changing fast, companies need to keep pace with these changes to stay relevant.

For example, any customer facing asset is now designed with a ‘mobile first’ approach, companies that don’t recognise this will compromise the customer experience for around 2/3rd visitors who primarily use mobile devices. As such companies need to invest in preparing a workforce that can design top quality mobile applications and mobile friendly websites

Every customer expects to be treated as an individual rather than one-of many, as such customising and dynamically packaging individualistic offers for customers is a must. To do this, your traditional IT development teams will not be sufficient as this requires a combination of statistics, behavioural science, data science and new age development frameworks. It is therefore essential to have a trained workforce available to deliver such intelligent solutions.

ou cannot change your workforce based on changes in technology as it affects your brand as a credible employer. New team members will need significant time to understand about your company and you will lose immense knowledge that your existing team possess, thus placing you with a competitive disadvantage

As per one of the leading consultancies report, Every five years, an employee’s skill is half as valuable as before, meaning reskilling is the need of the hour, if the employees have to stay relevant and safeguard their jobs.

Investing in employees makes them feel valued and gives them a chance to offer something more than their current capabilities, as such these employees will become your brand ambassadors and will help further your brand reputation.

Jet2 Travel Technologies will lead the way to create a ‘mini’ university for Jet2 IT staff. This will help the IT staff to pick and choose various training, knowledge artefacts and certifications to pursue learning and career progression, while gaining practical knowledge and guidance through mentorship programs. The Indian team would also have a great opportunity to work alongside our UK colleagues to get some unique international exposure

The growing role of technology in the travel sector. Please elaborate.

The major employment sectors for IT professionals in India, namely Banking & Finance and Healthcare are heavily regulated. In comparison travel sector is less regulated and thereby offers more opportunities for doing ‘different things’ rather than just ‘doing things differently’. In addition, leisure travel sector is a lifestyle product and there is a great opportunity for companies to create brand loyalty through establishing emotional connect with its customers. All these become considerations for the increasingly important role that technology will play in the travel sector.

Some broader themes that technology will significantly (and positively) impact in the travel sector are

Customer experience: Identifying every customer as an individual based on single customer view across multiple channels of communications (call centre, in-shop, social media, emails etc.), to allow for

  • Bespoke offers
  • Better customer service taking care of individual likes and dislikes
  • Quicker and more efficient grievance management

Digital experience: The digital rich media assets (such as HD images, videos, 360 views) are growing exponentially with smart phones. Leveraging these assets to create a more immersive experience for customers will help boost chance of customer acquisition and retention. As an example, companies can empower the customer to create a short video of their planned itinerary with their co-travellers, who can then add or remove the items from it, this offers a significantly more interactive and immersive way of planning the holidays. Another case in point is virtual tour through VR of the resorts/ holiday destinations, that is a massive improvement over the static mediums such as photos or videos.

Revenues & Profit: Evolution of Artificial intelligence, Machine learning and data science will allow the companies to optimise revenue and profit. For example, the airline ticket pricing could become more intelligent and dynamic, the online spot discounts will be smarter (and at a right level) to increase sales, in general the pricing systems could become more humane to react quickly and accurately to changing dynamics such as cancellations or strikes.

IoT: There are various aspects of travel that companies can re-think leveraging the evolution of internet of things (IoT). For examples, the long ques at the hotel reception could be eliminated by offering digital room keys through mobile applications, various offers could be prompted to customers in bars, restaurants and shops within resort using beacons to accurately locate them etc.

 It is not unfair to say that IT is no longer just a support function in the travel sector, it is a major differentiator today and its criticality in a travel company’s success will increase manifold in the coming years.

What are the growth plans of Jet2TT in the next 2 years?

The current plan is to build a 150+ strong team in 2020 and then eventually scale up to about 300 people team. In the meantime, Jet2 Travel Technologies will also add another delivery centre in Pune (current centre can sit around 130 people) in 2020. The initial focus is to culturally and functionally integrate the India and UK IT teams and deliver high quality software for Jet2. Innovation is another key agenda for the future, as the Pune centre will work with the UK offices to create innovative software that will further enhance customer experience for Jet2 customers on one hand and improve the internal business processes on the other hand.

What unique opportunities does Jet2TT offer to its employees?

The Indian team would have a great opportunity to work alongside Jet2 UK team as colleagues rather than supplier resources and thereby gain some unique international exposure and in the process preparing them for leadership roles.

In addition many exciting developments based on latest technologies are planned in the near future, this will present an opportunity for Jet2TT team to learn new skills and get hands on exposure to use these skills. Lastly, innovation is one of the key agenda for Jet2TT, all team members will be encouraged to come-up with innovate ideas and empowered to spend company time to develop these ideas through events such as hackathons, innovation week etc.

What is the current scenario of 'Global In-house Centre' model in India and the way forward.

With the advent of digitization and technological disruptions, Global In-house centres (GIC) are redefining the way global companies leverage talent pool across the globe. Earlier, GICs were setup exclusively with the aim of achieving cost arbitrage over the traditional outsourcing model, however; over the years, this has gradually evolved and today VCCs are an integral part of the organization, leading mission critical deliveries and innovation. From merely being a delivery centre for businesses to becoming a strategic hub providing value added services and research & development, GICs today are an important pillar of the organization’s overall growth and success. The Indian government policies have also been conducive to the growth of GICs through simplification of erstwhile bureaucratic processes for company set-up & compliance on one hand while introducing various incentives such as GST refunds, export promotion schemes and reduction in corporate tax rates on the other hand.

GICs have come a long way in the last years and today they offer a very compelling alternative to the traditional third party outsourcing for the global organisations. At the same time, the GICs have become a very exciting avenue for IT talent pool to build careers and stand-out at a global level. As is true with any other sectors, GIC model is evolving continuously in form and shape to overcome the existing challenges and build the immunity for the future challenges, but it definitely is here to stay and grow over the coming years!

Is the economic slowdown impacting your business in any manner? How are you coping with the same?

Jet2 has grown impressively over the last six to seven years, its key strategic focus being, to give its customers memorable holiday experiences by offering great products and excellent customer service at affordable prices. Revenue has almost tripled since 2015, from £1.25 billion to £3.14 billion in 2019, while profitability has grown from £52 million to £180m in the same period. So, the economic slowdown has not impacted Jet2 business as yet. However, we are not complacent and are ready to tackle the future challenges by being financially strong to handle any slowdowns (cash reserves), by investing in various initiatives to further improve customer experience and leveraging technology to drive efficiencies and reduce costs.

 
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