6 Success Strategies for integrating India into your global program

Globalising your travel program and integrating markets like India can be fraught with challenges.

Having a well thought out strategy, active engagement of in-country stakeholders and a clear “Go To Market “ roadmap can be your recipe for success.


The Challenge

In commencing your India integration initiatives , some of the top concerns you may be contending with would be around

  1. Demand for a high touch / low tech service delivery model in India
  2. Desire to maintain “Status Quo “ in view of “unique India specific needs”
  3. Limited MIS , Data & Analytics on the health of the program
  4. Absence of a structured employee CSAT & vendor performance scorecard

To navigate through this seemingly unsurmountable landscape & secure success , one would need to start by understanding the business travel market dynamics.

1. Understanding the market reality

Indian business travel market is amongst the fastest growing business travel markets worldwide. As per the recent GBTA study , the market stands at US$25B and is likely to growing north of 12% for the next 3 years . It’s the third fastest growing business travel market globally.

Despite the exponential growth in business travel , most corporations in India still regard business travel as a fulfilment activity rather than one that requires strategic focus and planning .

Further , in India , there is almost no supplier agnostic neutral industry body that shares knowledge and best practices on business travel. There are few recognized forums that allow this knowledge sharing between peer buyers with each company pretty much working standalone and navigating its own

It’s not uncommon for travel agencies/TMC’s to offer a minimal transaction fees coupled with Free account management + Free Onsite staff or implants + Extended credit / on-account payment facility !

Success in business travel operations is still largely deemed to be securing the lowest possible transaction fees .

In many instances the fees & services delivered can be so skewed that the only way the travel agency/TMC can operate is apparently at a sizeable loss !!

It’s not uncommon for the travel agency / TMC to offer a minimal transaction fees coupled with free account management , free onsite staff (or implants as is more commonly referred to ) & extended credit period – as being the general operating model . Many international travel partners also have a very different technology, operating & service delivery model in country given the market reality.

Generally there is very limited engagement from the senior leadership in the business travel program. If you were to speak to many CXO’s in Indian companies , they recognize that travel is a big cost , however they are largely limited in their ability to drive change due to the largely opaque systems of operations and lack of quality data & analytics . Partnership models between buyers & travel partners are generally antagonistic and largely driven by lack of trust & transparency.

2. Understanding the “Unique “ India specific needs

Often , when you go into a market like India you are confronted by a
very strong resistance to change , internally from your in-country
stakeholders. Its important to take an objective neutral view of such
situations and understand the underlying drivers that fuel such

Its important to take an objective neutral view of such situations and understand the underlying drivers that fuel such comment…… Indian’s don’t live on another planet !!

Yes – there are many operating situations in India that may appear alien to more evolved European & American markets . These have to be understood & taken in account when planning a transition .

The most important one being that of getting visae – Indian’s require a visa to almost all countries . Further consular requirements to secure such visa can be complex & requirements can vary even by the respective consular location where the visa is applied.

Further , most companies in India do not provide their employees with corporate credit cards, which is still largely restricted to very few organizations . Most companies still pay their travel agency/TMC using a cheque payment or on account model with limited lodge cards / purchase card implementation. This results in a separate eco-system of travel advances for domestic & international travel and on-account payments to suppliers.

While these realities exist , it would be correct also to point out that Indian’s don’t live on another planet !

The operating needs of Indian businesses are similar to other global counterparts . The penetration of mobile phones and internet in India is growing rapidly. Indian’s are very accustomed to buying travel online for leisure. They welcome technology & business models that makes their lives simpler.

3. Engagement with the India stakeholders

Given the size of your India program and the criticality of success , the next phase is to develop a robust & transparent engagement with your India team .This would require a multi level employee
engagement commencing with the India leadership team .

The best way to take this forward would be to do a short term assessment to

Evaluate the strengths & gaps in the current Indian travel operations.

  • Evaluate the commercial value of the local travel agency/TMC V/s benefits consequent on implementation of the global program partner
  • Establish service needs & expectations of local India team across levels of management & function

It’s important for your India leadership to share this mandate with the wider organization , which would also give confidence that your recommendation is based on solid facts & recognizes the needs of the Indian team .

Based on this assessment , a formal presentation to the India leadership team to secure their formal buy-in would be a major step in your future success .

It’s important for your India leadership to share this mandate with the wider organization , which would also give confidence that your recommendation is based on solid facts & recognizes the needs of the Indian team .

4. Operationalizing the Mandate

Getting the mandate operationalized is now the next big challenge .

A good way to start is to determine a roadmap with key milestones that need achievement in a time bound manner. A recommendation here would be to have a scheduled update with the senior
management / executive sponsor in-country at periodic landmarks so they are kept abreast of the progress.

Based on your evaluation , you will probably find that you will need to conduct negotiations with your global TMC partner to secure India specific operational & commercial expectations.

A strong level of account management support from your TMC partner would be required both globally and in-country to ensure that your internal initiatives are supported by your partner showing initiative & capability to deliver at a local level.

At this stage , it would be great if you could get your TMC partner to assign a transition team , which project manages the implementation with a project lead to keep track of all the moving parts.

Once the negotiations & commercial considerations are finalized alongwith the operational delivery , the stage is set for the actual program rollout !!

5 . The Moment of Truth – “Going Live”

Planning a smooth “Go Live” can be both exciting and nerve wrenching !! Getting to the moment of truth when the program transitions to the new partner / platform will require several components to work in tandem:

  • Structured Employee engagement Roadshows to socialise the changes in program management & operational processes
  • A robust user feedback & survey mechanism
  • A “Success Scorecard” that recognizes vendor program management , user feedback & success with business critical initiatives
  • Smooth de-implementation of incumbent agency/TMC , in phases 
  • Progressive rollout of new operations

The focus in this stage is to make the transition as free from “Noise & Smoke” as possible . It’s a given fact that something’s will not go as planned ….

The focus in this stage is to make the transition as free from “Noise & Smoke ” as possible . It’s a given fact that something’s will not go as planned …. While this is a reality , its important to have a tiered level of support & escalation so things can be resolved speedily and with minimum of fuss.

6. Tracking Success

While the most difficult was to get the program transitioned successfully , its important not to move your foot of the gas pedal !

Generally speaking , a program , especially in a market as complex as India should be monitored by you directly for at-least 6 months post the “Go Live “ .

This would include :

  1. Frequent scheduled meetings with your project leader & in-country support teams
  2. Close tracking of employee CSAT & Vendor “Success Scorecard”
  3. Consistent and scheduled re-training & refreshers so the employee user base gets comfortable & compliant with the changes desired
  4. Presenting an executive update to the leadership on performance , gaps & steps to improve
  5. Setting the agenda for the next set of important transitions related to business travel .

While the most difficult was to get the program transitioned successfully , its important not to move your foot of the gas

Securing success in complex markets like India requires a clear understanding of the market dynamics & unique user needs. With this as a starting point , you can set yourself up for success by implementing a phased rollout with specific tangible deliverables & Success Matrix .

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16.01 MICE Talk – Corporate Duty of Care & BT MICE in India

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1.What is Duty of Care?

Duty of Care is defined as the corporate obligation that an employer has to secure the welfare of their employees , when the employees travel on official work .

In many part of the world – like USA / Canada & Europe / Australia , this is a legal statutory obligation of the Directors & management of the company & there have been many instances where the Board of Directors / Chief executive and other officers of the company are legally & financially liable for negligence, if proven.

The concept of Duty of Care emerged and become a major component of business travel polices worldwide post the incidents to 9/11

This is not yet a legal obligation in India which is why there is limited or nil CXO visibility or focus amongst most Indian companies.

This is however a very well established business practice with Multinational and large Indian transnational firms .

2.How is Duty of Care different from Travel Risk Management?

Travel Risk Management is a function of Duty of Care .

Duty of care includes multiple aspects


  • Active advisory on potential travel risks and security related news
  • Creation of robust policies & continuing training & sensitisation of employees
  • Active intervention & approval by multiple levels of officers of the company incase an employee is travelling to a high risk destination.
  • Subscription to bulletins / 24 x 7 news and alerts that update corporate travel administrators & travellers on security instances / general travel risk & security issues
  • Active tracking of all corporate travel bookings made through the designated TMC including individual PNR tracking
  • Subscribing to the services of global travel risk & security / medical services like iJET /ISOS / Anvil
  • Ensuring that all reservations and hotel bookings made are done through approved official travel management service providers so all information is centrally updated and tracked through solutions like iJet / ISOS / Anvil etc .
  • Insuring travellers when they travel abroad is also a mandate that most companies es implement


  • Active counselling of the traveller in regards to the attendant risks and advise of how best to protect ones self
  • Detailing security / GPS & mobile tracking / Regular check in’s to a defined helpline number or email id

3.Where does Duty of Care fit into travel management?

Duty of Care is a central & very integral part of any global travel management program. However in the Indian context , this is not understood and nor is is it implemented with seriousness with the exception of MNC’s & Large Indian companies ( to some extent )

In many of the recent instances of terrorism & attacks across the world , like the Boston bombings. Paris attacks in 2016/7 & the Nepal earthquake in 2015 , most corporate entities in India were totally unprepared from such a situation

  • many had no idea which of their employees were onsite at the location
  • incase of the Nepal earthquake , a Fortune 500 consulting firm in India took more than a week to determine the well being of their employees in Kathmandu ,given that phone and mobile systems failed 

4.What is the role of a travel management company?

The role of a TMC is integral to the program success of the Duty of Care initiatives the company . This would require-

  • All reservations for flights and hotels to be made using the official corporate travel agency
  • The official TMC would then be mandated to deliver an in-house traveller tracking and security suite or integrate their PNR records with global travel risk and security provider system
  •  subscription to a 24×7 news alert system that tracks travel risk & security instances across the world and share this in realtime with the client company and its employees

5. What are the key elements of a successful Duty of Care programme?

answered above

6. What according to you are the challenges that hinder travel risk management?

7. Please share some insights into the India market regarding Duty of Care programmes

I will answer both questions simultaneously , with specific reference to India .

My comments relate to the broad general community of corporate travel buyers & companies & does not include Global MNC’s who may have a globally consolidated travel program in India & some Indian transnationals who have evolved their travel program to actively include traveller risk & duty of care . A prime example of an Indian company who has a very effective Duty of Care & Travel Risk Management Program is the Aditya Birla Group .

  1. Most companies in India execute their corporate travel programs with “Travel Agencies “ and not “Travel Management Companies (TMC’s”). “Travel Agencies’ – are generally non specialists in the business travel domain & generally win business on price / service attributes but don’t deliver the full range of business travel support
    services .
  2.  Much of the Indian business travel purchasers appoint travel agencies / TMC’s based on the lowest transaction fee pricing or the highest levels of discount . Many of our travel managers & procurement professionals place a far higher value on pricing and financial benefits rather than the qualitative aspects of their vendors technology capabilities, account management , risk management & management reporting capabilities
  3. Many Indian companies including some of our largest corporations follow a travel purchasing strategy that places the highest premium on the lowest fare . This is particularly seen in IT companies that follow a unique system where they put each travel request out to “bid” amongst multiple travel agencies / TMC. In this situation the lowest bidder wins the ticket and fulfils it . This places in question , how these clients ensure data consolidation of all tickets booked and tracking of their employee
  4. Another very unique situation seen with Indian companies is that they dont consolidate their hotel reservations with their TMC .Bookings for hotels especially international hotels are done through rate consolidators , directly with the hotel concerned / through secretaries & at times on reaching the destination from the airport by the traveller . tracking and consolidation of hotels booked and where the employee is tyyaing is hence missing .
  5. Further many Indian IT firms especially give their employees a “per diem” – the employee is expected to arrange their stay in their destination country using this per diem . Generally the employer will not ask for any receipt for the stay from the employee – IT companies actually regard such a practice as being “employee friendly “ and regard this as giving an incentive to the employee , since the employee could technically stay with friends and relatives and retain the per diem. However the fact that the employer has little or no information on where the employee is staying / the quality of the accommodation / the health & safety standards of the place of stay are totally ignored
  6. With very few exceptions there is very little CXO oversight to managed travel programs in India . Again there are some sterling exceptions but in general , CXO’s regards travel as more an act of fulfilment rather than one that requires due diligence to corporate liability , employee security and a structured strategy & policy definition.

Further , probably to some extent , CXO’s themselves drive their travel managers and procurement executives to squeeze every last rupee that the TMC / Travel agency could give them in the contracting process without delivering any of the basic hygiene services of technology / risk management & overall service delivery .

As the old saying goes “ if you pay peanuts , you get monkeys !!”

8. How important is travel insurance for business travellers? (Please share details for the following: percentage of corporate travellers who take travel insurance; type of insurance like annual or trip on trip; what is covered under travel insurance and if there are any particular details especially relevant to corporate travellers)

Travel insurance is a fundamental function of a travel program especially if your employees travel overseas given the extremely high costs of medical services especially hospitalisation.

Many companies have subscription to travel insurance for their employees – there is no real statistic available with ProKonsul to substantiate the % of travellers who use travel insurance .

Most companies buy an annual cover that stipulates the number of insured days that their employees are likely to travel as a whole. This reduces the cost of the cover as the retail cover is atleast 500-1000 higher than such corporate programs.

While insurance is taken at a corporate level , ProKonsul believes that there is inadequate employee briefing on how the insurance could be used, should a situation arise. Many companies don’t as yet provide wallet cards & other utilities to employees when they travel . Hence the overall approach with some exceptions in largely reactive – “let something happen , then the travel team will firefight the issue”

Also, please share some facts and figures/ infographics that provide an insight into the Indian MICE market and its future growth

As per some public statistics shared online , it is believed that Indian outbound MICE & leisure will generate 6.5M travellers by 2020 . However there is not validated statistics to indicate the quantum of these travellers who travel for business travel MICE ( BT MICE ) versus VFR / Leisure and other purposes. regarding MICE as a homogenous segment is erroneous as this have very specialized sub-segments

In general , BT MICE – MICE business related to the business travel portfolio of a company like conferences / events & incentives for employees is a large and growing segment .

However Indian companies tend to manage their BT MICE is a largely reactive manner very few companies plan annually in advance ; they rarely work with hotel groups / National Tourism offices & airlines directly ; dont consolidate their BT MICE programs across regions / globally and across user tiers – luxury / budget etc & almost never
conduct post event CSAT / VIC in a structured manner.

The general tried and tested approach of incentive buyers is India is to generally put together an event with a gala evening / indian food and some entertainment .

The focus on technology to optimize events , evaluating user experiences through a CSAT / VOC initiatives is missing as is the desire to provide travellers with unique and different experience . This is where a lot could be done to improve BT MICE in India .

Further most tour operators / travel agencies operate in a largely opaque manner where their negotiate prices with vendors & place an undisclosed markup when they invoice the client . Further in trying to secure the lowest price , Indian incentive managers don’t focus on specific areas areas like cancellation penalties where they eventually lose
significantly .

Today the globally accepted best practice is that tour operators operate on a fixed transaction fees and transfer all negotiated benefit to the client , who pays the hotels and airlines directly .

This allows corporations to recover GLOBAL VAT , on their groups to Western Europe , Canada & Asia – This alone can allow corporations to recover upto 20% of their land arrangement costs , which they currently pay as local GST in the country they are visiting

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