Airbnb, which launched its India operations in 2016, has expanded to nearly 100 cities in the country. The company envisages India to be one of its top three markets in the long-term. Amanpreet Bajaj, country manager, Airbnb India, talks to Asmita Dey about the firm’s focus areas and partnership with Oyo. Edited excerpts:
Airbnb has invested in Oyo. How are the two companies aligned in their outlook and how will Airbnb benefit from this partnership?
India and China are some of the fastest-growing markets for Airbnb as a company. In both these countries, Oyo is empowering local entrepreneurs to provide more options to travellers. The fact that they are empowering local entrepreneurs is something where we align and we both share a dedication to offer people more choices. This partnership will help us offer different accommodation options at different price points for travellers in India and other markets where they operate. One key area where we are working together is to ensure that Oyo portfolio and Oyo managed homes are available on our platform for our global community to book. You will see them increase their presence on our platform.
In India, you have primarily been focusing on the top metros and tier-two cities. Do you plan to cater to tier-three and tier-four cities?
If you think about our messaging, yes we do focus on urban millennials. India has almost 430 millennials and about 230 of them stay in urban markets—in top 15 cities. However, in the last three years, our presence has percolated down to almost100 cities. Today, you can stay in rural towns of Gujarat or in Nagaland. We have seen the benefits of increasing awareness percolate to tier two and three towns. To reach a larger audience, we have also introduced Hindi language on our platform.
How much have you invested in India so far?
We will not be able to comment on investments but we can talk about the economic impact that Airbnb has had over the last one year. In 2018 alone, Airbnb has had an estimated direct impact of $150 million. Hosts have collected almost $28 million and welcomed 800,000 guests.
Airbnb claims India to be one of its key markets. How do you plan to expand your India business?
In the long-term, India is perceived to be one of the top three markets for Airbnb. So, we will continue to focus on all aspects of the business—whether it is growing the host community or creating more awareness. Over the last two years, three million Airbnb guests have used Airbnb to either travel to or from India. Our largest offering is the marketplace offering where people can list their extra space the way they want to and we give them the flexibility to price it the way they want to. We have an aim that we want to create an Airbnb for everyone.