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Smart Portal: Cleartrip deploys IT tools to enhance efficiency and user experience

August 22, 2014
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Established in July 2006, Cleartrip is today one of the leading online travel companies in India. The company’s aim is to make travel simpler. To this end, it has adopted cutting-edge technology and telecom tools to ensure a clutter-free website, which is quick to load, easy to navigate and offers an easy booking process.

tele.net takes a look at how this online travel company is using telecom and IT tools to enhance employee productivity and improve customer experience...

Current infrastructure

According to Cleartrip’s vice-president of software engineering, Sanjeev Sreedharan, the company predominantly uses an internet protocol-based network, which includes a wide area network (WAN) deploying 10 to 12 PRI lines for meeting the company’s internal communication requirements. It sources PRI lines from Bharti Airtel and Vodafone India.

Since the company operates in a customer-facing industry, Sreedharan emphasises that it is very important for it to maintain 24x7 network uptime and ensure that the portal is capable of handling heavy traffic during promotional sales by airlines, etc. To avoid downtime and network breakdowns, Cleartrip powers its portal by using the services of different operators like Tata Communications, Reliance Communications and Bharti Airtel. In fact, to support various customer-facing functions such as booking and reservations through the portal, the company relies on its two centres – a primary data centre in Mumbai and its secondary data centre in Chennai. These centres are co-located with the service providers. Their main function is to address customer queries, reduce response time and accelerate the interaction process for end-users. The data centres also support corporate functions like mail and enterprise resource planning systems. The company’s Bengaluru office is primarily used as a testing and development centre to create new applications and for quality assurance.

In its day-to-day functions, the company uses 40 Mbps to 50 Mbps of bandwidth. Further, Cleartrip has established connectivity with its partners, including airlines and hotels, through internet and point-to-point connectivity. External vendors can manage their inventories using these services. Besides, airlines and hotel chains use a host of application programming interface-based applications to provide customer services to clients using the Cleartrip portal.

In order to improve employee efficiency and enhance customer experience, the company has deployed a host of mobility applications. For example, its head office and regional offices are interconnected by WAN. Employees can communicate with each other through videoconferencing. Further, the company has provided handheld devices to its workforce on the ground to stay connected with the company’s main office. On the mobility front, Cleartrip has deployed an enterprise resource system to run its human resources planning functions. In addition, it uses various training modules to guide its staff. On the consumer side, the firm has replicated its key applications and modules available on the portal for mobile phones as well. These applications run on different platforms like Android, Windows and iPhones. Users can book tickets and carry out transactions from their mobile phones using these applications.

To ensure that the company portal is working 24x7, Cleartrip has developed its entire website using open source technology to detect any unusual activity on the network. Since a large number of e-commerce transactions take place on the website, the company has secured its network by installing firewalls and anti-intrusion systems. It also scans the network to safeguard itself from any internal or external threats. The network is monitored round the clock and every network key is isolated to block any security threats.

Challenges and benefits

Sreedharan points out that in the early years, the company outsourced the majority of its telecom requirements to third parties. But gradually, it started building in-house systems to lower network management costs and to reduce its dependence on external vendors for quick upgrades. Being a technology company, it gradually started investing in its own communication set-up and mobility tools. Since the company automated various in-house functions, it has managed to increase its workforce efficiency and reduce capital costs. Further, with the network being managed in-house, it has become easier for the company to upgrade or downgrade the system according to its varying business requirements.

The benefits notwithstanding, the company continues to face several challenges on the infrastructure front. “Being a customer-facing industry, uptime is non-negotiable for Cleartrip. The firm does not have an offline model and people expect an instant response, so it becomes critical to carry out any upgrades without shutting down the portal. Even in difficult situations, the company has to ensure that customer queries are attended to within 10 seconds. Hence, it is critical to develop intelligence within the system so that the required content is delivered to users seamlessly and within a short time,” says Sreedharan.

At present, the company is investing in big data analytics to understand consumer behaviour and to have a 360-degree view of how the business is performing. Cleartrip is also in the process of adopting virtualisation and cloud computing in order to improve the overall user experience.

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