Interview With Rahul Mohandas, Principal – Product Marketing, Sabre Virtual Meetings
Few months back, Sabre launched a major corporate travel product – Sabre Virtual Meetings, and this makes an interesting addition to its product basket. We had the opportunity to chat with Rahul Mohandas, Principal – Product Marketing, Sabre Virtual Meetings. Rahul has 16 years of professional experience and here he explains about his first hand experience in the execution of Sabre Virtual Meetings. Read the interesting interview below:
What is Sabre Virtual Meeting product? Why was it built?
Sabre Virtual Meetings is a marketplace bringing together Meeting Room Suppliers and Meeting Organizers.
Meeting Room Suppliers would be organizations such as Accenture or Cisco who have meeting rooms for internal meetings. It could also be Public Room Suppliers such as Tata Communications or Regus, who have Video Conferencing facilities that can be rented by the hour.
Meeting Organizers would be employees of corporations trying to setup meetings with either colleagues who are located elsewhere, or business partners. In Sabre Virtual Meetings we are developing the functionality for authorized business partners to book each other’s rooms to facilitate B2B meetings, which we believe is key benefit.
Sabre Virtual Meeting (SVM) is a product that has many good reasons for people not to travel. But, Sabre as a core is a travel company. How do you see SVM being a threat to your own suite of travel products?
We think Virtual Meetings will compliment travel. There are meetings where you will need to travel, and there are others where you can collaborate as effectively through a high definition immersive meeting. What we are offering the user, is the ability to make the right choice by laying out the options at the time of making a travel decision.
Who are the target customers of this product?
Who are the competitors in this space?
At the moment we are an early mover.
How travel agents, corporates are reacting to your telepresence product?
Customers are excited by possibilities offered by Sabre Virtual Meetings.
For users, booking a Video Conference used to be a complex process involving multi-page instruction manuals, installing Outlook plug-ins, navigating through time zone conversions and hoping that it all works as expected when you show up at the meeting room. What Sabre Virtual Meetings offers is a neat and simple interface on your corporate travel booking tool and the possibility of integrating with a Managed Service Provider to ensure that your meeting starts on-time every time. By offering the option of booking a Virtual Meetings at the time of a travel booking, we are helping users optimally utilize their travel budget.
The IT teams are excited because, Sabre Virtual Meetings offers the possibility of increasing the utilization of Video Conferencing facilities and improving their ROI.
For Public Room providers such as Tata and Regus, Sabre Virtual Meetings offers the possibility of increasing their room utilization rates.
For travel agents, this opens up an additional revenue stream.
What are the different distribution channels in which SVM can be accessed and booked?
At the moment Sabre Virtual Meetings is available as an option to GetThere Customers (Sabre’s corporate travel management tool) and Agencies using Sabre Red Workspace. To put this in perspective, a vast majority of the fortune 200 companies use GetThere, and there are over 100,000 agents using Sabre Red Workspace.
Any plans of implementing SVM into Travelocity, Lastminute so that consumers (B2C) can access the telepresence rooms and book it?
Currently there are no plans for Sabre Virtual Meetings to enter the B2C space.
How many room inventories SVM offers?
Broadly users can book 3 types of rooms using Sabre Virtual Meetings:
- Rooms that belong to the users organization, for which the users typically don’t have to pay anything
- Rooms that belong to public rooms providers such as Tata Communications and Regus, which are typically charged on hourly basis
- Rooms that belong to Business Partners that the user is authorized to view and book. These could be either charged or free depending on the nature of partnership
Who all are your partners and how it is helping SVM?
We have 2 kinds of partners at this point:
- Public Room providers – We currently have a partnership with Regus who has over 1200 video conferencing rooms across the globe. We are also in the final stages of discussions with a few other public room providers.
- Managed Service Providers – Organizations like Glowpoint, with whom we have a partnership, who are a Managed Service Provider of Video Services that enables delivery of consistently high-quality video conferencing and telepresence services. We are also in the final stages of discussions with a few other Managed Service Providers.
Any business / technical challenges you faced during the development of SVM?
The biggest challenge in this industry is staying ahead of the technical innovations. To give an example, with the rapid growth of personal devices supporting High Definition Video Conferencing (iPads, Smartphones with front facing cameras, HD camera enabled laptops), the concept of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has really caught on. We are currently evaluating a solution which would help us support BYOD as part of our 2013 product plan.
GBTA and FastCompany recently named SVM as the winner in “Business Travel Innovation Award” category. What made it possible to win such a great award in short span of time?
There are 2 key aspects which helped us win this prestigious award:
- While there are solutions in the market which allow a corporate user to search for public rooms, there is no other solution which lets you search your company rooms, public rooms and partner rooms all at the same time
- This is the first time anyone is offering the user the option of choosing between Travel and a High Definition Virtual Meeting at the time of decision making
Author: Karthick Prabu