How Amarroom Was Created
Amarroom is a Dhaka-based domestic market focused OTA. Founded by Md. Imrul Hasan, the company started its operation in 2016 and quickly managed to get attention from the market. The main difference between Amarroom and other OTAs is that Amarroom exclusively works with local hotels and is predominantly focused on local tourism.
There are several challenges when it comes to working with local hotels and travel services providers. One, local hotels mostly operate in an analog world. Bringing them online is a tall order.
Amarroom has created an in-house inventory management software for the local hotels that it offers for free to hotels. Hotels can use the inventory to manage their off-line inventory as well as online sales through Amarroom room.
While there are challenges in building the infrastructure in the local travel space, which Amamrroom is trying to build, the company is likely to have a competitive advantage as a first mover in the coming years.
In the long term, it Amarroom can pull it off, the company can become the source for Bangladesh hotel inventories for all major local and international OTAs.
We first featured Amarroom in October 2019. In an exclusive interview, Amarroom founder and CEO Imrul Hasan shared with the origin of Amarroom, his ambition for the business and much more. At the time, the company was a team of 40 people and has already become the largest collection of domestic hotels across Bangladesh, domestic airlines, bus tickets on its platform.
In this story, we explore how Amarroom came into being. This is an excerpt from our interview with Mr. Imrul Hasan. You may read the full interview here.
The origin of an idea
I did my graduation in Computer Science and Engineering from BUET. After graduation, I joined the telecommunication industry where I built my career. I was one of the lucky guys who got expat treatment in Bangladesh and drew 7 digit monthly salaries.
After returning to Bangladesh in October 2014, I started to think of doing something of my own. I eventually started a company in partnership in December 2014 which I left after one year due to a long delay in getting a license from BTRC. I started to think of alternative opportunities. I also started a dairy farm and a goat firm to ensure quality food for our children but forced to shut down the firms due to human resource challenges after reaching 200-liter daily production capacity.
We started amarroom.com in 2016 with an ambition to create a domestic tourism brand and provide a one-stop solution to all classes of people and businesses.
The beginning of Amarroom
I am a techie by education, I have always thought about starting a technology-driven business that would add value to the country and people.
Bangladesh’s domestic tourism has good potential. The market has been growing consistently over the last few years. But whoever was trying to do anything in the tourism industry, the main focus continues to be the international market and outbound tourism.
We did not find anybody trying to address the gap for local tourism with sustainable and technology-driven solutions. This is how we came to realize that this is a problem for a good number of people who travel domestically and there is not enough good solution.
I realized that if we could build a technology-powered eco-system where all domestic hotels, resorts, airlines, buses, service providers will be integrated and offer cost-efficient and flexible tourism services to the people, it would help fulfill an important gap in the market. That’s how amarroom.com, which exclusively focuses on domestic tourism, came into being.
What went into building the initial operation
When I came up with the idea, I presented it to a few potential investors. After a while, Expo Holdings Bangladesh came forward to invest in the business. We formed a company named InfoSapex Limited in February 2016 and under this umbrella, we have launched amarroom.com as a travel product.
Initially, we narrowed down our goal to a challenging part that is bringing the domestic hotels into an amarroom platform. We have developed a full-fledged international standard Hotel Management Solution including all features like integrated accounting, reservation, inventory, house-keeping, Point of Sales, etc for the hoteliers and offer it as a gift to hoteliers so that they can run their operation on this solution.
Our focus has been nationwide from the beginning. We have paid a lot of attention to hotels outside Dhaka. Initially, the challenge was training the hotel staff to use such a big ERP solution as you can imagine in areas like Bandarban, Cox’s Bazar, Sajek, Khagrachhari, Khulna, Rangpur, Sylhet, Shreemangal, etc.
The other challenge was building a relationship of trust and convince the hotel owners and management about data security in the SaaS model. Many of them had some previous bad experiences with a few other companies where they took their data without their permission.
We have been able to overcome both challenges. My team has worked hard and we have been able to build a large number of local hotels on our platform.
We have built the largest domestic travel platform in Bangladesh. Currently, you can have domestic hotels across Bangladesh, all domestic airlines, bus tickets, and we also offer custom packages.
We soft-launched in June 2017. Our yearly revenue is around 200 million BDT. We have to keep in mind that all transactions are for domestic travel. Our forecasted yearly revenue from domestic tourism by 2024 is around 3100 million BDT.
We consider our focus on the domestic market is our strength. We are working to build real-time hotel inventory. Our ambition is that one day all international OTA players like booking.com, Agoda, yatra, etc will get domestic hotel inventory from amarroom.com through our API if they want to sell local hotel rooms. We are not considering international 5-star hotels in the picture. We have both B2C and B2B customers.
Ayrin Saleha Ria is an undergrad student currently studying Applied Sociology at ASA University Bangladesh. She takes a deep interest in human society and behavioral science and loves reading. She works at FS as a Community Management Fellow and writes about interesting companies.