Mrunal Desai is the CEO and Co-Founder of Aavgo, a property technology company located in the bay area. During the interview we had with him, he described how Aavgo operates. They specialize in optimizing back-end operations, providing a faster and better guest experience. Mrunal explained how Aavago’s impact on the hotels they work with and how they help to improve efficiency and provide a best-in-class guest experience. He highlighted their 360 Virtual Front Desk platform that provides contactless technologies from check-in to check-out and performs all human operations, such as answering phone calls, walk-ins, night audits, OTA reconciliation, and group booking. It was clear when talking to him that he is obsessed with the idea to revolutionize the industries such as transportation, banking, and restaurants, to grocery stores, amusement parks, and gas stations.
As he further mentioned during the interview, it was a tough challenge to educate an industry that doesn’t have much faith in technology. He talked about how hard it is to convince a hotel that uses technology introduced in the early 90s, to upgrade their technology to the latest legacy systems to reach current standards. Mrunal gave us a clear idea of their new products such as APIs for Mobile Check-in, Digital Keys, and Physical hotel key software. It was fascinating to know from him how the COVID-19 pandemic made a massive shift in people’s behavior towards more digital habits: ordering food from their phones, online shopping, online banking, online meetings, etc.
Later in the interview, Mrunal shared how he spends a normal day of his life focused on how they can continually improve customer satisfaction through technology. He was happy to tell us about the upcoming innovative products of Aavgo including AI and ML. He believes that companies should pay a percentage of their profits to make education free for the whole world.
Mrunal, can you start by telling us about Aavgo and its service?
Aavgo is a property technology company located in the bay area that specializes in optimizing back-end operations, providing a faster and better guest experience. Our solutions impact a hotel’s bottom line, improve efficiency, and provide a best-in-class guest experience. Our 360 Virtual Front Desk platform provides contactless technologies from check-in to check-out and performs all human operations, such as answering phone calls, walk-ins, night audits, OTA reconciliation, and group booking. It helps increase revenues and reduce chargebacks.
How can Aavgo improve hospitality and retail?
Repeat business is crucial for any organization, and hotels are no different. The truth is the industry is at a turning point. Much of it was caused by Covid-19, but many other factors also contribute. Take, for example, the hospitality labor shortage and the unemployment rate of 3.7%. Those workers are never going back. Suppose you also look at Generation Z, many of whom are either graduating high school or college and are ready for their first job. What types of roles or careers are they looking for? Technology is how the hospitality industry transforms itself, like so many other sectors, from transportation, banking, and restaurants, to grocery stores, amusement parks, and gas stations. Our customers; hoteliers, and franchise owners are taking their limited human resources, and instead of having employees focused on transactional tasks, they are moving them from behind the desk to engage directly with guests. They can do this because Aavgo’s virtual front desk agents provide a consistent guest-centric experience. Together, they improve guest satisfaction scores and drive repeat business.
How will the products and services from Aavgo transform the industry?
Digitization, increasing automation, and new business practices have revolutionized other industries, and hospitality will be no exception. The forces at play I mentioned a moment ago will continue to fuel disruptive technologies like Aavgo’s. We have some really exciting things on our roadmap, but for now, Aavgo 360 is transforming the industry in ways that bring automation, efficacies, and in many cases, reduce operational costs while still keeping the “Hospitality” in hospitality alive and well with our human guided front desk kiosk.
The Aavgo 360 Platform is one of the company’s newest, most exciting products. Can you explain the product and how it will help businesses?
Aavgo360 is a virtual front desk platform that we use to provide dedicated virtual front desk agents for a property. Due to the labor shortages, we have multiple hotels that are now able to keep their lobbies open 24 hours a day and are utilizing our service as their full-time front desk operations. Our service is the same service you receive today, if not better. You can speak with our front desk agents; you can call down from your room and speak with the agent; we do room changes, make reservations, open housekeeping and maintenance tickets, answer questions, we even run Night Audit. We’re able to provide all these services, which allows hotel owners and managers to empower the staff and engage in high-impact activities instead of low revenue-generating transitional tasks.
Mrunal, what led you to the technology industry?
I started my Journey in technology at Microsoft 16 years back and loved the tech world. I have worked at various companies like eBay, Verizon Business, Ariba, and Macys.com. Prior to getting into tech, I worked in the hotel industry for 6+ years, so I’ve seen the inner workings of hotel operations up close. The hotel has traditionally been slow to adopt new technology. So with experience in both worlds, it was perfect for someone like me to do something that bridges hospitality and technology.
What are the challenges of being a CEO in the tech industry?
Educating an industry that doesn’t have much faith in technology is the toughest challenge I have faced. The hotel industry gets very excited about the benefits a product can bring, but they are also nervous about technology. Apart from that, integrating and working with legacy systems in hospitality is a big challenge. For example, we’ve seen clients running a PBX that was first introduced in the early 90s. The good news is that most suppliers serving the hotel industry are helping hotel update their legacy systems to current standards, which will help improve the industry as a whole in the coming years.
What are some of the other products and services Aavgo/Astics has released?
The Aavgo360 platform bundles other stand-alone solutions to help digitize hotel processes. For hoteliers, we also offer stand-alone Staff Optimization Software, which consists of Housekeeping, Maintenance, and Communication solution. It helps hotels move away from paper and walkie-talkies to a digital platform that saves costs, increases efficiency, and improves employees’ productivity. We also offer APIs to our Mobile Check-in, Digital Keys, and Physical hotel key software. These APIs can be used by any other hospitality company to complete their process. For example, a mobile check-in company can use our digital and physical key software APIs to complete their guest journey.
The hospitality sector took a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Has the sector rebounded and what is in store for the future?
As the whole world had to face the COVID-19 pandemic, globally, we have seen a massive shift in people’s behavior towards more digital habits: ordering food from their phone, online shopping, online banking, online meetings, etc. This means that the behavior of guests has changed as well. The hospitality sector has rebounded in pockets. Corporate Travel has not bounced back to pre-pandemic levels, but leisure seems to have bounced back stronger than pre-pandemic. Consumer behavior has changed due to covid. The digital Journey cannot be a perk anymore and is a must to have. Consumers are expecting digital services everywhere, which includes hotels and restaurants.
What other innovative products are in the pipeline for the company, and what areas do you want to target?
We cannot disclose everything, but I would add that AI and ML are on their way to making the consumer journey more accessible and seamless. Outside of that, I’ll just say we’re taking a holistic approach to the guest journey. So there’s a lot more to come from Aavgo.
Mrunal, how is a day in your life?
Believe it or not, I spend much of my day focused on how we can continually improve customer satisfaction through technology. As I’ve shared, much of my career has been in technology, and I believe that technology should and can be used to make individual’s lives easier.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I’m not a fan of walking over manhole covers.
Choose two of your favorite quotes and write them here
There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure
Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever. Never give up.
If you had the power to change just one thing in the world, what would it be?
Companies should pay a percentage of their profits to make education free for the whole world. They are not donating but paying towards their future user base.
To know more about Mrunal Desai and Aavgo, please visit https://aavgo.com