Bitla Software is offering a solutions suite with proven functionality to its customers. Ashish Bhatia looks at the value proposition aimed at helping bus operators stage a strong recovery after a tough fiscal year.

Karnataka-headquartered Bitla Software Pvt. Ltd. (Bitla) is staying true to its genes. The 14-year old Software as a Service (SaaS), cloud and mobile-based solutions company continues to simplify solutions for bus operators across India and the globe. In a pandemic marred the tough fiscal year 2021 for the bus operators, the company has left no stone unturned. Through its solutions portfolio, it is helping bus operators bounce back. To help bus operators recover and get back to profitability, it is productising proven solutions tested by staying close to its customers, the bus operators themselves. Averred Santosh AR, Chief Executive Officer at the company, who took over the mantle from his predecessor two years ago, in 2019, “Right from the initial years, we were focused on the bus operators, and especially the private sector and for the long haul. So we are a Business to Business (B2B) technology company who happened to have insights on the bus operations, sheerly due to the number of years we have invested in getting to know our customers. So we haven’t made any changes to that approach.” Under his able leadership, the company has strengthened its technology platform and is diversifying to new segments and markets.

Simplifying bus solutions

Acquired by MakeMyTrip, Bitla is a well-oiled and well-funded company. The online travel company acquired Bitla, in 2018. At that point and time, the milestone acquisition was looked at as a development that would enable the company to rapidly develop and expand its suite of travel-focused technology products. Today, the company remains deeply committed to solving real industry problems while providing exceptional service to customers. No wonder then, as per Santosh, the company commands a 50 per cent market share in its segment. “We have been aggressively acquiring new operators who are sprouting out in the market. Nearly 75 per cent of the new operators, including the new age bus operators with the aggregator business model have started their business using the Bitla software.” According to Santosh, the company is well-differentiated from its competition, focused majorly on the Western and the Southern regions, giving the company an edge with its pan India operations at a domestic level, in comparison.

The solutions suite of Bitla comprises a flagship product in ‘TicketSimply’. ‘SimplyBus’, and ‘CargoSimply’ being the other products on offer for bus operators. Of these, ‘TicketSimply’ caters to the passenger segment and provides technologies for bus operators with a Central Reservation System (CRS) for managing routes and schedules, tariffs and commissions, branches and agents, bookings and passengers, security and controls, finances among others. It also helps operators to manage bus Global Distribution System (GDS), bus portals, website Content Management Software (CMS) system, and the booking engine and payments platform. Bus operators also stand to benefit from the branded mobile app. builder platform. Among other utilities are business intelligence and analytics, sales and marketing with campaigns, GPS tracking and passenger alerts functionality. “A small subset of it is the cargo segment, although it’s not our main focus segment,” clarified Santosh.

Santosh AR, Chief Executive Officer, Bitla Software Pvt. Ltd.

Besides helping with tracking, the product also helps with geo-tagging based value-added services. Geo-tagging is the process of appending geographic coordinates to media based on the location of a mobile device resulting in B2B companies like Bitla offering location-based add-ons. Through ‘SimplyBus’, Bitla helps bus operators to distribute their inventory to agents. Operators in turn benefit from the newfound access to agent networks on the bookings front. “We realise that bus operators need highly reliable systems, systems that are scalable, and which are extremely flexible for their operations,” explained Santosh. Bus operators and all B2B network channels are brought under one platform, where they are known to help one another support their respective businesses. It is claimed to address all the requirements of a B2B network. In line with the productising of proven functions strategy, Bitla offers fully automated, day-to-day operations, promotions, collections, payments among other functionalities.

Through ‘CargoSimply’, Bitla is focused on bus operators who also run cargo operations. In a clear demarcation, the product is not focused on the mainline cargo, it is only focused on bus operators looking at cargo as a subset of their overall operations. The add-on to ‘TicketSimply’, is claimed to simplify bookings, operations, tracking, and monitoring of goods that are to be delivered in real-time. CargoSimply is said to enhance the way bus operators run their logistics businesses function, by improving operations and business management with the aid of technology. It helps bus operators to manage, process, and track a large number of goods across a range of routes. It is also claimed to provide accurate data and generate reports on revenue while providing real-time communication updates.

Diversifying service and reach

Drawing inspiration from bus operators, the company has strengthened its offerings, laying a foundation for product diversification and for expanding to new markets. As mentioned by Santosh, during these volatile times, the company has taken care to align with the current priority of its customer which happens to be profitability. Hailing bus operators as “resilient entrepreneurs”, Santosh gave the example of nearly 80 per cent of the buses returning on the roads by June 2021 in spite of the seven to eight months of continuous lockdowns, and stringent restrictions on travel. The company is preparing to associate with new and emerging customers in relatively new spheres like bus cargo transportation. The segment, according to Santosh, is expected to draw investments with the fast-improving connectivity and reach courtesy the government impetus on infrastructural development.

Opined Santosh, with access to more capital, and the production of smaller transportation vehicles introduced to the market, the smaller cargo players are expected to enter the segment too. He opined that these players would serve the tier 1 and tier 2 regions. Bitla expects new niche players to emerge as a result. Citing how bus operators have also started to explore new routes within their own states, the company expects to benefit from the tailwinds driven by the growth in operator penetration into these regions. Optimistic of the ecommerce bull run benefiting the bus industry too, Santosh made a case for the company’s expansion into global markets by citing the expertise built over the years in India. Confident of scaling it up internationally, the company is exploring channel sales partnerships in Africa where it is looking to appoint dedicated channel partners. These channel partners will in turn sell Bitla products and services locally. Once the pilot is successful, the company aims to expand it to Southeast Asia, the Middle East, among other markets where it sees a potential for its solutions. The company is also involved with aggregators in the business of transport on-demand and shared mobility wherein it has provided open access to its API kits for operators to build technology extensions and experiences for their users. Of the firm belief in scaling profitably, the company with a sustainable approach to business is closely watching the electrification of buses to align with the evolution. It is also banking on its strong foundation to associate with regional transport and the stage carriers.

For the full transcript of the Industry Talk With CV session, with Santosh AR, CEO, Bitla Software Pvt. Ltd, click here.


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