Interviews Technology

Global Fintech Interview with Mani Ganeshan, Global Head – Engineering, Travel Distribution, and Centre Head at Amadeus Labs

Global Fintech Interview with Mani Ganeshan - Amadeus Labs

Hi Mani, could you please brief me about your journey with Amadeus?

Back in 2008, when I joined Amadeus as its first employee, the challenge was to understand the complexities of the travel industry and figure out how to operate a travel platform for the world, powered from India. We needed a team capable of innovating and delivering a range of leading products to facilitate better travel experiences and shape the future of the industry.

From a team of 18 engineers, Amadeus Labs has grown to become a home to 3000+ engineers who work on several critical aspects of the Amadeus platform across all travel verticals. This enormous growth has been vital in transforming our Bengaluru center into Amadeus’s second-largest center of excellence globally and the technology hub of the APAC region.

Over the past 12 years of existence in India, we’ve delivered various mission-critical projects from the center in Bengaluru. In my current role as Global Head of the Travel Sellers Unit and Center Head Of Amadeus Labs Bangalore, I’m responsible for overseeing the delivery of all Amadeus services from the center, ensuring that they meet the needs of our clients and stakeholders while maintaining the highest standards of quality and efficiency.

Furthermore, talent stands very high among Amadeus Labs’ priorities, and we focus on designing employee engagement initiatives to truly put employees at the center of all we do. I focus on aligning the business and talent strategy, finding the best talent in the IT industry and creating a conducive environment for them to innovate, and taking the traveler’s delight up a few notches.

From growing center and taking greater ownership of the Amadeus platform to transforming the center into a strategic engineering hub for the parent organization and customers worldwide, it has been an exciting journey so far.

With your 12 glorious years of experience with Amadeus, can you narrate any one success story and one failure story?

I would like to share two success stories of Amadeus. The first one is our Young Engineer Hiring program which has been instrumental in bringing talented engineers into our team, and we are proud of the many large transformational programs we have contributed to. Additionally, we are proud of our move from mainframes to Azure for digitalization and agility, which has been a great success.

In terms of failures, we believe in turning them into valuable learnings. We have learned the importance of building customer connections to innovate faster, and we understand the need to take cultural contexts into account in different regions where we operate as a global company. We also recognize the importance of building a strong and resilient leadership layer as we work on a mission-critical platform that requires 24×7 availability. These learnings have been crucial for us as we continue to grow and innovate in the tech industry.

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Amadeus is moving towards Platform as a Service (PaaS). Could you please elaborate further?

Amadeus, in recent years, moved to cloud-based technology and distributed deployment of services; however, Amadeus Platforms are still the backbone of how we manage and deliver systems to our customers. To facilitate the entire door-to-door travel journey, we needed a state-of-the-art application platform that was resilient to failure and capable of handling infrastructure fluctuations and recovering automatically. Therefore, in 2014, we launched Amadeus Cloud Services, a cloud-based application platform in collaboration with Red Hat, which represented a significant step forward in our Platform-as-a-Service (PAAS) journey. This new architecture, along with increased automation and efficiency across all machines gives us a robust framework to deploy and distribute operations for large-scale data traffic and support the operations, and management of our central processing facility. The move towards Platform as a Service (PaaS) also means that our travel platforms can be deployed anywhere in the world using our “follow-the-sun” model.

Could you please throw some light on how Big Data, Cloud, and APIs are contributing to this domain?

Today, deriving insights from data is a powerful advantage; it propels any organization toward limitless possibilities. In the travel industry, big data and advanced data analytics transform raw data into meaningful actionable insights, helping travel companies and other industry players make strategic decisions, and tactical and operational actions, monitor market performance, and better understand traveler behavior.

A key enabler of data analytics strategy and data-driven applications is the cloud-based architecture.

Cloud enables travel companies to gather and analyze raw data throughout the travel cycle, putting the traveler at the center of the ecosystem. The cloud platform also helps in increasing responsiveness and customizing the technology proposition based on an in-depth understanding of each customer’s business needs. Thus leveraging the cloud helps support customers better, quicker, and more efficiently by providing rich software and applications whenever and wherever they need them.

API solutions, on the other hand, unlock access to content, data, and processes for all stakeholders, driving innovation at the forefront of the journey.

Amadeus was the first Global Distribution System (GDS) to introduce a structured API in 2000. Currently, we are building a new travel API inspired by New Distribution Capabilities to offer high-level aggregated business functions and enable travel agencies to access any content through our new Amadeus Travel Platform. By providing developers and third parties with access to the API library, we are uniquely positioned to support our customers in business intelligence and better serve the digital traveler.

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What is Advanced Travel Platform? How is it scaling up to match the complex needs of your clients?

Advanced Travel Platforms are built to deal with large amounts of heterogeneous data from various sources. Implementing Amadeus Cloud Services foundation technology in our platform supports our customers’ operations and transactions, helping them evolve and grow their businesses. Security is one of the top priorities in Amadeus’s advanced platforms. The Amadeus security framework adheres to IT industry best practices, securing data, products, and people, responding to security incidents, and achieving full security compliance.

In today’s crowded travel marketplace, our customers need IT solutions that can scale up to match their complex needs. Whether it involves solving the challenge of ever-increasing flight search volumes, delivering flight search results in milliseconds, or enabling check-in and bag drop from anywhere, customers want solutions that can adapt quickly to new features and upgrades. Our collaboration with Apigee provides on-premise gateways to securely expose our APIs to our customers, which can be scaled to deliver APIs according as per business needs. This efficient API infrastructure allows us to focus on the architectural details of the technology we building for our customers in the travel industry.

What are the fundamental paradigms that are shaping the Travel industry?

At Amadeus, we have long been committed to understanding what genuinely shapes travel experiences. With major parallel shifts in consumer demands, today, the evolution and growth of the industry are highly dependent on technology, resulting in new travel attitudes and behaviors. The increase in smartphone penetration has led to connectivity emerging as a lifestyle.

Connected devices, AI, cloud, big data, etc., have the potential to help brands engage with consumers with personalized offerings, making their travel experience safer, faster, cheaper, and more convenient. Web3 and Biometric payments have become crucial for faster and more secure boarding, ensuring a smooth travel experience. Travel is thus, set to see significant changes in 2023, and technology will continue to drive transformation across the sector.

The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) ranked India 54th position (down from 46th in 2019) with a score of 4.1 in its Travel and Tourism Development Index 2021. What are your suggestions to move up the ladder for India as a Travel Market?

India has seen a strong recovery in travel and the trend is likely to continue in the near future.

The government of India has also launched various new initiatives and themes to enable and encourage tourism – One key campaign being Visit India 2023. I am cautiously optimistic about the future. The appetite for travel is gradually growing, and travelers look forward to advancements in areas such as touchless technology, digital health, and sustainable travel. Fully integrating digital health verification and passports into the airline, airport, and immigration systems can enable smoother travel experiences. The addition of automated and flexible cancellation policies, mobile applications, and contactless and secure technology can help increase traveler confidence.

Thus, travel providers will need to significantly overcome several barriers and increase technology adoption to fully realize the potential of India’s travel market. Beyond technology, collaboration between industries and governments will continue to be crucial to this recovery.

By further understanding the changing face of the Indian traveler, travel providers will be well-positioned to take advantage of the vast opportunity that India represents. At Amadeus, we are committed to rebuilding a more traveler-centric, resilient, and sustainable industry and are working closely with stakeholders across the sector to accelerate the industry’s recovery.

In today’s crowded marketplace, what is your next Tech Mission?

The world of travel industry and technology is always on and hence, we are constantly evolving with the tides of change to stay ahead of the curve. Our long-term vision is to build a single, cloud-based platform that will orchestrate all content from multiple sources and deliver it to all different channels while engaging new partners to foster collaborative innovation across the ecosystem. This means the entire travel ecosystem will run on a unified platform, helping increase our agility, responsiveness, and ability to customize our technology offering based on the needs of our customers.

A big focus for Amadeus this past year was our commitment to the cloud to deliver on our vision. Our migration to Microsoft Azure is one of the most ambitious technological feats we’ve embarked on in the last 35 years, revolutionizing our software development cycles and data capabilities and bringing us closer to our customers. It is a future-proof infrastructure, and we are confident that it will pave the way for the next generation of travel innovation. Furthermore, we aim to reinforce end-to-end payments solutions and build an integrated payment ecosystem that travel companies can leverage to access the latest fintech innovations via our payment solution platform, Outpayce – developed as a part of our commitment to providing seamless payment experiences.

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How do you visualize the travel industry in 2030?

By 2030, the travel industry will undergo significant changes due to shifting traveler habits, expectations, and technological advancements. Innovations such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, 3D printing, and virtual reality will transform the services available to travelers.

Machine learning will help travel providers better understand their customers, automate processes, and provide personalized solutions. AI will be integrated into every travel agency channel to collect data from multiple sources to offer tailored experiences. Global mobile connectivity will enable travelers to access services via multiple devices such as smartwatches.

Moreover, successful airlines and intermediaries will provide personalized experiences at every stage of the journey, reinforced by brand promotion, user interface optimization, and peer recommendations. Payment will become frictionless and automated with smartphones, wearable biometrics, and digital wallets. Wearable devices, smart clothing, and service robots will engage customers in new ways.

In fact, as per Traveler Tribes 2033, a report by Amadeus that predicts the future of travel, there are four different types of traveler profiles expected to emerge over the next decade – Excited Experientialists, Memory Makers, Travel Tech-influencers, and Pioneering Pathfinders.

The report further highlighted that sustainability and the responsible use of technology are key issues that need to be addressed. Hence, it is crucial to adapt to evolving customer preferences by embracing sustainable travel practices and responsible use of technology. This will create more meaningful experiences for travelers while contributing to a sustainable future.

Thank you, Mani! That was fun and we hope to see you back on globalfintechseries.com soon.

[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com]

Mani Ganeshan is the Global Head of Engineering, Travel Distribution and Centre Head of Amadeus Labs. Amadeus Labs Bengaluru is the second largest engineering site for Amadeus worldwide. Over 3000 engineers innovate on core products of Amadeus that provide the backbone for the travel industry players to manage their Distribution and IT Operations efficiently. Mani’s vision towards making Amadeus Labs the technology hub for Amadeus in APAC and one of the largest centre of excellence for Amadeus globally has propelled to grow from 400 people in 2012 to over 3000 and growing over the past decade. Under his able leadership, the Bengaluru centre today is a key influencer in Amadeus worldwide’ s ecosystem and key Engineering and R&D Decisions. As the Global Head of Engineering, Travel Distribution and Centre Head, Mani’s main responsibility is to implement the Amadeus Global R&D footprint strategy in the region; to better synergize between the business units, R&D and regional commercial teams. Under his visionary leadership, Amadeus has seen meteoric growth in a short span and received various Industry accolades for the same.

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Travel powers progress. Amadeus powers travel. Amadeus’ solutions connect travelers to the journeys they want through travel agents, search engines, tour operators, airlines, airports, hotels, cars, and railways.

We have developed our technology in partnership with the travel industry for over 30 years. We combine a deep understanding of how people travel with the ability to design and deliver the most complex, trusted, critical systems our customers need. In 2019, we helped connect over 1.9 billion people to local travel providers in over 190 countries.

We have a global mindset and a local presence wherever our customers need us.

Our purpose is to shape the future of travel. We are passionate in our pursuit of better technology that makes better journeys.

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