Indian-owned group launches ‘fastest’ travel search engine

By Gurmukh Singh, IANS

Toronto : SkyLink Travel, which is part of the local SkyLink Group owned by Indo-Canadian Surjit Babra, claims to have created the world’s fastest travel search engine, much of whose work was done out of Noida near New Delhi.

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Called Skylink Global Booking Engine, it is also North America’s largest provider of airfares to travel agencies, chains and consortiums.

Surjit Babra, chairman and CEO of SkyLink Group of Companies, said, “On our search engine we offer 35 million fares in an instant. When you type out your two travel cities – say from Little Rock to Amsterdam – in an instant this search engine sorts out whether flights are available between these destinations, which airlines operate and what the fares are.”

He said the Global Booking Search Engine was part of the group’s expansion into travel and hospitality industry. “Right now this search engine is available to travel agents who pay us to become members. Fourteen people load the data on it everyday, making us the leader in this area.”

Babra said their Noida-based office was handling much of the work related to the search engine, travel portals and sites, e-fliers and customer calls.

“We have 28 people working there right now, but we need 50. However, the staff attrition rate is a major problem there. Everybody is stealing from everybody else. Just like Air Canada has shifted its operations to Pune, we are also looking at smaller cities such as Chandigarh.”

In the long run, he said, his group will have 500 to 600 people in India other groups source their work to it.

He said he explored the possibility of opening hotels and resorts in India some time ago but the land has become extremely costly. “As a result, hotel rates are exorbitant. To charge $400 per room is very costly by world standards. That’s why we are looking at alternatives – such as Bali, Africa, Latin America, and Dubai. India needs lots of hotel rooms at cheaper rates. Though Indians keep talking about promoting tourism, they have to address logistical problems first. Anyhow, we will soon launch in Canada a plan to promote `retail tours’ of India.”

Babra, who has roots in Ludhiana, launched the SkyLink Group of Companies 25 years ago in partnership with Walter Arbib, who is currently the group’s president.

With an annual turnover of $330 million in travel and tourism, the group has various wings – SkyLink Aviation, SkyLink Express, SkyLink Air & Logistics, SkyLink Travel, SkyLink Voyages, Tourcan Vacations, Business Travel Network, Payless Travel, and SkyLink Security Systems.

But the group is more famous because of its SkyLink Aviation which is a world leader in carrying food, medicines and peacekeepers to the troubled spots of the world on behalf of the UN.

Not surprisingly, it is profiled in school textbooks in Ontario.