The Pearl is hardly the most impressive of hotels. Situated in the grimy, backpacker-infested bylanes of Paharganj, New Delhi, it is a far cry from its namesake. Earlier this year, however, it became a rallying point for hoteliers in the area who were frustrated with budget hotel aggregator OYO.

On the morning of 31 July, close to 100 hoteliers gathered at The Pearl and dumped the tablet devices OYO had provided them to manage bookings. In less than an hour, a stack of tablets had piled up, submitted to protest OYO’s alleged non-cooperation in paying hotels their due.

The protest lasted 20 days. Each day saw aggrieved hotel owners gather, discuss their concerns, shout slogans and, perhaps most crucially, collect evidence against the target of their ire. Eventually, OYO went to court, and hoteliers were barred from banning or boycotting OYO.

The Paharganj hoteliers were hardly outliers. In November 2018, something similar happened in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. In that case, however, hotel owners were upset with online travel agents (OTAs) MakeMyTrip (MMT) and Goibibo. While discontent against these hotel and travel platforms was bubbling to the surface across the country, the Ahmedabad protests were notable for how vocal they were.

Since then, hotel associations have been a busy lot. They have approached the tourism ministry, the Competition Commission of India (CCI), and even the commerce ministry for succour. These efforts finally bore fruit on 29 October, when the CCI passed an order observing that there was a “prima facie case for investigation” into both platforms—MMT and OYO—for anti-competitive practices. This came in response to a complaint from the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI).

Though FHRAI made allegations ranging from exorbitant commissions to predatory pricing, the CCI’s order is primarily on account of an alleged agreement between OYO and MMT. One which excludes some of the former’s rivals like Treebo and FabHotels from MMT’s platform. This potentially contravenes the provisions of the Competition Act, 2002.

"Platforms operate in multi-sided markets and in this particular case, CCI has taken great care in defining the relevant market rather than using the broader relevant market definition,"

Vinod Dhall, former chairman of CCI and senior advisor at Platinum Partners

Still only tentative at best—CCI has directed its director-general to probe the allegations and submit a report within 150 days—the order was a marked change in position for the competition regulator. It has shied away from entertaining complaints against e-commerce companies in the past. With former IAS officer Ashok Kumar Gupta taking over as the new chairperson of the CCI late last year, however, the regulator seems to be changing its stance.

The CCI’s newfound impetus is in lockstep with what’s happening across the globe.

AUTHOR

Vandana

Vandana is based in Delhi. She covers vertically focussed startups in consumer internet space and also writes on travel tech and smartphones for The Ken. She has spent 13 years in journalism covering a wide range of subjects- equity markets, mutual funds to education and skilling, working at organisations such as Business Standard, CNBC TV18 and The Week in the past.

View Full Profile

Subscribe to read this story

The Ken is the only business subscription you need. Questions?

 

Premium

  • 5 original and reported longform business stories every week
  • Access to ONLY India edition
  • Close to 250 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters
  • 4 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to ONLY Southeast Asia edition
  • Close to 200 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to all paywalled stories since March 2020
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters

Rs. 2,750 /year

$ 120 /year

India Edition
Subscribe Subscribe
Most Asked For

Borderless

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories

Rs. 4,200 /year

Subscribe
 

Echelon

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories
  • Bonus annual gift subscription
  • Priority access to all new products and features

Rs. 8,474 /year

Subscribe
Or

Questions?

What kind of subscription plans do you offer?

We have three types of subscriptions
- Premium which gives you access to either the India or the Southeast Asia edition.
- Borderless which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions
- Echelon which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions along with a bonus gift subscription

What do I get if I subscribe?

The Premium edition gives you access to stories in that edition along with any five subscriber-only newsletters of your choice.

The Borderless and Echelon subscription gives you complete access to The Ken across editions and unlimited access to as many newsletters as you like.

What topics do you usually write about?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics. We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

Our specialised subscriber-only newsletters are written by our expert, award-winning journalists and cover a range of topics across finance, retail, clean energy, cryptocurrency, ed-tech and many more.

How many newsletters do you have?

We are constantly adding specialised subscriber-only newsletters all the time. All of these are written by our team of award-winning journalists on a specialised topic.

You can see the list of newsletters that we publish over here.

Does a Premium subscription to your Indian edition get me access to the Southeast Asia edition? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

We recommend the Borderless or the Echelon Plan which will give you access to stories across both editions.

Do you have a mobile app?

Yes! We have a top-rated mobile app on both iOS and Android which allows you to read on-the-go and has some amazing features like the ability to bookmark stories, save on your device, dark mode, and much more. It’s really the best way to read The Ken.

Is there a free trial?

You can sign up for a free account to experience The Ken and understand our products better. We’ll send you some free stories and newsletters occasionally, and you can access our archive of previously published free stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

The vast majority of our stories, articles and newsletters can be accessed only by a paid subscription.

Do you offer any discounts?

Sorry, no. Our journalism is funded completely by our subscribers. We believe that quality journalism comes at a price, and readers trust and pay us so that we can remain independent.

Do you offer refunds?

No. We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Just write to us at support@the-ken.com with details. We’ll help you out.

I have a few more questions. How can I reach out to you?

Sure. Just email us at info@the-ken.com or follow us on Twitter.