It’s summer time, and, apart from the scorching heat, this season signifies the holiday season for almost all of us. Realizing a dream holiday has never been easier. Online travel portals have revolutionized the manner in which travel is researched, planned and bought in India today. For this edition of India Buzz, we interviewed Rajesh Magow, Co-Founder & CEO – India of MakeMyTrip.
Nurtured from the seed of a single great idea – to empower the traveler – MakeMyTrip has pioneered the entire online travel industry in India since its launch in 2005. It is now the preferred choice of millions of travelers. Check out what Rajesh has to say about the online travel industry, changing consumer habits, the impact of growing usage of mobile internet and some interesting travel trends this summer.
1] How has the online travel industry in India evolved over the years?
Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) have revolutionized the way travel is researched, planned and bought in India today. From starting as flight-ticket sellers, OTAs have diversified into other lines of business such as hotel reservations and holiday packages. We have also witnessed consolidation and emergence of global players.
The popularity of social-networking platforms have led to the integration of user generated content on the OTA website, with information such as customer testimonials, reviews and images of hotels and holiday packages. While most OTAs have focused on diversifying their portfolios, niche ventures such as RedBus have also been successful.
Last year, 2013, was a landmark year as mobile internet finally catapulted to take center stage. With the growing adoption of smartphones, travel search and booking is also making a gradual but perceptible shift to this channel. Mobile will be the channel for growth and new customer acquisition. It is expected to be the fastest-growing distribution channel with gross travel bookings on mobile estimated to grow over 1000% from 2012 to 2015.
2] What are the most striking features that differentiate MakeMyTrip from other travel portals in India?
MakeMyTrip was the first travel portal in the country, with a 47% market-share (as per an independent study conducted by PhocusWright in 2013). Our comprehensive offerings, coupled with the convenience of online transactions and supported with great-value prices, have revolutionized the way Indians purchase travel services.
We have made a number of acquisitions and strategic investments, which have enhanced our supplier relationships, strengthened our technological expertise and increased the range of international hotels that we offer to our customers. We are focused on using our technology edge to build innovative offerings and delight customers.
We cater to customer needs across screens – mobile and web. Our products are built with a mobile-first approach to ensure a flawless, enjoyable user-experience.
3] What are some the most striking travel trends this summer?
Personalization will play in key role this year in all forms of travel. Our goal is to provide travel experiences and services that have a lifestyle appeal, not just specific functional benefits.
Another trend we forecast includes experiential tourism, where travelers venture beyond the usual for richer experiences that connect them with the culture of the destination. Hence the demand for boutique properties and unique destinations is on the rise.
We also predict more traveling to discover, where travelers seek authentic experiences around cuisine, cultural immersion and adventure activities. More and more travelers are asking us for customized holidays to meet these needs.
4] How has the increased usage of mobile internet reflected on the online travel business?
With smartphones becoming more affordable and mobile apps becoming the way we do things, they are changing the way people shop and share experiences. Travel companies also are deploying new mobile device-based services and apps that connected passengers can access while on the move.
Some 20% of our overall traffic is contributed by mobile devices. Mobile is the perfect channel for a travel company to provide real value to the customer and create higher engagement by enabling a convenient travel-booking experience.
5] How have you leveraged the mobile platform to provide a enriched travel experience to MakeMyTrip users?
With household computer and internet penetration continuing to be extremely low, and smartphone uptake predicted to grow >10x between 2012 and 2016, we believe that the future of e-commerce is on mobile. Therefore, over the last couple of years, we strengthened focus on the mobile channel as a growth driver and became the first Indian OTA to launch an iPhone app. Our comprehensive set of mobile solutions range from a WAP and touch mobile site to mobile apps for Android, iPhone, Windows and BlackBerry. Our iPhone and Android apps have received top billings and ratings, and we have hit over 2.5 million app downloads.
Our travel apps not only enable customers to search and book flights, hotels and bus on the move but also offer value-added services such as booking-cancellation, tracking refund status, retrieving e-tickets and vouchers, checking flight status and seeking alternate arrangements in case of last minute delays. They also provide geo-targeted search results, allowing users to easily find dining options near their current location. The information is delivered through an intuitive, interactive interface.
To cater to basic-phone users without a data connection, we have built an assortment of travel solutions available on SMS such as flight search, as well as India’s first SMS-based bus-ticket booking service.