B2B key to on­line supremacy

Brings to you the best prac­tices and strate­gic in­tent the lead­ing play­ers in the on­line travel space have built into their DNA to be­come the big­gest gi­ant in this seg­ment.

TravTalk - India - - Ota - VIVEK SETHI

It is the ser­vice of a par­tic­u­lar on­line player, which can help him stand apart from the crowd

The on­line travel space in In­dia has seen many new en­trants who have got into the in­dus­try with an am­bi­tion to be­come the big­gest on­line travel com­pany. How­ever, still, none of the com­pa­nies can yet claim to have ac­quired a size­able quan­tum of the mar­ket to be crowned the undis­puted king. It has led to over­crowd­ing in the mar­ket, which gives a man­date for an ex­i­gent need to stand out in the crowd. The com­pa­nies with high growth rate, which strive to grow faster than oth­ers in the travel, have to nec­es­sar­ily op­er­ate in the on­line space. As per Vikram Malhi, Coun­try Head, Ex­pe­dia In­dia, “In­dia is expected to be home to the fastest grow­ing to­tal and on­line travel mar­ket in the APAC re­gion in 2012 with gross book­ings expected to touch $24.6 bn. On­line travel is the driv­ing force in the ecom­merce seg­ment with a global con­tri­bu­tion of 70 per cent of all e-com­merce ac­tiv­i­ties. Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent PhocusWright re­port, the on­line travel mar­ket is expected to grow more than any other mar­ket through 2013, es­pe­cially with the on­line travel pen­e­tra­tion set to cross 36 per cent from a cur­rent level of 31 per cent. With a rise in the pen­e­tra­tion fur­ther to Tier II and III cities, there will be an ex­po­nen­tial growth in the on­line travel book­ing seg­ment. On­line book­ings are where the fu­ture for the In­dian travel in­dus­try lies.”

The cut throat com­pe­ti­tion in In­dia has forced the on­line travel com­pa­nies to con­tin­u­ously evolve. Here, Neelu Singh, COO, Ezeego1.com, ac­knowl­edges that the on­line travel com­pa­nies in In­dia have gone be­yond mere pro­vid­ing just on­line travel tick­et­ing ser­vices to the cus­tomers. “There are off­line pay­ment op­tions like cash on de­liv­ery that helps those cus­tomers to make pay­ments who are not ready to part with their credit cards or who still want to choose the tra­di­tional method of pay­ment by cash,” Singh adds.

“While there may not be much scope for dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion in the breadth of of­fer­ings them­selves, the crit­i­cal dif­fer­en­tia­tors that will de­ter­mine the suc­cess of an OTA are the value-adds in terms of in­no­va­tion - from pack­ag­ing to de­liv­ery of these ser­vices, ex­am­ple, smart­bundling to of­fer the best­value prod­ucts, tech­nol­ogy that en­ables ac­cess in medium-of-choice etc.,” said Ra­jesh Magow, Co- Founder, COO & CFO, MakeMyTrip.

Stand­ing out in a crowded mar­ket - The en­tire fo­cus of the key on­line play­ers is to build on a propo­si­tion that helps them stand out in the crowd and strike riches. Malhi here show­cases Ex­pe­dia’s strength in terms of strik­ing the best value propo­si­tion. “As we see, our in­her­ent strengths em­anate from the fact that we have ac­cess to the largest global in­ven­tory of 1,55,000 ho­tels, 438 flights and 7,000 hol­i­day ac­tiv­i­ties, which en­able us to get the price points & deals that noone else in the mar­ket can of­fer,” said Malhi.

“We have in­no­va­tive & unique ser­vices like build your own Trip, 72 Hr Sale, Deal Hunter and Last Minute Deals in ad­di­tion to the reg­u­lar sea­sonal cam­paigns that as­sist the trav­eller to cus­tomise travel per his need. In fact, only we of­fer dis­counts and deals even dur­ing the peak sea­sons, cou­pled with the flex­i­bil­ity in modes of pay­ment rang­ing from credit to debit card, net-bank­ing to even cash,” he adds.

Magow here high­lights that MakeMyTrip of­fers a holis­tic set of ser­vices. “We de­liver a com­bi­na­tion of con­ve­nient book­ing tools, global se­lec­tion, a wealth of or­gan­ised con­tent & re­views, the abil­ity to com­pare and fil­ter ho­tel fea­tures and pric­ing along, and trusted ser­vice that can’t be du­pli­cated by an­other OTA. While, we con­sider the other play­ers healthy com­pe­ti­tion, the depth and breadth of our global sup­ply and de­mand foot­prints af­ford us a long-term, sus­tain­able growth tra­jec­tory that we be­lieve no other com­pany can match,” said Magow.

In­ter­est­ingly, Ankush Ni­jhawan, Co Founder & Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer, Travel Bou­tique On­line, here bets on en­try bar­ri­ers cre­ated by use of the state-of-the-art tech­nol­ogy. “In or­der to sus­tain in the travel busi­ness from long term per­spec­tive, one has to stand out in this grow­ing crowd of on­line play­ers. Our tech­nol­ogy is our dif­fer­en­tia­tor and acts as an en­try bar­rier for com­pe­ti­tion,” he said.

“We con­tin­u­ously in­vest in tech­nol­ogy to cre­ate in­no­va­tive prod­uct for our part- ners. We act as one stop on­line plat­form for our agents by pro­vid­ing widest travel prod­ucts and con­tent at best prices and main­tain fi­nan­cial trans­parency by pro­vid­ing real time re­ports as well as of­fer ef­fi­cient and timely per­son­alised cus­tomer ser­vice to our agents. We ag­gre­gate largest ho­tel in­ven­tory in the coun­try and would op­ti­mise our ser­vice and rates to our part­ners and thrive to be­come a leader in the hol­i­days & pack­ages ver­ti­cal as well. We are ex­pand­ing our reach and have moved into Tier-II and Tier-III cities like Nag­pur, Pune, Cali­cut and Su­rat and are also fo­cussed to grow to the op­ti­mum large ex­ist­ing mar­kets like Mum­bai, Chen­nai etc,” he added.

Not al­low­ing the on­line tech ma­jors for­get the back­end op­er­a­tions, Parik­shit Sawh­ney, Manag­ing Di­rec­tor, For­erep­re­sen­ta­tions said, “It is the ser­vice of a par­tic­u­lar on­line player, which can help him stand apart from the crowd. Our ini­tia­tive from day one has been fo­cussed on ser­vice and on giv­ing a fair value to our cus­tomers. Of course, the qual­ity of the on­line in­ter­face and an er­ror free ex­pe­ri­ence do help but ul­ti­mately it’s the back­end sup­port, ease of op­er­a­tion and has­sle free pay­ment so­lu­tions which per­form in the long run.”

It’s for the in­tense com­pe­ti­tion and de­ter­mi­na­tion to stand out of the crowd that most OTAs had un­der­taken an ag­gres­sive ac­qui­si­tion strat­egy. Ac­cord­ing to Pratik Mazumder, Head of Mar­ket­ing & Strate­gic Al­liance at Ya­tra, “Ya­tra has come with a to­tal of four big ac­qui­si­tions, which have broad­ened our hori­zons and of­fer­ings as a lead­ing travel com­pany. We thrive to con­stantly in­no­vate with the new tech­nol­ogy and shift to mo­bile apps too over the com­ing years. We are very much opti- mistic about our fu­ture and thus are fo­cussing to strengthen our po­si­tion in the mar­ket, es­pe­cially in ho­tel and hol­i­day book­ings. Our re­cent ac­qui­si­tion of Trav­el­guru is likely to trans­form the of­fer­ings and will im­mensely con­trib­ute to­wards do­mes­tic hol­i­day book­ings as well as the ho­tel of­fer­ings.”

Ex­tend­ing reach

In the war like sit­u­a­tion in the on­line travel space, the win­ner will def­i­nitely be de­ter­mined by the B2B am­mu­ni­tion these lead­ing play­ers have in their kitty. Hence, all of them have a well-de­fined task to work with smaller agents and make them act as their ex­tended reach.

“Ex­pe­dia, as a prac­tice, en­sures ex­haus­tive and en­rich­ing train­ings for B2B part­ners. We have ro­bust strat­egy in place for our B2B net­work, be­gin­ning with a multi tiered struc­ture aimed at in­cen­tivis­ing more pro­duc­ing agent. For In­stance, if we were to talk about our agents, a plat­inum agent gets 11.5 per cent com­mis­sion com­pared to a stan­dard agent who gets 10 per cent. Other than this, we reg­u­larly in­tro­duce sea­sonal pro­mo­tions. An­other widely ap­pre­ci­ated Ex­pe­dia ini­tia­tive is the of­fer news­let­ter. This bul­letin reaches our part­ners and agents reg­u­larly, giv­ing them in­sights on key Ex­pe­dia of­fer­ings, aug­men­ta­tions and developments. We also have about 11 brand am­bas­sadors across In­dia, who are our top pro­duc­ing agents,” says Malhi.

Here, Magow also quickly high­lights that MakeMyTrip has a strong pres­ence across In­dia through fran­chise and per­sonal stores. “We have a to­tal of 20 com­pany- owned out­lets and 38 fran­chised out­lets in In­dia. We plan to ex­pand fur­ther. Train­ing is an in­te­gral part of our fran­chisee mod­ule. Apart from hav­ing stan­dard oper­at­ing pro­cesses, des­ti­na­tion guides, on­line tools and prod­uct reser­voirs, we also make sure that the fran­chisee sell­ers spend qual­ity time with the ser­vice de­liv­ery team to un­der­stand the im­por­tant pro­cesses. We also make sure that a se­nior seller is with them for on-the-job train­ing on var­i­ous sales tech­niques. These train­ing pro­grammes are pe­ri­od­i­cal in na­ture and are mostly done be­fore the peak sea­son,” he added.

For­erep­re­sen­ta­tions, as per Sawh­ney, has al­ways had a wish tree re­wards pro­gram, which has been an in­her­ent part of its book­ing process right from the start. “The pro­gram of­fers gifts and in­cen­tives to the front line book­ers based on the points earned by them. At present, we have 1000 ac­tive agents from a to­tal of 3500 reg­is­tered agents all across In­dia, Mid­dle East, Europe and UK,” he added. Ni­jhawan re­lies on road shows across In­dia, ad­ver­tise­ments on its por­tal and will launch a mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tion by early 2013 to in­crease reach and also pro­vide value added ser­vices to our agents.

Ra­jesh Magow CO- Founder, COO & CFO MakeMyTrip

Ankush Ni­jhawan Co Founder & Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer, Travel Bou­tique On­line

Neelu Singh COO Ezeego1

Vikram Malhi Coun­try Head Ex­pe­dia In­dia

Pratik Mazumder Head of Mar­ket­ing & Strate­gic Al­liance, Ya­tra

Parik­shit Sawh­ney Manag­ing Di­rec­tor, For­erep­re­sen­ta­tions

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