TravTalk - India

Win with service, not price

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Neil Patil, Founder, CTO & COO, Veena World, pens down his thoughts on many things – his podcasts that have gained immense popularity, the expansion his team is planning in India and internatio­nally, expectatio­ns from the New Year and a piece of advice to those who are looking to join this incredible industry.

This has been an incredible year with many learnings. I’ll sum them up to three things:

❖ India for the longest time had been a market that had always valued the price over the experience when it came to locking down a holiday plan. However, 2023 was the year where we saw a large shift in consumer behaviour. A large proportion of the audience is valuing the experience more over the price of a holiday.

❖ Europe, despite its visa challenges, continues to be on top of mind for the Indian traveller. This year we saw a six times rise in the number of travellers wanting to travel to Europe in winter months! Before the pandemic, this number was very small.

❖ Japan and Australia have emerged as strong competitio­n for Europe. And with both countries granting multi-entry visas to most travellers, repeat visits to these destinatio­ns have become a trend now. This is slowly chipping into the share of internatio­nal holiday spend that was otherwise occupied majorly by Europe.

Audience engagement key

When it comes to the use of technology in travel industry, a major focus has been on Artificial Intelligen­ce (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). I will leave that aside for now to focus on what we are really doing right now. For us at Veena World, having transparen­t and clear communicat­ion with our guests at every step of the journey is critical. To achieve this, we have started many communicat­ion initiative­s like podcasts: Travel Explore Celebrate Life, 5 Minute Travel Tips, Chalo Bag Bharo Nikal Pado, Travel Katta, Know the Unknown and ‘Aapla Maharashtr­a’, which are available on Spotify and Apple podcasts. Such content creation has enabled us to use our social media channels effectivel­y for audience engagement. We have also started focusing a lot on design. Our website now has a fresh look on a monthly basis. With newer technologi­es being implemente­d at the back end, both the technology and marketing teams work hand-in-hand.

Expanding in India and overseas

When it comes to expansion, we now have a Veena World branch office in Ahmedabad. We recently opened one more office in Pune, which takes the number of Veena World locations in Pune to more than 20 offices. We now have a presence in Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru. With more than 150 offices around India, we want to be closer to the Indian traveller.

At the same time, we have seen our overseas presence grow too, which has enabled us to build our inbound vertical too. We now have an overseas presence in Germany, USA, Canada, Columbia, Australia and the UAE. And you will soon hear about more office expansions in 2024. We are expecting 2024 to be a year of even greater demand for experienti­al travel. We also have two Antarctica expedition­s taking place in 2024. Year 2024 for us will be a year where we strive to set a new benchmark for how travel services are provided in India.

Win the market with service

As a second-generation business lead, I do have some personal learnings that I can share with those beginning their journey in this industry. Always enter a meeting with a clean slate. For me, this has really worked because when you enter with a clean slate, you develop the ability to let everyone contribute to the project at hand. And this mantra for us has been incredibly effective, because after all, it is the team that makes the dream work.

When we started doing podcasts, we were pessimisti­c about sustaining the episodes and the recordings. But two years on, we have done more than 600 episodes now. So, one of the biggest personal learnings is Impossible is Nothing. If you think it’s possible, do it!

If you try to win the market on just a price advantage, there will always be someone in the future who will beat you at it. But if you try to win the market on the service you provide and the experience­s that you make your travellers plan and enjoy, you will be a long-term player.

(Views expressed are the author's own. The publicatio­n may or may not subscribe to them.)

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 ?? ?? Neil Patil is the Founder, CTO & COO of Veena World
Neil Patil is the Founder, CTO & COO of Veena World

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