Interview: Ayyappan Rajagopal, CEO, Cleartrip | The Financial Express

Interview: Ayyappan Rajagopal, CEO, Cleartrip

The revenge travel trend is continuing even though the average ticket price is around 15-20% more than it was last year

Interview: Ayyappan Rajagopal, CEO, Cleartrip
Gen Z consumers are the single largest growing base because this is a generation that is asset-light and not concerned with buying or saving up to own a home.

Since its acquisition by Flipkart, online travel technology company Cleartrip has seen its top-line triple, says CEO Ayyappan Rajagopal. He tells Christina Moniz how the brand is leveraging Flipkart’s massive consumer base and why Gen Z is so important. Edited excerpts: 

With the travel and tourism sector bouncing back post the pandemic blow, tell us how Cleartrip has been performing this year.

Travel started bouncing back in the last quarter of CY21 and crossed pre-Covid levels in June this year. The revenge travel trend is continuing even though the average ticket price is around 15-20% more than it was last year. Daily flying numbers are almost at 4 lakh and we believe it reached 4.3 lakh during Diwali week, and that momentum will continue right until Christmas. This momentum has been great for Cleartrip. Our top-line has tripled and our market share has doubled. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that we elevated the customer experience and tackled a key customer pain point – flexibility in travel. We launched a couple of industry-first propositions, CT Flex and CT FlexMAX, which allow customers to modify or cancel bookings in a hassle-free manner. Second, we changed the refund process, addressing yet another consumer pain point, and can now ensure that refunds happen within 24 hours. These steps have paid off very well for Cleartrip.

It has been over a year since Flipkart acquired the brand. How has the acquisition boosted Cleartrip’s business and how are you leveraging Flipkart’s consumer base?

Flipkart has over 300 million customers in the country, encompassing smaller markets, tier-II and III cities. That sort of penetration doesn’t exist in the OTA space in India. We can target and reach out to this customer base, either through Cleartrip or Flipkart Travel, which is powered by Cleartrip at the backend. Further, when customers shop on Flipkart, they earn Super Coins that can also be redeemed on Cleartrip, and there is no limit to the number of Super Coins they can use. For instance, if a consumer has 5,000 Super Coins, then they can actually redeem them to book a flight without paying anything further. For Flipkart too, travel is a priority business and we are committed that we ensure the share of wallet for a Flipkart customer increases because the same customer travels as well. Both brands stand to benefit. Post the acquisition, our NPS (net promoter score) has moved up by 20 points in the last six months, which is the single biggest jump that we have seen.

Will Flipkart Travel and Cleartrip continue to operate as separate brands?

From a customer-facing standpoint, we will continue to have two brands for now because Flipkart Travel is more of a value travel offering, whereas Cleartrip focuses more on the travel experience. The backend for both are anyway run by Cleartrip, so there is no duplication of effort.

Moving forward, how long do you see the current travel momentum continuing?

Industry reports indicate that the ongoing revenge travel trend will continue for the next 2-3 years. One thing we are observing is that consumers, especially Gen Z, are looking to explore more places beyond the usual tourist hotspots like Jodhpur, Goa, the North East, etc. Gen Z consumers are the single largest growing base because this is a generation that is asset-light and not concerned with buying or saving up to own a home. Rather they choose a different lifestyle and travel is a big part of it. The Indian government’s UDAN scheme will result in more airports and thus more connectivity, which will boost travel further. While international travel has been growing, we expect to see complete recovery here too by the end of CY22.

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First published on: 02-11-2022 at 08:14 IST