Face off: Over 50% of our bookings are through mobile, says Dhruv Shringi, co-founder & CEO, Yatra.com

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Published: May 31, 2016 7:03:17 AM

New demographics of people are looking at various reasons for travel and thus the likes of yoga tourism, religious tourism, wildlife tourism, reunion tourism, sports tourism etc are on the rise

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As Indians open their minds and wallets to travel, portals like Yatra.com are evolving to change with customer preferences. Completing 10 years in 2016, the travel portal has seen its share of ups and downs with numerous similar or boutique travel companies entering the market. “The travel industry has come a long way over the past decade with the inception of the new age, well informed traveller,” says Dhruv Shringi of Yatra.com in an interview with BrandWagon’s Meghna Sharma, while also discussing how social media is helping brands. Excerpts:

Yatra’s recent campaign featuring Kanhaiya Kumar’s look-alike, went viral. In an era when most brands are politically correct, what made Yatra ride a controversial wave? Is Yatra going to cash in on topical affairs as a strategy now onwards?

We were looking at a digital ad and the idea was to go ahead with a current topical issue, which is where the angle of Azaadi fit in. We were in no way advocating any particular issue or a person through the advertisement. Our focus was to showcase the new product in a humourous and fun manner, something that will stay with the viewer even after the ad is over.

As social media plays an important role in making or breaking brands, do you think brands need to be more careful in their creative strategies?

Social media today is an integral part of our lives. As a platform, it is real-time and is also the best way for the customer as well as the brand to directly interact with each other. It has the potential of both positively and negatively impacting a brand in a relatively short period of time. Hence, you need to be on top of your game as you never know when an opportunity presents itself (as it did with our current campaign which garnered over two million views in a matter of a couple of days) or when a disgruntled customer shows up with an angry tweet or a post that ends up going viral.

Brands, these days are churning exclusive content only for these platforms due to the vast reach and the instant reactions they garner. I am of the view that it’s not the quantity but the quality of interaction that really matters on this platform.

Ever since Yatra started its journey a decade back, how has the travel sector changed and how do you keep pace with it? What are some of the emerging trends in this space?

The travel industry has come a long way over the past decade with the inception of new-age, well informed travellers. Indians have drastically changed the way of travelling/holidaying and are now looking to take breaks more often with people planning holidays up to two-three times in a year. The trend of taking frequent breaks on long weekends has been growing over the past few years as people look for a quick, short respite from the hustle-bustle of their hectic lives. Indians have also become keener on visiting new and unexplored destinations every time they travel. Holidaying internationally now has become more affordable with OTAs (online travel agencies) such as Yatra showcasing great deals and packages for various international destinations. Savvy Indian travellers book well in advance these days and hence are confident about getting good deals within their budget.

We have also seen the adoption of mobile as a new booking platform for travel; in fact, more than 50% of our bookings come via mobile.The drop in oil prices has resulted in lower flight prices and a plethora of hotel deals and budget accommodation options have also helped in driving down the overall cost of an international break. This has led to the emerging trend of budget travellers which means more and more people including the youth are now willing to take holidays. Also, new demographics of people are looking at various reasons for travel and thus the likes of yoga tourism, religious tourism, wildlife tourism, reunion tourism, sports tourism etc are on the rise. Going forward, the Indian traveller will increasingly start looking for unique experiences that reflect her personal taste and individuality.

Recently, Snapdeal integrated with a few travel portals. Yatra itself has tied up with cab aggregators like Ola and Uber. In today’s start-up era, do you see e-commerce, travel portals and app-led travel services brands joining forces more often in the near future?

We are heading towards the age of open platforms. In this environment, different service providers will provide access to their content through multiple platforms in their efforts to reduce the cost of customer acquisition. We will, over a period of time, see more such platform alliances emerge which will try and create an ecosystem that will enable them to keep a customer within that ecosystem, extracting a greater share of his wallet.

What are some of the challenges that plague OTAs and what needs to be done to overcome these?

While there are macro challenges like quality of internet connectivity and credit card penetration which continue to be impediments to faster growth, at a more micro level, in a highly competitive industry like ours, the only way to remain ahead of competition is by being extremely customer focussed and constantly innovating. We spend a lot of our efforts in the technological development of the mobile platform to ensure a superior product given that a vast majority of India accesses the internet through mobile devices. Moreover, we have invested heavily in analytics to have a deeper understanding of customer segments so that we can offer the right product mix.

With more youngsters earmarking budgets for frequent travel, how has your TG and communication changed?

Youngsters are turning out to be a prominent demographic who take frequent trips with friends or go solo. They are more attracted by budget accommodation options and differential experiences as opposed to a family or a group traveller. Hence, in all our communication to the youth, we try to bring the above points out and also keep our creatives on a more funky and colourful side while for the older demographic, we focus more on luxury and family getaways.

Meghna.Sharma@expressindia.com @meghna0101

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