AT a time when the Indian aviation industry is going through much turbulence, international carrier Lufthansa...
AT a time when the Indian aviation industry is going through much turbulence, international carrier Lufthansa is working towards cementing its ties with Indian customers. So after breaking the norm by launching its first campaign, ‘More Indian than you think’ outside the global network, the aviation company introduced a brand new feature, called the ‘premium economy’ class for international flights from India. Just a notch above economy class and a grade down business class, with the new feature the carrier is expected to get many more business fliers on board.
In a conversation with FE Brandwagon’s Anushree Bhattacharyya, Wolfgang Will, director, Lufthansa Passenger Airlines, South Asia, explains why the Germany based airliner found it necessary to launch an India specific marketing strategy and the impact it has had on travellers from India. Edited excerpts:
With domestic aviation companies struggling for existence in India, how is the scene when it comes to international players such as Lufthansa?
The Indian aviation industry has gone through an evolution in the last five years. We have been in India for 55 years and so far we have only witnessed a rise in demand. For example, despite facing capacity constraint last year, we grew at a rate of 5% in terms of number of passengers as well as revenue. The Indian market is very competitive and in our effort to meet the needs of Indian consumers we have continuously expanded our services. Not only have we added new routes, we currently have 47 frequencies a week. For our customers from India we have already introduced one of our premium carriers, the Boeing 747, also known as the queen of the skies.
In-flight services such as luxury suites, service attendants suddenly seem to be playing a huge role in drawing attention to the brand. Is there actually a demand for such services?
Today, safety and reliability is very important to a traveller, especially in case of a long journey. The journey should seem seamless and hassle free. Yes, Lufthansa does boast of all these features because we have a well-known luxury segment. And this is because we have a lot of business class travellers as our consumers. Also, we have the largest business class compartment.
However, not everything starts and ends with the business class, we also have an economy class where the volume is very large. But again, since a growing number of travellers tend to travel for leisure, we need to take care of their needs accordingly. Right from introducing Indian flight attendants to Indian food, as well as Indian entertainment, we have taken up a lot of measures to ensure Indian travellers are able to fly comfortably. As the duration of all the flights range seven to eight hours, all these factors do play an important role.
Which are the important markets for Lufthansa in India? How do you ensure you are at the top of the game?
Our customers are well distributed across India. Delhi and Mumbai are obviously very important markets. Nonetheless, Bangalore, Chennai and Pune are lucrative markets for us. Pune has a large automotive industry so it provides a large customer base.
Last year in November we launched a brand new service, ‘premium economy class’. With this, we introduced a fourth compartment as an option between first class and business class. It’s a separate compartment with better seats and various other features. It’s an important need for the corporate traveller because a lot of companies have restrictions which do not allow employees to fly in the economy class. It’s an interesting segment and right above the economy class.
Middle Eastern carriers such as Eithad, Emirates, Qatar Airways and Gulf Air have been very aggressive in the Indian market. What has been your response to the competition?
Yes, I agree that Middle Eastern airliners give us stiff competition. But we are on our toes. Our growth and expansion process has confirmed that we too are a strong player in this market. In addition to being to market leader in the European market, we are ahead even in India. We provide services to 170 destinations in Europe and overall 280 destinations worldwide. Apart from the brand Lufthansa, we also have Swiss and Austrian Airlines in India, which together give us an edge over the rest.
Moreover, now that Star Alliance is entering the Indian market, it will provide us an opportunity to provide flights to more countries. With Air India on board since last July, the Star Alliance network has 27 member airlines, offering more than 18,500 daily flights serving 1,316 destinations in 192 countries. International fliers further benefit from a wider choice on routes connecting North America, Europe, Asia and Australia via the Indian subcontinent.
Lufthansa has been trying to reach out to Indian consumers through various initiatives such as branded content on television. How has the response been?
We still run the campaign called ‘Runway to success’ which was launched six years back. As part of the campaign, we get young entrepreneurs with brilliant ideas and fund their ideas. Later, it was also developed into a television programme as the show provides access to a lot of business travellers. The show is currently being aired on ET Now. The other campaign called ‘More Indian than you think’ focuses on targeting those Indian travellers who are not familiar with our brand. Through the campaign we tell them that we are trying to incorporate things that Indians can relate to. Even though we have a strong national brand which is reliable, it was required to show the emotional side of Lufthansa. India is the only country on the global network to have its own advertisement.
Apart from the television campaign a specific responsive microsite allowing users to discover the Indian side of Lufthansa and to increase and prolong the interaction with the brand and the campaign content was also created. The microsite was launched in several languages including Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati and Kannada. The microsite also provided a link to booking flights.
The result has been phenomenon with the microsite getting 1,001,183 page views. Moreover, it got close to 552,039 visitors in terms of traffic. In all, the campaign reached about 40 million unique users. The TV commercial was also shared on Facebook and YouTube, generating 15,00,000 views altogether. As a result of the campaign, more than 898 tickets were booked in a span of two months.