‘We have become somewhat of a travel superapp’

MakeMyTrip co-founder & group chief executive Rajesh Magow talks about the platform’s new tech features, expansion plans, views on ChatGPT, metaverse and more

makemyindia, travel
Rajesh Magow

When MakeMyTrip was launched in 2000, first in the United States and then in India five years later, it started as a platform to book tickets with just a few clicks. About 23 years later, its product basket has expanded much to offer services beyond booking flight and rail tickets to include products such as a B2B travel agent’s platform, forex and a Where2Go curated content feed to inspire travellers on their next travel destination.

“We have become somewhat of a travel superapp,” says co-founder and group CEO Rajesh Magow. While several tech innovations happened during the two Covid years, it dealt a major blow to the hospitality sector, at the same time giving a boost to those in the tech space. Being a company at the intersection of the two, it saw in it an opportunity for technological innovation “to help us future-proof, and drive the future growth”, says Magow.

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In an exclusive interview with FE, Magow talks about recent tech innovations and launches, international expansion, and how he sees newer technologies such as ChatGPT and Metaverse. Edited excerpts:

Several tech innovations happened during the Covid pandemic. How was the experience at MakeMyTrip?

Covid was tough. And being a one-stop shop for travel, it was challenging for us too. But, we started focusing on potentially what we can do that would help us future-proof and drive future growth. With that thought in mind, we deployed our technology resources for some platforms.

So, we built myPartner, which is our B2B travel agents’ platform. We have about 30,000 travel agents already on-boarded out of whom about 20,000 are active and participating.

We already had a small and medium enterprises platform, myBiz, for our corporate clients.

Then we built an API (application programming interface)—based platform called MyAffiliate. For example, when you go to Amazon Pay, their travel segment is powered by MakeMyTrip. Similarly, you can find MakeMyTrip on PhonePe and HDFC’s SmartBuy. So, we are participating with all these platforms.

Then, we also built TripMoney, a fin-tech platform. Within this, there is consumer money, forex, and travel insurance. All of these are on our homepage today, which is powered by that platform.

There is another interesting thing in the form of Where2Go, which is an inspiration section to help you with ideas on where to go. It is curated content, which includes users’ pictures of their travel with us. Here, the idea is that we will have destination, hotel, and user content, which one can see for ideas on where to travel.

So, we have become somewhat of a travel superapp.

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What is the revenue mix-up of your new vs traditional products?

The revenue mix-up is small but they are all getting traction.

The corporate and myPartner together make up 5% already. Right now, the better metric is the number of clients we have onboard, which are about 30,000 travel agents and 40,000 SMEs.

So, while the revenue is currently smaller, the focus is on future growth.

What do you think of the latest tech launches such as ChatGPT and their applications in the hospitality space?

While ChatGPT has been launched just recently, we are already testing it and accessing its applications for our business. Having said that, we have already been using technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning along with data science. Take the case of our fare lock product, which allows you to freeze the flight fare to protect you from price volatility. It does require a small token price. Then there is the Trip Guarantee product for our rail customers. So, if you are waitlisted, and buy this product, we guarantee you the trip even if you do not get a confirmation.

Having said that, ChatGPT is interesting and a new innovation in how search engines work. An application that I see from our point-of-view is using this technology in chatbots. So, if you are uninterested to see our Where2Go content but interested to ask questions and get responses, then here we can leverage ChatGPT-kind of technology, which we are already testing.

Web 3.0, which includes Metaverse, is also an emerging space. Your thoughts on that?

The way we look at technology is, rather than getting mesmerised by the hype, what is important is to go to the next level and to understand its application for the business. So, if we find it relevant for any aspect of our business, we will adopt that technology.

Metaverse, I believe, has limited value for travel because travel is an experience, which you cannot experience virtually. But where we do see a limited use is in the Where2Go segment, by using metaverse and AR and VR-aided videos to inspire people for their next travel destination.

MakeMyTrip reported a profit in the December quarter. What are your expectations for this quarter and the year?

We have been consistently profitable on a consolidated basis. And I see no reason why this trend will not continue.

What are your expansion plans, especially internationally?

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is our focus. We have launched our MakeMyTrip website and app in Dubai. We want to grow in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and expand in Saudi Arabia. We have already built the Arabic platform.

We have international expansion plan for our RedBus brand too. We are already operational in Singapore, Malaysia, Peru and Columbia, and are looking at other bus markets. So, from an international standpoint, these are the areas where we are focusing on.

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First published on: 19-03-2023 at 00:15 IST
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