BTL & social media key to success for online travel start-ups: Rikant Pitti

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Rikant Pitti, Co-founder, EaseMyTrip.com

Rikant Pitti, Co-founder, EaseMyTrip.com

As the big players firm their base in the $22 billion online travel market in India, newer players are also garnering good returns on the back of aggressive BTL activities, which is considered as a key to success in the online travel industry. One such player is EaseMyTrip.com, which entered the market in 2008 and has reaped huge profits. From sales of Rs 33 crore in the first year of operations, the company has grown to Rs 364 crore in four years since its inception, and is eyeing turnover of Rs 680 crore in 2013-14.

In an interview with Pitch, Rikant Pitti, Co-founder, EaseMyTrip.com shares his company’s strategy, which is based on creating services for the consumer, by the consumer, to the consumer. Excerpts:

What is your strategy for this year and how have you devised your marketing plan?
We want to make EMT as a one-stop for all travel-related solutions. Starting from travel planning to the cheapest deal, EMT aims to provide consumers with a holistic travel package. Our marketing strategy for this year would be to create services for the consumer, by the consumer, to the consumer. We are targeting internet users and credit card holders and also offering guaranteed low airfare.

To shape up up our 4Ps, we are looking at integrating search solutions to improve conversion and visitation targeting all the metros. We would also bring the consumer as part of the value chain to promote end to end value based journey booking. The concept is based on location based services driven by user-based content influencing other users to take a particular service. User is incentivised to provide content through the form of discount vouchers or free accommodation stays.

How has the growth been like in the last five years? What are the basic fundamentals of your business?
We have always believed in providing small to small incentives to woo consumers to generate content and source suppliers. There are two basic fundamentals that we believe in – recency in ratings of hotels/ cabs/ flights/ buses builds credibility, and recency in rich content from users pushes up choice of a certain service and helps in supplier consolidation. In the first eight months of our operations in 2009, our sales exceeded Rs 33 crore. During the second year of operations, our sales crossed Rs 104 crore. During the third year, the company exceeded the track record of Rs 219 crore. During the fourth year of operations, for the financial year ended March 2012, the company beat a track record of Rs 364 crore. In the fifth year of operations for the financial year ending March 2013, sales of Rs 680 crore are projected.

What is the marketing spend for this year? What is the key to your success?

Even though we spend on both ATL and BTL, but BTL promotions and social media are the key to success of start-ups. Besides, we spend the most on online advertisements and promotions in all social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. In case of tier II and tier III, we usually do BTL advertisements, like brochures, direct mailers, newsletters, and special tariff offers to promote our services in such markets. We also have sales promotions like festival discounts, round trip ticket discounts, best deal of the month, as also special offers to different holiday destinations.

We have allocated Rs10-15 crore for our marketing budget.

How are you planning to increase your brand value as compared to other players in the market?

In the near future, we would like to invest some money in buying small firms that will help EMT add businesses related to our core activity of selling air tickets. We want to be perceived as a choice brand for anything, anywhere related to travel, experiences and holidays. We plan to increase our brand value by leveraging on our competitive advantage – pricing, choices, value and community.

What are your plans for the year ahead?

We plan to expand our footprint globally. After positioning EMT in the Indian travel market and becoming a brand known for its quality service at the most competitive tariffs, the company expanded its journey of success by opening its new branch in Bangkok this year.

How are you focusing on tier II and III markets? Where all are you present in India?

Our main focus is on customer intimacy and operational efficiency. We are present in five cities of India – Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Srinagar. Our primary focus for now would be to tap the tier I markets. For tier II and III markets, we have a network of travel agents to drive sales.

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