Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer | 21 Feb 2006
Our marketing strategy is to do intelligent spending. We are targeting netizens and credit card holders. We offer guaranteed low airfare. This apart, we are targeting TV channels, outdoors and print mediums for our campaigns. Terror warnings do affect inbound and outbound traffic. That’s why we are focusing on the NRI market. An NRI has to return home. Moreover, we have found that the travel industry bounces back the fastest despite the terror warnings.
Makemytrip.com has emerged as a major cyber destination for travelers, and its Co-founder, Sachin Bhatia, has a major role in the travel site’s success. Bhatia, who heads all marketing, content and web development activities of the website, has been able to successfully position Makemytrip.com as the No. 1 travel brand among NRIs in the US, and has also instituted successful loyalty and referral programmes. He also heads all CRM and ERP initiatives of the website.
Prior to founding MakeMyTrip, Bhatia was in charge of marketing at AMF Bowling, with responsibility for India and South Asia. He started his career in sales and moved on to Wizcraft Entertainment, India’s largest events and sales promotion company. Subsequently, he was with Grey Advertising in Delhi and Mumbai.
An MBA from Strathclyde Graduate Business School, Scotland, Bhatia has 10 years’ experience in marketing, advertising, public relations and web development. In a freewheeling interview with exchange4media’s Pallavi Goorha, Bhatia speaks about MakeMyTrip’s marketing strategy and future plans.
Q. What have been the major travel trends in 2005? What are the trends that you foresee in 2006?
The year 2005 saw an eruption of low cost carriers. With air fares becoming cheaper, more and more people took to flying while going on vacations. Moreover, visa rules have also been eased for some countries; no visa is now required to go to Kenya, Sri Lanka and Thailand. 2006 will see a similar trend and more and more people would be traveling abroad.
Q. What are the promotional activities that you have lined up?
We are doing both online and offline promotions. We have done Quickie with Indiatimes.com. We are coming out with TVC on Makemytrip.com. We are doing a viral campaign around travel booking on Makemytrip. The outdoor signs in major airports like Delhi and Mumbai have become quite popular. We have also come out with a new tag line – Wish, Click and Go.
Q. What about tie ups with other companies?
We’ve had two tie ups. One is with ICICI Bank for a travel smart card, which offers 10 per cent discount on airfares. Then we’ve had a tie-up for complementary card transfers with Kingfisher. We have also tied up with various hotels and airlines.
Q. What is the rate of inbound traffic and outbound traffic?
7.8 million people travel abroad every year, while 3.8 million is the inbound traffic.
Q. How have sales been in 2005?
Sales have been good and overwhelming. We sell 500-600 air tickets every day. We have Rs 100 crore sales every year in India, while global sales amount to Rs 250 crore.
Q. What are the targets that you have set for 2006?
We have plans to consolidate our business growth. We are reaching out to smaller cities like Surat and Ahmedabad. We will also be integrating with Reliance some time in 2006
Q. Who are your major competitors?
We are lucky to have no online competitors, rather the competition is more from travel agencies.
Q. Could you elaborate on your marketing strategy?
Our marketing strategy is to do intelligent spending. We are targeting netizens and credit card holders. We offer guaranteed low airfare. This apart, we are targeting TV channels, outdoors and print mediums for our campaigns.
Q. How far have terror warnings in the world affected tourist traffic?
Terror warnings do affect inbound and outbound traffic. That’s why we are focusing on the NRI market. An NRI has to return home. Moreover, we have found that the travel industry bounces back the fastest despite the terror warnings.
Q. How have you been developing MakeMyTrip as a brand?
In the US, we are focusing on customer service. We stand by the lowest airfares. We provide 24x7 customer service. Our toll free service is available in 45 cities in India.
Q. How does a website promote itself as a brand?
In India, people have to trust you as a brand. The website gives you branding and it gives you traffic as well.
Q. What is your employee strength in India?
We have 167 employees in India.
Q. How did the idea of Makemytrip emerge? How did it develop as online media destination?
Makemytrip.com was co-founded with Deep Kalra. Deep had gone to South East Asia in 1998, where he came face-to-face with the power of the Internet. We decided to set up operations in India and got funding from e-ventures. In the last five years, we have been focusing on the NRI market. From September 2005 onwards, we launched the Indian website. Now, our focus is on inbound NRI traffic.