Yatra is on a mission – to revolutionise online travel bookings with its innovative offerings. Vikrant Mudaliar, Chief Marketing Officer, Yatra.com, shares his plans for living up to Yatra’s promise of becoming India’s new travel planner.
Yatra’s latest campaign positions the portal as ‘India ka Travel Planner.’ Can you elaborate on the theme?
The campaign is an extension of the brand’s overall repositioning that kicked off in the beginning of the year. This was coupled with changes at the product level where we were expanding our portfolio, adding new lines of businesses including new product integrations like getting the Uber service integrated into the app and unveiling a new Yatra in 2017. With the launch of the latest campaign, we are repositioning the brand as ‘India ka travel planner’, as that one-stop shop where all kinds of traveller’s needs are met. Since we were looking at refreshing the overall brand personality, look and feel as well as our communication and advertising, we thought it was a good time to sign up actor Ranbir Kapoor as our brand ambassador.
Why is Ranbir Kapoor a good fit for Yatra?
He is a great fit in terms of mass appeal and popularity. Bollywood and Cricket are the two biggest draws in India. We thought of taking on a face from Bollywood because today, many movies have travel as a backdrop in the storyline, showcasing many exotic destinations. Today, the Indian consumer is aware of global travel and is knowledgeable about both domestic and international destinations. We roped in Ranbir because he is a superstar, as far as the current generation is concerned, his appeal cuts across demographics and different markets, he has a modern and youthful image, and that went well with the new avatar of Yatra. All these qualities made us feel that Ranbir will be a good brand fit for us.
The latest campaign talks about the variety of products being offered by Yatra. What gives your offerings an edge over other players in the segment?
What we offer is not just for all kinds of travels but also for all kinds of travellers. When we are making a promise that we are India’s travel planner, we should be confident enough to deliver that promise. It’s about the depth, width and breadth of the product offering. When we talk about offering hotel bookings, we offer a variety of options and there are over 65,000 hotels to choose from. Also, if you prefer a home stay, we have that option as well. So, Yatra becomes that one single destination that caters to all your requirements. Very few other brands can make such a promise with such confidence and that’s really what makes us stand apart. We also have integrated Uber into our app. This is pushing the boundary of what travel typically means for people. We are not just about a holiday vacation or a flight, we are also about catching a cab for your daily use, which is also a kind of travel. So, if you have the Yatra app, you won’t even need the Uber app. And it is offerings like this that makes our brand promise unique and differentiated.
What was your primary idea behind the new logo and the identity that was launched earlier this year?
Yatra as a brand is over 10 years old and so was the look, feel, the logo and the visual identity of the brand. So, we felt there was a need for a refreshment, the idea being making the brand more contemporary. We also wanted to make it more suited to the current digital environment, in terms of increasing the engagement and consumption on mobile. We wanted a logo that would speak for the seamless experience that we offer. The new logo is red because we wanted it to be bold and vibrant, to make it stand apart. We have got some great feedback on the new logo and the rebranding.
Yatra recently partnered with Prajakta Koli. How was the response to the initiative, and are you planning more such campaigns in the near future?
The association with YouTube star Prajakta was an overall and broader plan to create interesting digital content related to travel. A lot of the content that we are creating, especially online and for consumption on social media, is not just about advertising, promotions or discount-led communication, which typically a lot of e-commerce platforms are doing. Travel is such a rich theme that we have been partnering with like-minded people or brands to create engaging content. We have also launched a new property called ‘Yatra Travel Tales’ which partners with celebrated personalities and showcases their travel experiences. Our aim is to provide interesting travel content for consumption on social media, which engages with the brand and helps consumers come to our brand. That was the broad objective and it worked well for us and there are plans to continue doing more such initiatives.
How much do you invest in advertising?
This year, there has been an increase in our overall advertising spends. A lot of it has obviously to do with our repositioning, roping in a new celebrity and doing campaigns around it. It’s an interesting time for the category as well because we are seeing healthy growth, thanks to Indian consumers travelling more. All of that makes us bullish about our plans and therefore we will continue investments in marketing and advertising.
How else are you reaching out to your target audiences through the digital medium?
Search and Display is an option that lot of brands have used and we continue to use them as well. Also, as we are a travel marketplace, we deal with a slightly broader platform of customers. While we have people booking flights worth Rs 2 lakh, we could also have someone booking a bus or a train ticket for hardly Rs 500. So, customisation of our online content and targeting our online advertising in demographic terms or based on geography is something we do on a constant basis. And then, there is also the matter of engagement with existing customers which is done by using digital channels, emails and SMS. There is this automation piece around it and it is about making it relevant and targeting customers based on their past behaviour. This is an ongoing exercise and one continuously tries to refine and improve that. A lot of the strategies have sharply defined performance metrics in terms of what we are gunning for, whether it is cost per acquisition, cost per click, or open rates per email campaigns or click rates. A lot of work is happening in that area.
Have you been able to reach out to the older generation?
Our parents are using Whatsapp and Facebook more frequently than we are. Thanks to the advent of e-commerce coupled with the evolution of the online payment ecosystem, there has been an increase in their overall comfort level when it comes to transacting online. We are increasingly seeing a lot of older people coming on board. And that also has to do with penetration. For example, about 50-60% of flights and 15-20% of hotels are today getting booked online and not all of this is coming from just the 15-25-year-olds. A lot of it is actually coming from the 35-40 or even older age group. Online travel is benefiting also because of the overall comfort level of transacting online and e-commerce as a platform becoming more conducive and easy-to-use. Partly, this has also happened because of improvement in the user experience, and improvements in technology which has also made it that much easier for people to transact online.
What will be your broad marketing strategy for the next few years?
There are three pillars that we will focus on. First will be the enrichment and expansion of our product piece. We want to offer anything and everything related to travel. Secondly, we will invest in technology and make sure that the whole user experience while booking, transacting pre and post transactions become seamless and convenient. Thirdly, we would want to make sure that the brand is contemporary and relevant and speaks to its consumers and lives up to its brand promise. We want to keep engaging and rewarding them for being a Yatra customer.
What will be your strategies for expanding to smaller cities?
We are not just about five-star hotels but also about two or three star hotels. It’s not just about flights from Delhi to Mumbai, but also about buses that you need to take to smaller cities or home stays at a smaller destination, or catching a train to from a Tier II or Tier III city. That is going hand-in-hand with the growth that is happening at these cities. Also, there has been an improvement in the access to high-speed internet and bandwidth. The entire ecosystem is evolving which helps somebody sitting in a Tier II or Tier III town to have the same access and travel booking experience that somebody in a metro would. We also give a lot of importance to customisation. Somebody from a smaller town would want a different holiday package when they are going to Goa or Dubai as opposed to somebody else who has already been to Dubai twice before and is wanting a different experience now. A little understanding of how we customize across geographies in terms of our product composition and experience is an important bit that has been happening simultaneously.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking offline vs online marketing, digital vs traditional and new age vs old school. One needs to build a level of familiarity, comfort and expertise across multiple mediums, whether online or offline.
Creative Agency - Ogilvy & Mather
Media Agency – ZenithOptimedia
Digital Agency - Brandmovers India
Vikrant Mudaliar is responsible for leading marketing activities across all Yatra.com business-lines and group entities. While focusing on strengthening Yatra’s brand equity in the travel category, he is responsible for driving the marketing and communications strategy to support the company’s overall strategic objectives. Mudaliar also takes care of all traffic and consumer marketing initiatives across web & mobile platforms and drives customer-engagement and loyalty.
About the brand
Yatra is a one-stop marketplace for all travel-related services. The company provides information, pricing, availability, and booking facility for domestic and international air travel, domestic and international hotel bookings, holiday packages, buses, trains, in city activities, inter-city and point-to-point cabs, homestays and cruises.
(This story first appeared in IMPACT magazine. Click to read Print version: