- Things are finally getting back to normal and people are starting to
travelagain. To make the most of this, intercity busservices player IntrCityhas come up with its first-ever campaign.
- We spoke to
Swapnil Tripathi, Chief Business Officer, IntrCity SmartBus about the spike in travel in the last few months and the kind of growth they are seeing, their new campaign and their larger marketing strategies.
Through the campaign, the brand wants to reiterate IntrCity SmartBus as a customer-centric brand. It is also trying to acquire new customers in Delhi and Bangalore through its communication. It also has plans of spending aggressively on marketing this year, to reach out to customers to further communicate the core offerings of the brand.
Serving close to 1.5 lakh passengers every month, the brand currently operates in 16 states, covering over 630 routes across J&K (Kashmir) to Kanyakumari (Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu). IntrCity SmartBus covers over 200 destinations across 228 cities.
We spoke to Swapnil Tripathi, Chief Business Officer, IntrCity SmartBus to understand the brand’s journey so far and why it was a good time to release its first campaign, the kind of growth bus travel is witnessing currently and how they are making the entire experience safer for its consumers.
Q) You have launched your first-ever campaign. Why was this a good time?
After the dampening years due to the deadly second wave of COVID-19 pandemic and the Omicron era with extended lockdowns, inter-city mobility has gained momentum once again. The summer vacations will begin shortly and inter-city travel will get very intense especially with no travel restrictions after 2 years. Seeing the high demand for intercity bus travel and factors like traveller’s confidence has returned to the pre-pandemic levels for both leisure and non-leisure travel, we felt it is a great time for introducing our campaign #It’s not a bus, it is a SmartBus to highlight the comfort provided by IntrCity SmartBus for bus travellers.
Q) Considering this is your first campaign, how have you been engaging with your consumers so far?
Our core philosophy is experience-led where the focus is to ensure that every traveller ends up making us their default choice after their first trip with us. Hence the strategy is to acquire new customers from our relevant TG i.e. millennial professionals, college students, SMEs & traders and travelling sales professionals. Needless to say that we have also created products like SmartBus Savings Card, Refer n Earn and loyalty program to ensure that every repeat travel is financially rewarding too.
We engage with travellers at our lounges and inside the bus through our staff, where the captain ensures that they not only have great experience but understand how they can travel again with us. We have brand tie-ups which ensures that our travellers get overwhelmed with goodies as well as snacks which they can buy during the journey. IntrCity app helps one manage the entire journey experience smoothly accessing various tools like Track Your Bus, Find Boarding point, Talk to Captain, and Pre-order meal at pit-stop.
Q) What kind of increase in demand has the company witnessed from the start of this year? Do you anticipate this number to only go up this year?
We have registered a month-on-month growth at a consistent 40% plus growth over the last six months, as of February 2021 with milder slowdown during parts of January and February returning back and growing again from March onwards.
In the last 2-3 years, the technology-backed aggregators have led to the creation of branded fleets on prominent 50+ routes across India. The introduction of mobility technology in inter-city buses along with the emergence of organised and branded players has transformed this entire ecosystem.
We believe that our growth numbers will remain at this level and further improve paving the way to have 2000 buses by 2025.
Q) Going ahead, what are a few key focus areas for this year?
The key focus right now is going deeper into the heartland of India with expanding our services further into Tier I & II cities in India. We are executing a mix of deeper penetration in routes that we are already active in along with adding new routes from existing hub cities. We’re aiming to have 2000 buses by 2025.
Q) What are your broader marketing plans for the rest of the year?
We focus a lot on repeat travel and hence have a lot of engagement activities and communication targeted at ensuring that our loyal travellers remain in touch between their two trips with us. Our in-bus goodies bag, surprise gifts and the captains ensure that customers should interact with the brand IntrCity and finish their trip with a very strong recall about us. The IntrCity app keeps them informed about new feature launches, new routes added, special offers and ensures that they travel again with IntrCity SmartBus.
Q) Considering people are still cautious about travelling, how are you ensuring the safety of customers?
Customer’s safety is our utmost priority. Using data analytics to offer detailed information like live bus status, estimated time of arrival at destination & more, the SmartBus has been built as a centralised system, backed by AI-powered predictive algorithms, that connect long distance buses. This provides a standardised travel experience for our bus fleet. Our SmartBuses are designed to create, maintain & grow our three core promises: safety, reliability and punctuality.
Establishing safety parameters for our passengers is a core focus at IntrCity SmartBus. In line with this priority, we have built a central command centre to monitor and manage each bus journey, especially the long distance ones. Our command centre is connected with the driver’s interface in the bus, the crew app, the bus booking app for consumers, and all boarding lounges and boarding points.
Our SmartBuses are also equipped with cameras and sensors that help keep track of the passenger count at all times. Every enroute bus is assigned with a Bus Captain who offers you in-person assistance throughout the journey. In case of an emergency, the captains directly contact the command centre for quick resolution ensuring that you enjoy an uninterrupted safe and comfortable travel experience. As a result of these safety measures, the percentage of female travellers who did online bus ticket booking with IntrCity SmartBus rose from 9% in 2019 to 25% in 2021.
Every bus is thoroughly cleaned and sanitised before starting its journey, and the ‘cleaning’ status is uploaded on the bus ticket booking app for you to check. Our in-bus staff members wear protective gear throughout the journey and are thermally scanned before resuming their duties. Travellers are similarly checked and are provided with a hygiene kit with a sanitizer and disinfectant wet wipes. We have established IntrCity SmartBus Lounges, an industry-first effort, to provide consumers with a safe and convenient boarding experience.
Q) How is IntrCity engaging with consumers from smaller cities? Are you also looking at regional campaigns?
Our approach towards the customers from tier-II and III is multi-media campaign, vernacular content and communicating on how our brand is helping them for their very functional needs. We cater to functional needs of the travel and our primary routes are such where people travel for job, going to college campuses, visiting families & relatives with very few leisure routes too. Hence we aim to convey how our buses remain punctual, are safe, are cleaned & sanitized for contamination free travel. We follow a vernacular approach and have seen better engagement with local language content than English.
Our selection of media and demography of users is purely based on locations we exist in and cater to.