After surviving through complete lockdowns in 2020 to doubling its profits in 2021, EaseMyTrip is going into 2022 all g...
- EaseMyTrip recently appointed
Vijay Raazand Varun Sharmaas its first-ever brand ambassadors to expand its reach across the country.
- As the travel platform launches its campaign with new ambassadors and rolls out its marketing blitzkrieg, we speak to
Nishant Pitti, CEO and Co-Founder, EaseMyTrip about the idea behind choosing Vijay and Varun, platform’s game plan to deal with COVID and macro-economic changes that might come in our way and larger vision.
However, home-grown hospitality and travel brand EaseMyTrip witnessed a six-fold growth in revenue during the peak of the second wave and on the back of its ‘flexible and lean business model,’it is optimistic about maintaining its financial health in 2022 as well.
With its first-ever brand ambassadors in Vijay Raaz and Varun Sharma and a slew of customer-centric initiatives such as zero-convenience fee, full refund on medical grounds, discounted air tickets for train waitlisted customers, EaseMyTrip has entered this year all guns blazing!
So, to discuss what lies ahead, Advertising and Media caught up with Nishant Pitti, CEO and Co-Founder, EaseMyTrip. He told us about his game plan for the platform in 2022, larger vision, marketing strategy and a lot more.
Q. Can you tell us how 2021 was for EaseMyTrip and the travel industry?
In FY20-21, we almost doubled our profits and this was despite halving of Gross Booking Revenue in a pandemic struck year. In Q4 of FY21, we witnessed a V-shaped recovery, registering almost 89% of the gross booking revenue of the corresponding quarter in the previous fiscal. Additionally, Q1FY22 was one of the worst periods for the travel industry due to the second wave, however, we grew our profits six-fold to more than Rs 15 crore in Q1FY22 as against a net profit of Rs 2.5 crore in the corresponding quarter of the previous fiscal. This makes us one of the few companies to be profitable in the industry that has been the worst impacted in the country in the quarter of April- June’21. We have been able to maintain our profitability through the pandemic as we have been flexible and maintained a lean business model, which has been the key driver in maintaining financial health.
For the travel industry, the year started well as there was a strong demand. However, the second wave struck soon after, which led to a fall in travel demand. The second wave had impacted the entire tourism industry. However, the strong vaccination drive helped in lowering active cases and the industry was seeing a recovery again.
The festive season further pushed travel demand as people were comfortable travelling and had adapted to the travel norms. The rise in travel bookings during this festive period was a clear sign of the underlying pent up travel demand and the growing sentiment among travellers to venture out for leisure travel. We believe that the sector has been able to weather the storm as a lull period was followed by strong growth in demand. We also witnessed a rise in travellers from smaller cities and towns which eventually led to a rise in passenger traffic and demand.
Q. You have recently onboarded your first-ever brand ambassadors. Firstly, why did you think this was a good time to bring on the actors and what was the thought behind choosing Varun and Vijay?
We have been witnessing strong growth, even during the pandemic, and we have been constantly innovating and providing value to the consumer. As a result, we believe that now is the right time for branding and to get more people to know about EaseMyTrip. EaseMyTrip has always believed in leveraging relevant and meaningful avenues for brand connect and this association is in-line with the same brand philosophy.
We believe that Varun Sharma and Vijay Raaz are unique actors who have superb comic timing and have created a niche in the market based on their unique performances. They have a unique mass appeal that cuts across all audiences and geographies. We have consciously chosen two unique actors from two different generations as we believe that an association with both of them will help us reach our overall target audience efficiently. The association with Varun and Vijay are in sync with the brand as just like these ace actors, EaseMyTrip too has established itself and gained market share purely based on performance to date.
Q. After onboarding your first-ever brand ambassadors, what are you eyeing to achieve from this partnership?
The country is witnessing a growing air traffic demand, even from smaller cities now. A significant chunk of these people are digital savvy and prefer doing online bookings. Through this unique marketing campaign, we are trying to reach out to those customers and with the explosion of the internet and online booking, we believe that it is the right time to do so. Additionally, the company has aggressive plans to grow its business with a slew of customer-centric initiatives including the zero-convenience fee, full refund on medical grounds, discounted air tickets for train waitlisted customers, and many more. We believe that this initiative provides us with an opportunity to make more travellers aware of these unique initiatives and grow our customer base.
Q. What is your larger marketing strategy? How will your messaging change, if at all, now that you have new brand ambassadors onboard?
We aim to cater to the pent-up demand via cross-selling to the huge customer base by promoting the same aggressively across all marketing platforms. We are confident that this pent-up demand will continue to grow. We also aim to continue with our record growth across businesses and grow our market share. We emphasize high ROI marketing spending and instead of opting for very high marketing budgets, we try to source relevant platforms that can gain the maximum interest of our customers. We will continue to move in that direction in 2022 as well. While we have onboarded brand ambassadors, we do not expect our messaging to change. We have always maintained a strong messaging and unique proposition of customer centricity and consistent performance, and our brand ambassadors will continue to take that proposition ahead.
Q. Which advertising medium will get your lion's share this year?
With people resuming travel, we are expecting a lot more marketing efforts and initiatives in the coming year. The industry is slowly recovering, and we believe that this is the right time for us to strengthen marketing efforts and customer outreach. Seeing a recovery of the industry, in the past year, we have used big-ticket events such as IPL as well as full-page advertisements across national newspapers for marketing initiatives and will continue to explore interesting initiatives this year as well. This year, we plan to release innovative and exciting marketing efforts across digital, print and outdoor media. With the growth in passenger traffic, we will also continue to actively use in-flight branding space, as well as boarding passes as essential touchpoints for travellers.
Q. What are some of the trends that you are expecting to see in the travel industry this year?
In 2022, we expect a few prominent trends to surface, which are set to be at the forefront of the travel industry. 2022 is set to witness a rise in travel spending by people as they are now, more than ever, ready to take those once-in-a-lifetime trips that they always wanted to embark on.
In 2022, we are also expecting more travellers to prefer locations that are adopting sustainable tourism practices as many travellers have woken up to the benefits and the need of sustainable tourism in a post-covid scenario. Technology is also being implemented in a big way in the tourism industry and travellers are showing a higher preference for places that incorporate smart technology. In 2022, the travel industry is expected to move further into a digital shift and adopt newer platforms and technologies that enable travellers to travel seamlessly.
Due to the safety concerns, we are expecting a rise in demand for unique, unexplored destinations, short weekend getaways and road trips to nearby tourist destinations. Reunion travel is set to be a major trend next year as people look to reconnect with family by taking a quick getaway trip.
As an aftermath of the pandemic, there will also be a rise in the number of people that are opting for short getaways that offer wellness and self-care activities. In 2022, travellers are set to showcase an increased preference for locations that have a focus on wellness activities that help them rejuvenate, take a break away from the monotony of their daily lives and lead healthier lives.
Q. How did the consumer sentiment change in December and what's it usually like in January?
Travel this month is majorly focused on safety. There has been a significant shift in the mindset of travellers towards health and hygiene, and the services provided by travel companies regarding this, make a significant impact on the decision making. While there are safety concerns right now, the travel sentiment of customers is still strong. There is an underlying pent-up travel demand, which is expected to lead to a growth in revenge travel. We are also ensuring safety and hygiene for our customers with the help of our airlines and hotel partners.
Q. We're at that time of the year when people are normally in the mood to travel. What are some of the tourist hotspots in India this year? Have consumers shown any interest in traveling to places they wouldn’t have thought of visiting earlier?
The tourist destinations that have been in demand and that we expect to be tourist hotspots this year as well include Kashmir, Goa, Jaipur, Leh and Srinagar. With safety concerns, the demand for unique, unexplored domestic destinations has also shot up in the past few months, and a lot more unheard domestic destinations will come to the fore in the coming months.
Q. In India, we love saving a little extra on hotels while traveling to a different city -- a lot of people in India prefer staying at a relative's place. Has that trend changed after COVID?
Yes, we believe that this trend has changed as people have witnessed the high levels of sanitisations and safety protocols undertaken by hotels since the pandemic. Since the pandemic there has been an increased emphasis on safety and sanitization within the travel industry and enhanced health screenings have become the new normal across all travel segments. As a leading travel portal, we also provide all the sanitization protocols that each hotel follows, to ensure that the travellers are aware of the practices followed. This provides them with a sense of relief during this period as safety and hygiene has become a top priority in the current period, which is not guaranteed at a relative’s place. In fact, during the pandemic, there has been an increase in 4 and 5-star hotel bookings as compared to the pre-pandemic period as people would want a better level of sanitization at this time. The average duration of the stay has also gone up from 3.2 days to 4.7 days. While hotels and apartments have performed well, we have also seen an increased demand for private villas and homestays as customers find them more secure and safe during these unprecedented times.
Q. Can you tell us what would be some of your focus areas in 2022?
The company plans to focus heavily on its hotel and holiday package businesses and expand in the existing markets. We are working proactively to cater to the increased demand that we foresee. We will look at enhancing the revenues and profitability going forward by leveraging our existing base of customers for cross-selling. We also plan on leveraging our vast agent network and utilizing it for the holiday bookings which shall complement the company’s hotel and holiday businesses.
Apart from the Indian market, we are present across UAE, Singapore, UK, Philippines, Thailand, and the USA. We want to establish our air ticketing business in these countries as we have forayed into these new countries anticipating a huge pent-up travel demand. In the coming year, we plan to launch a localized travel search engine in each global subsidiary to strengthen our offerings within each country. We may also look to expand to more viable countries if we see a strong performance and value addition from our existing global subsidiaries.
Q. What is your larger vision for the platform?
We aim to continue with the record growth with increased revenue margins and market share. We have been extremely bullish in the air segment and expect to become the number one player in the air segment in the next three to four years. While air travel bookings constitute around 95% of our revenues, we are also growing our non-air travel businesses including hotels, buses, trains and holidays in double digits. We are also looking to expand our services across Tier 2 and 3 cities as we have been witnessing a rise in air ticket bookings in these cities. All in all, we are aiming to be the preferred booking partner for all travellers across the country.