How does a Middle East online travel agency crack India? Musafir says it has the answerNews / DistributionBy Karthick Prabu | November 5, 2013Share This article was originally published on Musafir, Middle East-based OTA recently launched its India service with $16 million investment and legendary cricketer Sachin Tendulkar as brand ambassador.Tnooz spoke to Albert Dias, co-founder, marketing and technology director, Musafir.com regarding the India service launch. Q&A with Dias below.Why did you launch in India and not in other emerging markets in Asia?We are embarking on a regional expansion plan, which has been in the works for several years now, and India was the first country outside the UAE that came to mind especially since two of the company’s co-founders are Indian.We see strong opportunities for growth with the country’s increasing Internet penetration and rapid adoption of online travel booking.We are looking to open in other emerging markets in the region in the near future.When there are so many OTAs dominating the online travel space in India, how Musafir will differentiate itself?As a service provider, we don’t fly the planes that people travel in or build the hotels that people stay in, which is why we are committed to making the quality of our service our differentiator – and not just any level of service, but exceptional service.We intend to supplement this in the long term with product innovations, of which we have lined up two key innovations in the year ahead.How is the investment money ($16 million / Rs 100 crore) going to be spend?The largest portion of our investment will be spent in marketing and customer acquisition over a four to five year horizon. Our investments in our product are currently led from the UAE.Musafir wants to be one of the top five OTAs in India by 2018. What are the strategies in place to achieve this?We are looking to build a strong base of travellers in year one and aim to increase our turnover by 75% each year to break into the top five.We have begun promoting flights to build initial scale, and we plan to tap into mobile travel bookings followed by tailored holiday planning – both of which product innovations lined up in the year ahead – to fuel growth.How is the India website different from the .com version of Musafir?Our Indian website runs on the same technology platform as our main website, so they are identical from a user experience standpoint.However, they differ significantly from inventory and content standpoint, both of which are managed by a dedicated team in Mumbai for our Indian website.How Musafir is going to leverage (from digital media standpoint) Sachin Tendulkar as a brand icon?We are looking to leverage the trust and longevity that Sachin Tendulkar stands for to help build faster market adoption. We have already begun rolling out our new through-the-line media campaign on digital channels and will be activating others over the coming weeks.We are also running a quirky digital campaign at the moment to #shekhufy the world with a turban and moustache, based on the character that Sachin Tendulkar plays for Musafir.