During the Center Stage presentation at The Phocuswright Conference, Deep Kalra – the founder and CEO of MakeMyTrip.com – says that India is, really, the so-called “final frontier” when it comes to travel tech’s penetration of the market.
“Everyone wants to be the winner in the final frontier, which is India,” he told Phocuswright’s own Chetan Kapoor. “[But] I always tell startups that, especially in India, it takes a long time to build a business. The toughest thing is to hang in when the things are down.”
Kalra, no doubt, is referring to the various challenges that Western-based travel tech apps, startups and businesses face when they’re trying to penetrate the highly desirable Indian market. It’s not a real question as to why these travel tech companies are trying to gain a foothold in the Southeast Asian country – after all, there are more than 800 million Indians on mobile platforms, more than 430 million on laptop platforms, but only 70 million who claimed to do any form of online transaction, making the market one of the ripest for growth. But the question of how to penetrate this notoriously tricky market remains.
A study conducted by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency – which focuses on the lessons that Dutch companies with a presence in India have learned over the years – suggests that the market presents both challenges and opportunities. The opportunities are self-evident, given the sheer volume of people that a company can find itself exposed to at any given time.
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The Dutch software company coMakeIT, which provides research and development services, learned that while finding the appropriate offshore model for its newfound Indian customers proved to be easy, the implementation of the appropriate model proved challenging.
“The Indian subsidiary of coMakeIT is where the work happens. The subsidiary is the engine for scalability, cost efficiency and productivity that coMakeIT B.V is able to offer customers as a real added value,” says Kiran Madhunapantula, chief operating officer of coMakeIT.
The work that companies like coMakeIT must undertake, in part, involves breaking down the language barrier – as Kalra points out. "Localization in India means unlocking the things that are interesting for local people. Thirty languages people speak in India present both challenge and opportunity,” he says.
McKinsey and Company also states that one of the biggest ways that travel tech companies can find success in the Indian market is to localize their content. “The multinationals need top leaders willing to make a commitment to the Indian operation and to localize and empower it,” it says, adding that the Indian consumer’s demand for “innovative, low-cost delivery systems and high value for money products” will also be key to its success.
And it’s these key points that have helped Kalra turn MakeMyTrip.com into the rousing success that it is. The company, which recently partnered with CTrip, boasts that 25% of all Indians – or, approximately one in four of the entire population – books travel through the site.
Kalra, for his part, credits the site’s success to its unique appeal to the Indian consumer and his commitment to remaining true to that consumer. “There would have been no difference [in our reach and audience] if Expedia had invested in us, rather than CTrip,” he says.