MakeMyTrip's first earnings call since Ctrip's $180 million investment showed how strong its mobile and app business has become, with bosses even admitting mobile is growing "faster than we anticipated".
During the October to December quarter, standalone hotel transaction volumes booked on mobile were up 756% compared with the same quarter last year. The growth including desktop was also triple-digit, at 326%.
As a share of its business, mobile accounted for 61% of standalone hotel transactions, more than double the same quarter last year and a significant increase on the 54% recorded in the July to September quarter.
Some of this growth will have come as a result of its Great Indian Getaway campaign, an app-based week-long promotion which resulted in one million new downloads of its app.
CEO Deep Kalra said the idea behind its focus on apps was "to migrate people from desktop and mobile web." A recurring theme on the investor conference call Friday was MakeMyTrip's insistence that app users are more likely to become repeat customers than desktop or mobile web users, "driven by the propensity of Indians to download only one or two travel apps."
He added that repeat business from app users is 30% higher than from mobile web or desktop.
Elsewhere, he talked up MakeMyTrip's "Value Plus" accommodation brand as a key pillar of its long-term growth strategy. Its thinking is that "budget hotels are an important way to capture loyalty early and we want to become the travel brand of choice for budget travellers booking on mobile devices."
MakeMyTrip currently has 2000 Value Plus properties in 60 Indian cities.
But however impressive MakeMyTrip's mobile figures are, Ctrip is much, much bigger. Getting one million new downloads in a week brought MakeMyTrip's cumulative downloads up to 15 million. This is a big leap from the same stage last year when it had only 5.5 million, but is still tiny in comparison with Ctrip which talks about having one billion downloads so far.
So it is hardly surprising that MakeMyTrip is interested in Ctrip's mobile expertise. CFO Rajesh Magow explained:
"Ctrip has tremendous experience in reaching a large population by mobile...it has experienced fierce competition along the way but has continued to improve the user experience...We can leverage Ctrip to deliver a great mobile experience, at scale, to our benefit."
In addition to mobile, three other "operational synergies" MakeMyTrip expects from the tie-up with Ctrip were highlighted - expanded international inventory, improved SEO and SEM and its tech relationship with suppliers.
The importance of SEO and SEM was put into context when one of the analysts asked about Booking.com's growing presence in the Indian market. Booking.com is of course owned by Priceline which owns around 15% of Ctrip. "Our relationship is with Ctrip directly," Kalra was quick to point out when the questioner started to ask about possible MakeMyTrip/booking.com tie-ups.
But Kalra acknowledged that Booking.com was growing its presence in India, and in the four- and five-star segments, in particular. "But where they are really aggressive is bidding for keywords, SEM and other meta platforms."
Ctrip's ability to keep its focus as market leader in the light of the competition "luring customers with the unsustainable promise of big discounts" is another area of common ground. Kalra said:
"We believe MakeMyTrip and Ctrip can help each other remain leaders in our respective markets by sharing wisdom, and perhaps a few battle scars, along the way."
Related reading from Tnooz:Pivotal moments 2015 – when MakeMyTrip blocked OYO (Dec 2015)
MakeMyTrip brings EasyToBook closer to home (Nov 2015)
MakeMyTrip buys 28% stake in HolidayIQ for $15 million (July 2015)