Rajesh Magow, MakeMyTrip
Rajesh Magow is co-founder and Group CEO of India’s MakeMyTrip. He has played a key role in multiple landmark events of the online travel company, including its NASDAQ listing in 2010 and merger with Ibibo group.
Magow has served as director on the board of Flipkart and has also served as the CFO and acting CEO for the India operations of eBookers.com, now part of Travelport.
In early September, Phocuswright published its India Total Market Report, which provides a comprehensive view of India’s travel market, including detailed market sizing and projections, distribution trends, analysis of major travel segments and key developments. Below, PhocusWire speaks with the co-founder and Group CEO of India’s leading online travel company, MakeMyTrip.
What have been the biggest changes to your role since taking over as MakeMyTrip Group CEO from CEO of the India business in 2020?
Frankly speaking, no real change in true sense of the role when I see it using the co-founder lens. Technically, some added responsibility, but as a co-founder one ends up taking a joint ownership of the business performance overall in any case.
How far along is MakeMyTrip on its super app ambitions?
We have come a long way in setting up one-stop shop for Indian travelers. Staying true to our vision to make MakeMyTrip the first port of call for every Indian traveler, we today offer every single use case of travel: all modes of transport for intercity travel, airport cab transfers, all types of accommodations, bundled products, ancillary products like meals, insurance, forex and innovative travel fintech products like Book Now Pay Later, instant consumer loans and more on our platform.
What are your strategic priorities within and outside India over the next 12 months?
Coming out of pandemic, the immediate priority is to get the business back on track to pre-pandemic levels and then grow from there at an accelerated pace to make up for the lost time. We made investments in key areas like strengthening our corporate business offering for both SMEs and large enterprises; built the MyPartner platform (a B2BC initiative!); strengthened our homestay offerings; launched RedRail, the lightest rail booking app, and Ryde, an intercity cab offering under Redbus; built affiliate offering to power other platforms like Amazon Pay, leading banks portals, etc., for new customer acquisition. All these initiatives are going to help us grow faster in the coming years.
MakeMyTrip reported strong recovery during the first quarter of fiscal year 2023, which you attributed to an increase in demand. How concerned are you about threats such as inflation or a recession impacting business?
Yes, we were happy to report strong business recovery in Q1 of Fiscal 2023 as well as the last few profitable quarters at an adjusted EBIT level. The recovery momentum was a result of pent-up demand post-pandemic. Today, while COVID restrictions and people concerns are largely over, we are witnessing inflationary pressures in the market, albeit lower than the rest of the world due to increase in crude oil prices. Oil prices have come down a bit in the recent past and we hope that this trend will continue and help reduce inflationary pressures.
You also reported “continued opportunity for growth” in your homestays segment. How do you plan to capitalize on that opportunity?
We are excited about the homestay opportunity which is fast emerging as a mainstream segment in the travel and tourism ecosystem in India. We have been investing behind strengthening our homestay offering for the last couple of years now.
We are excited about the homestay opportunity which is fast emerging as a mainstream segment in the travel and tourism ecosystem in India.
On the supply side, we have coverage of more than 1,100 cities and are further targeting to penetrate deeper. We built "Be a Host," an in-app feature that allows hosts to list their homestay in just a few clicks. Hosts can now register their property within 15 minutes, complete the entire onboard process in 24 hours and, if required, manage bookings at multiple properties – all on a single platform.
On the demand side, we have seen 150% growth in consumer demand over the pre-pandemic period. We have sold more than 25,000 unique properties over the past 2 years. The traction gives us confidence that the segment will have a larger play in the times to come in the homestay business.
We also recently concluded India’s favorite homestays awards – a first-of-its-kind award dedicated to homestays in partnership with a leading media house. Our attempt is to encourage the homestay community for their meaningful contributions toward India’s tourism and hospitality industry.
Can you give an update on MakeMyTrip’s relationship with Amazon? How has it allowed you to expand into smaller markets?
Amazon Pay offers an interesting opportunity of reaching consumers in smaller cities given its deep presence across the country. The partnership, as was intended, has helped us in expanding reach to new customers in smaller cities as well as towns. The new users, with a contribution of almost 40%, continue to be a strong source of bookings on Amazon.
You also have a partnership with Flipkart-owned payments provider PhonPe. Did that partnership present concerns, given Flipkart owns competitor Cleartrip?
Not really! Flipkart and PhonePe are being run quite independently.
How do these partnerships help MakeMyTrip compete against other major online players with a presence in India?
We are proud to have built the top three travel brands in India based on top-of-mind recall that have passed the test of time on innovation, reliability and trust from the Indian travelers. As a result, the majority of our traffic is direct and organic. Amazon Pay, PhonePe and GooglePay are the platforms that help extend our reach to users from smaller cities while we control the customer experience and fulfillment of the services.
How has your relationship with Trip.com Group evolved since the company became a key investor? What are you learning from them?
Trip.Com has built a leading business in China and are now growing internationally. We have learned a lot from their rich experience of building a successful group over the years in the online travel space. We keep collaborating with them at strategic level on regular basis.
You’ve diversified into the B2B space with MyBiz and MyPartner. What are the opportunities and challenges of moving into that segment?
We saw huge opportunities in both the business travel segment as well as long-tail retail demand.
The conventional model of corporate travel business meant a travel desk served by implants from travel firms. We saw a clear opportunity here to leverage our core tech strength to build traveler friendly and transparent solutions for corporates.
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We are already serving more than 44,000 SME entities on our MYBiz platform and about 200 large enterprises on our Enterprise solution.
MyPartner too has strong business potential with more than 31,000 travel agents serving the needs of their customers. Our attempt here is to expand our reach to customers through the traditional agents for long-tail retail demand.
If you weren’t in travel, what career would you have pursued?
Frankly speaking, never had a chance to think about this given MakeMyTrip's journey has been very absorbing and I believe the best is yet to come! Outside of travel, I have a keen interest in following pretty much all sports and play a couple of them to keep myself fit.
What advice would you give to young people entering the travel technology space today?
Venturing into any tech-led business offers a very exciting opportunity, and travel is no different. I would say, venture into it thinking that it could be a long haul and stay relentlessly focused on providing innovative solutions to solve consumer or business problems.
India Travel Market Report 2021-2025
This report provides a comprehensive view of India’s travel market, including detailed market sizing and projections, distribution trends, analysis of major travel segments, key developments and more.