Interview with Samyukth Sridharan, President, ClearTrip

InterviewCleartrip

In an exclusive interview with Thinking Aloud, Samyukth Sridharan, President and Chief Operating Officer at ClearTrip, talks about how they are aligning their marketing strategy with digital and how they are leveraging the digital medium to stay ahead of the curve.

TA: Is your company defining a comprehensive omni-channel strategy?

SS: At Cleartrip, we’re always working with our extensive customer base through a variety of key channels, Cleartrip.com a dedicated consumer website, Agent Box an exclusive tool targeting India’s large agency base, Cleartrip Mobile the sexiest, most comprehensive travel product available on a mobile phone today, and Cleartrip for Business an online corporate travel management tool.

At the outset, we had foreseen the predominant wave of the post-PC generation making deep-trenched inroads into eCommerce. Keeping abreast, we reengineered our approach to development to ensure that we deliver a stellar mobile experience with Cleartrip Mobile.

Similarly, Corporate travel was in its nascence in India when Cleartrip launched Cleartrip for Business – a product that changed the way India Inc. travels. By taking all the administrative aspects out of corporate travel, along with a dynamic and cost efficient tool for booking, Cleartrip for Business is the first ever exclusively online business travel solutions’ product in the world. Cleartrip for business has received a great response SMEs and larger companies are now using it as a comprehensive tool for all their travel needs. The appeal has been broad with companies ranging from retail to online, large multi nationals to medium sized national companies.

Cleartrip’s Agentbox too, has relentlessly helped us us manage the fragmented B2B space in India. The fastest, most comprehensive online product for travel agents – AgentBox boasts of best in trade commissions, a complete flight & hotel solution, dedicated 24×7 support, real time reporting and much more.

With the ever-booming rise of multi-screen behaviour, at Cleartrip we’re cognisant of the pace at which we need to continuously build intuitive products, across channels, to stay ahead of the curve. That’s how we ensure we have a solution across all the channels that consumers use.

TA: In this competitive market space, how does your brand aim to stand out among the crowd?

SS: Based on a straight forward premise of “making travel simple” for its customers, Cleartrip achieves its direct competitive edge with a clean and clutter free website, a site that is fast to load, quick in providing relevant information, simple to navigate and offering an easy booking process.

Offering a comprehensive range of choice without confusion, multiple payment options, competitive prices and exclusive destination information, Cleartrip is very customer oriented. As times move further, customers will continue to look for simpler and more convenient ways of buying travel.

With post PC devices carving a separate niche for themselves, people can make travel bookings on the move. The success of our product Cleartrip Mobile is a true testimony to this fact.

Intuitive planning tools like Small World on Cleartrip and Airfare Calendar and Rail Calendar on Cleartrip are going the extra mile in making sure we make travel simple for our customers who chose online as their preferred medium. The objective is to put the power in the customer’s hands.

TA: Your Travel portal offers Airlines, Hotels, Railways, Buses and Packages?  What is bifurcation of sales?

SS: Air Business – 70% (Int. & Domestic Air)

Non-air business – 30% (Hotels & Trains)

TA: Give us an idea of the number of registered users? Are all of them frequently returning consumers/customers? How many new customers register on an average daily?

SS:   Cleartrip gets around four million unique visitors per month. The registered user base on Cleartrip is over two million

TA: What are your key learning’s on Social Media. What works, what doesn’t?

SS: Cleartrip has upheld integrity and transparency as foundational values of its brand. Embracing these values has made it incredibly easy for the brand and the organization to have an active social media presence–tapping every viable social media touchpoint we can to engage customers in dialogue and share with the online world.

We’ve always been early adopters of social media tools with a blog, customer forum, Twitter presence and Facebook page.

Social media marketing is easy if you avoid the cardinal sin of using the platform to deliver a sales pitch. It’s counter-intuitive, because marketers want to sell; but the key to success here is not to be selling, but to be building relationships and encouraging conversations around the brand.

TA: How popular is your mobile site? How much percentage of your transactions is through your mobile site?

SS: Cleartrip Mobile is the sexiest, most comprehensive travel product available on a mobile phone today.

Smart and compact; Cleartrip for Android, iPhone, Windows & Blackberry sport the trademark Cleartrip simplicity that has been handcrafted with love to give customers the best flight, hotels and train booking experience on mobile phones.

Thrilled to be the first in the world to bring it to iPhone & Android, Cleartrip’s’ revolutionary two-column split screen approach allows selection of flights and display of the total price, all on one screen.

Cleartrip’s’ one–touch Expressway users can ‘Slide to pay’ in a jiffy. Adding Cleartrip passes to Passbook allows paperless travel. Seamless social integration makes sharing from the app fun, without having to leave it. Booking Business, First & Premium-economy class air tickets is now enabled, while trip details are accessible offline too.

In a first ever, Cleartrip Mobile (a proudly Indian product) was selected as the “Editor’s Pick” in Apple’s App Store. What’s more, it was adjudged “Product of the Year 2013” in the Travel Category at the ‘Product of the Year 2013’ survey conducted by Nielsen.

It also bagged the Mobile Mover of the Year award at the 2011 Web in Travel – WITovation conference in Singapore. Cleartrip Mobile in the UAE was adjudged ‘Best App – Travel & Hospitality’ at The Mobies 2013 that honor the Best in Mobile Innovation in the Middle East.

Cleartrip Mobile searches: 30-35% of total searches overall

Cleartrip Mobile daily: make 20-22% share of desktop transactions

TA: Is a Mobile App vital for an OTA? How much percentage of your transactions are through your App?

SS: App vs HTML5 split for us is 2:1.

Within this, it splits as below

Percentage split of Mobile bookings from platforms

  • iPhone – 43%
  • Android 50%
  • Rest – other platforms
  • Conversion and segment sizes are higher on iOS

TA: What is the favorite part of working in online travel space?

SS: Travel is fascinating. It’s thrilling and adventurous. And when you merge that with the magic of technology, it becomes seamless, convenient and hassle-free too.

Working in the Online Travel Space allowed me to understand and appreciate the marvels of good and efficient use of technology. The volumes of efficacy that technology, when applied correctly, can add to travel planning, is amazing.

The thing I love most about working in the Online Travel Space is the magic of convenience it has brought to the palm of my hand. I have all my travel needs, beautifully designed in neatly stacked inside just a 7 inch mobile screen.

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“Thinking Aloud” reflects the emerging trends and varied outlook of the rapidly evolving internet and communication sector. An IAMAI publication, this is a part of the market education initiative of the association.


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