FLUSHED with funds from Ctrip International’s US$180 million investment in it, MakeMyTrip (MMT) is surging ahead with the goal of being the dominant player in the mobile and accommodation space.
MMT’s COO, Mohit Gupta, in an interview on the sidelines of GTA’s ‘g meet’ in Bangkok yesterday, said Ctrip’s stake in the company is an enabler on two counts – capital and learnings – both of which will help MMT short-circuit its way to the top with mobile and accommodation in India just as it had with the web/OTA model.
“Clearly the last one year has been a big inflexion point for mobile and accommodation, with both mobile penetration and the budget hotel market growing really well. We believe this is the phase for us to invest in this space in a big way and consolidate our leadership in those areas,” said Gupta.
Gupta: Mobile first, web second
Additionally, there could potentially be ways of partnering with Ctrip for Indian and Chinese travellers “although these are early days”.
Asked what specific learnings it gets from Ctrip, he said: “Just imagine, Ctrip has close to a billion app downloads; we are in the 15 to 16 million range. Ctrip has also seen a lot of action and gone through market phases including intense competition from the likes of Qunar and eLong, marketplace trying to disrupt OTAs, the transition from web to mobile, etc. There are deep insights apart from the capital that has come in. Those learnings and a common way of looking at things are what makes this partnership great.”
MMT remains independent with Ctrip just having a seat on the board.
On what has been done on mobile and what needs to be done further at MMT, Gupta said: “Before, for example, only a portion of the company worked on mobile; now the entire company is. All our new features are first pushed out in mobile before web. A lot more effort on bandwidth has been put into mobile and mobile designers hired. We were doing a lot of catch up and now our mobile products are the leading ones in the country.
“But a lot more needs to be done. for example, deep technology investment to ensure mobile apps work quickly and well on 3G networks and low value and high value phones, solving screen space and more complex problems in design development.”
He added that customer service also needed to be done better with mobile. Another big area of focus is community-based decision-making such as reviews. “Last year we made investment in HolidayIQ which is kind of the TripAdvisor for hotels and vacations in India. We’re working closely with them to write the review formats for mobile,” said Gupta.
Ctrip’s stake in MakeMyTrip is the first China travel company investing in an India travel firm. Gupta believes there will be more such moves. “A lot of Internet-based companies in China are really large, with handsome market capitalisation and the ability to invest. As they look to expand beyond China, India is an attractive market. There are many similarities between the two markets. So I do see more Chinese investments in India across all industries.”
And vice versa? Said Gupta: “At this point in time, just because of economies of scale I find it difficult to imagine. Five years from now, who can say.”