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Flipkart plans to make Cleartrip an end-to-end travel app: Prahlad Krishnamurthi

Forum Gandhi Mumbai | Updated on September 08, 2021

Cleartrip’s new CBO speaks to BusinessLine about future plans for the company

 

Cleartrip, which was recently acquired by Flipkart is seeing a recovery in its revenue as the customer travel confidence is getting better. After working six years at Flipkart, Prahlad Krishnamurthi, recently moved to Cleartrip as Chief Business Officer. He spoke to BusinessLine about Flipkart’s multi-fold plan to get Cleartrip back to its glory.

By when do you see the pre-Covid level travel coming back?

Post the second wave, it was a very bad and difficult time for the industry but it recovered to at least 80 per cent of pre-Covid levels. Cleatrip grew faster than the industry did at that time.

This trend is driven by domestic travel and international travel was minimalistic and limited to air bubbles with minimum leisure travel. I believe, the complete recovery will take at least a year and a half. Given that the Covid-19 third wave doesn’t hit us hard, there is a good chance domestic travel will gain its normalcy.

Is the customer confidence coming back or are you still seeing closer to travel date bookings?

We see that whenever there is a hiccup, or restrictions increase, the trend of booking in advance becomes lower. Even today, 20-30 per cent of bookings are happening between zero to seven days but the recovery is better. So at that time, ticket booking closer to date of travel was higher, say one to seven days before. However, we are seeing that slowly, the trend of booking 30 days prior to date of travel is slowly catching pace. This was a normal time period prior to the pandemic.

Could you give a break up on which segments generated most revenues for Cleartrip over the past 18 months?

Although the number of travelers might seem less in the international segment, it adds more value as the ticket size is higher. However, the domestic hotel and flight bookings have been the larger chunk in post-Covid-19 times.

The recovery of flights has happened, however, hotel recovery is still far off, since a lot of travel is to hometowns or meeting family and friends. Corporate travel is still lower than expected but boutique hotels and leisure resorts are seeing an uptick. It is at about 50-60 per cent of pre-Covid levels.

How have the margins changed?

Obviously, hotels margins are lesser but for flights and other bookings, there is no change.

Flipkart acquired Cleartrip six months ago, and you moved from Flipkart to Cleartrip too. What was the rationale behind acquiring the company?

The reason why we acquired it is that Flipkart is pretty serious about the travel segment. Given that India is a digital-first economy, and this is a digital-first industry, we see synergies there. We’re doing the retail segment quite well, and it is a logical extension for us. It will operate as an independent entity like Myntra.

What are the immediate corrections that Flipkart is making at Cleartrip?

We needed to address and synerise the customer experience, Flipkart is obsessed with that. Obviously, customer experience has taken a beating because of refunds or cancellations. A lot of policies are not that friendly either. Flipkart keeps customers at the core of its policies, so that is one major change. Another aspect is the company’s growth and market share, which is obviously our ambition.

Thirdly, we know that the company enjoyed a good brand image. Howevermany people (customers)have left the brand over the period of the last five years. So we’re hoping with this renowned focus on the customers, we will be able to win back some of them. The next big piece is the operational efficiency in terms of back-end integration.

Lastly, hiring the right talent. We are in the process of attracting talent and ramping up by almost 30-40 per cent, hopefully by December.

Along with all this, we are very clear that product and design-led innovations need to be ramped up because Flipkart plans to make Cleartrip an end-to-end travel app.

Published on September 08, 2021

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