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Ixigo CEO Aloke Bajpai On their Relationship With OTA’s & MakeMyTrip

In the first part of our interaction with Ixigo’s CEO, Alok Bajpai he spoke about the effect of the airline industry’s slump on OTAs and others, their insulation against the slump, their business model and mobile strategy. In the second part of our interaction with him, he speaks about their relationship with their investor and OTA – MakeMyTrip.com, their marketing strategy, affiliate program and scaling.

Marketing Strategy

Medianama: Why do you place such huge emphasis on social media for your business?

Bajpai: I’m a big believer in social media because it is a real world problem that is being solved by technology. We want to stay connected with our friends, ask them about it, review etc. Everything we do has social media attached to it. You can log into our site using Facebook login. Social media is a great opportunity for our kind of business and not just business but even retention of virality of our content.

Medianama: What are the other modes of marketing that you employ? Has your strategy changed over time?

Bajpai: We have always been known as one company who have grown through word of mouth and social. Nothing much has changed about that in the last year except a few marketing campaigns. We have spent less than 1% spend of the marketing budget of some of our counter parts in the industry. We have been pretty frugal on marketing in the last 5 years and that has not changed. If the product has traction then it will make itself successful. We only need to fuel it to the next level. If we discover we need to put significant dollars behind building a brand we will do it. We have tried to be very product centric in our DNA and that has helped us.

Funding & Investor Relationship With MakeMyTrip

Medianama: What has your last investment been utilised for?

Bajpai: Our last investment was closed at the end of 2011 with SAIF Partners as the majority investor and MakeMyTrip as minority investor. Honestly, we have not utilized most of it. If the question is do we intend to raise more money then the answer is no. We are set with enough capital. It is about becoming more relevant to consumers and talking about the brand and that’s where we are investing. We are investing in technology, product and content. Marketing comes later in the priority of things.

Medianama: How is it that Ixigo took money from an OTA, when it should actually be competing with them?

Ixigo: It actually doesn’t matter. Trip advisor has been with Expedia for a very long time. I don’t see that as a specific problem. We are helping in sending traffic and not mediating the transaction.

Medianama: Why did you choose to get investment from MakeMyTrip?

Bajpai: I think this is more about understanding that there is strategic alignment between what we do and they do. They are going after the transactional mind of the customer like booking for hotels, flights etc and doing business while we are in the upper end of the funnel telling consumers how they should go about their travel. We are complementary to each other, rather than being competitive with each other. MakeMyTrip also thinks the same way about us. Globally, we have seen alignments between OTAs and meta search engines. Our DNA’s are primarily different. Ours DNA is a product and tech one while their DNA is about customer relations. We will remain a small company with operational leverage. They are more employee intensive. In a nutshell, there is strategic value in working together than separately.

Medianama: How does MakeMytrip benefit from investing in you? Or does it even benefit from you at all?

Ixigo: I think the benefit has to be looked at more strategically. It is more about the upside of Ixigo as a company because we can also work with them commercially. If Ixigo can be a big business in the travel business, MakeMyTrip has a piece in the picture right? It is a case of a large company investing in small company not to drive something for itself but to drive a small business so that owning a piece of it over time is valuable. For a consumer, the reason to go to Ixigo is different from going to MakeMyTrip.

Medianama: How did your investment from MakeMyTrip benefit you apart from the money?

Ixigo: I think there is definitely value in having the largest OTA in the country with strategic involvement. When we need any strategic advice and direction about something that we feel they know better then the value addition happens. It is more about having alignment with the largest player in the space. What we can make out of it is up to both of us. We are running this company independently without any involvement that goes beyond board level advice which is about what works from a consumer’s perspective.

Affiliate Partnerships & Scaling

Medianama: What is the kind of partnership that you share with Dainik Bhaskar?

Ixigo: We have a partnership with quite a few publishers. With respect to Dainik Bhaskar, we power their travel widget. We share similar relationships with Delhi and Hyderabad airport. All the information provided on their website is powered by Ixigo. It is more of a synergetic relationship. They want to give more information. We want to expose our brand to more people

Medianama: What is the volume of traffic that you get from Bhaskar websites?

Ixigo: I can’t state the number but it is a significant number. Obviously, the focus of these websites is not travel but in totality through all affiliates, we get significant volume of traffic but individually, each contributes to a small percentage of traffic.

Medianama: What happened of your partnership with NDTVTravel.com?

Ixigo: They are no more a partner. We chose to do other stuff.

Medianama: Can Ixigo ever scale in India given that there are so many OTAs?

Ixigo: The more OTAs there are, the more significant we become. More fragmented the industry is, more useful a meta search will be.

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