Prashant Pitti, Co- Founder of Ease My Trip, in an exclusive interview with NewsX’s special series ‘NewsX India A-List’ talked at length about the travel industry, the impact of Covid-19 on the travel industry and how his company coped with it. Reflecting on the year gone by, Prashant said, “We had filed a DRHP in January when there was nothing known as Covid-19, but then it got pushed. Since our interaction with QIB’s and and the investors went really well, our bankers and our QIB’s were comfortable in launching our IPO. Our recovery rate was pretty good. In Q3 of FY2021, we recovered at 70% compared to Q3 of FY2020. With the vaccination drive which the Indian Government is doing, we really believe that once the drive is complete or even halfway there, there is a pent-up demand for travel”.
“One of the basic philosophy of the company, which has remained all while, has been that we believe that India is a price-conscious market and only if we can manage our costs and offer at a private and a cheaper price, the company would not require to do marketing. This is the core philosophy and we have been working on it. We give customers an option not to pay convenience fees. Even in FY20, if you compare our market expenditures, vis-à-vis our competitors, its 140th of what they are spending. And yet, we grew at 47% a year by year whereas our competitor grew at 20% annually. The core belief remains the same where we believe that the customer does not need not be told if the product is good, but will figure it out on their own”, Mr Pitti added.
When asked how Easemytrip.com managed to remain afloat and profitable amid the pandemic, Mr Pitti said, “We did not have D-pockets and we knew that we are working in a low margin industry. Knowing the fact that you have to play, we built our systems in such a way that our operation cost, employee cost, our marketing costs are very minimal. Even in our discounts which we give to our customers are very minimal to our competitors. But the major fact remains the same. Customers have understood that hunting for discount coupons for hours and then end up paying convenience fees is the last leg. Our customers believe that it is better to visit EaseMyTrip for 4 minutes and not pay convenience fees and move on with their lives. Because of this, we have been able to create a habit of consistent use of EaseMyTrip for the last 10 years. Our transaction rate is 86% which we believe should be the highest in the industry. Coming to the pandemic times, we thought of becoming efficient and hence what we did was created a WhatsApp chat with our panel. Our customers could drop us a message on WhatsApp and they would be able to chat with our agent. This was a double bonanza on both sides, previously our agent was able to speak to once customer at a time but now one agent can chat with multiple customers simultaneously. Hence, making our call centre much more efficient. From the customer’s perspective, it is a great delight”.
As EaseMyTrip gears to launch IPO, Mr Pitti expressed, “We feel very comfortable launching it because of our recovery rate and our interactions with the investors. We can proudly announce our anchors of the IPO. 229 crore has been allocated to HSBC, Tata, ICICI Prudential, HDFC, they are great names who are on board, there to support us and we are working with them. We have 208 crores sitting in our bank account as cash and the company does not need a fresh infusion of the fund. We are very capable of handling what CAPEX is required for the company as mentioned in the DRHP. The primary reason for listing is to gain the benefits of listing, we are a consumer brand and we really believe that by getting listed, we can get new users”.
When asked about the challenges that EaseMyTrip and the tourism industry had to face during the pandemic, Mr Pitti said, ”These were the tough times for the industry but we stand with it in these tough times. However, things are getting better and there is pent-up demand and people are dying to travel. As the Indian middle class’s disposable income is increasing and travel is one of them, where people are willing to spend. Gone are the days when people would travel once a year. We all have the itch to travel and as more and more disposable income is increasing for India, the spending on travel is also increasing. We look forward to making India great”.