‘We will continue to build on API and direct contracting models’
Manu Sasidharan, Head of Hotels & Accommodation, Cleartrip & Flipkart Travel, says the emphasis has been on strengthening tech capabilities to build right tools for partners and customers
In its renewed journey, post-acquisition by Flipkart in April 2021, Cleartrip has continued to strengthen its hotel portfolio and scaled its operations within the category over the last year-and-a-half. Launched in July 2006 as a hotel and air aggregator, Cleartrip, through its intuitive products coupled with the largest selection of flights and hotels, has continued to keep its customers at the centre of everything it does. Despite Flipkart acquiring 100 per cent of its holdings, Cleartrip continues to operate as a separate brand.
Talking about the change after Flipkart acquisition, Manu Sasidharan, Head of Hotels & Accommodation, Cleartrip & Flipkart Travel, says, “Our hotel offerings are central to our growth story and the seamless travel solutions we offer to our customers. Domestically, we have nearly 55,000 and 2,50,000 hotels internationally on both Cleartrip and Flipkart Travel platforms. We are directly connected with ~20,000 hotels right now, all of which are domestic. We will accelerate international contracting starting next quarter.” He adds that over the last couple of quarters, the company has focussed on strengthening its tech capabilities to build the right tools for its partners and customers. “This is how we were able to on-board the 20,000 suppliers. We will continue to strengthen our contracting with an aspiration to touch 85 per cent of demand-weighted supply by June 2023,” he says.
On how does Cleartrip plan to build the hotel category and what plans are in place to counter competition, Sasidharan shares, “We have been focussing on three fundamental tenets: the best selection for our customers, the best value for our customers and the best customer experience in the ecosystem. We will continue to build on these three aspects because we fundamentally believe in doing what is right for the customer. By June next year, we will have the best selection directly connected with us and we are engaging in joint business plans with most suppliers directly. This opens up the next benefit for the customer which is ‘value’.” The focus of efforts, he informs, will be on giving the right value with disruptions in this ecosystem which will be built on the back of technology. “Finally, we will continue to focus on customer experience holistically (pre- and post-purchase) with our clean design, transparent communication, and offerings backed by a phenomenal customer care team who will aid our customers with any and every need,” he adds.
Hotels, as a line of business, are extremely critical for Cleartrip from multiple aspects, shares Sasidharan. “First and foremost, this line of business is the basic requirement for any traveller, because air and hotels product together will solve any customer’s travel needs and can potentially be a starting point for multiple other business lines. Secondly, hotels will aid the new customer acquisition for Cleartrip and, more importantly, ensure customer stickiness because we believe hotels are an ‘experiential’ buy where a customer will spend a lot more time researching, educating and finally purchasing a place to stay. Finally, as hotels continue to scale, it will potentially add to the profitability of the platform and aid in building a sustainable business,” he avers.
In February 2022, Cleartrip and Yatra Online joined hands wherein the customers of the former had access to Yatra.com’s inventory of 94,000 hotels and homestays in over 1,400 cities and towns. “We continue to work with Yatra and Expedia as API partners. They have helped us scale our business this year as we continued to ramp up our direct contracting. We will continue to build on both these models soon – API and direct contracting,” he says.
Sharing plans for future, Sasidharan says, “We will continue to focus on three fundamental aspects – building the right selection, giving the right customer experience, and disrupting the travel ecosystem with technology. We, at Cleartrip, will continue to leverage tech and hence are deeply invested in building our technology and will continue to build innovations. Secondly, I believe that directly connecting with our suppliers and driving value for them is key so we will continue to expand our direct contracting. Lastly, we will continue to ensure our customers get the best value, experience and support to shop for their next travel.”
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