A Signature Media Publication

A New Dimension

Rajesh Pareek

Rajesh Pareek, Group CEO of Musafir.com talks to TBME’s Charmaine Fernz on the first-mover advantage, product enhancements and the big technology focus…

The year so far has been very good and targets have been achieved for Q1. Having achieved the growth, the challenge for rest of the year is to match up to the next set of targets. This would be important as number of transactions have gone up but average value of the transactions have come down significantly. It is a known fact that these factors are driven mainly by the dip in oil prices resulting in reduction of prices of air tickets. In summary, targets have been achieved with a strong push.

The First-Mover Advantage

Musafir certainly has a first-mover OTA advantage in the region. With this backing, we looked at opportunities of expanding in the India market. If you understand the hybrid model Musafir adopts, it is very unique compared to our competitors. We prefer to have a combination of both an online and retail presence. In light of this, we have 13 branches across the region and growing, as we are confident that there is a huge transient population who still prefers the human interaction.

Brand Evolution

One of the key focus areas for Musafir is the holiday segment. We do have a few players also looking to grab a share of this potential segment. Nonetheless, the strategy is clear – we have requisite hiring of staff that has been done and a plan charted out. Our focus will be to promote not just the regular destinations but also the experiential ones. We are looking more strategically into the Unites States of America, Europe and Japan. It is those destinations that offer travellers much more than just tourist sites. To back these destinations, we will be having dedicated staff who will share unique experience with our customers.

We would then be looking to enhance our mobile offering and an improved social media interaction based on country preferences. To cite an example, we would increase our presence on Facebook in India, a heightened Instagram activity in UAE and use of more influencers in Saudi Arabia.

Our first-mover advantage in the OTA space has also given us a good understanding of market dynamics and spend conversion at minimum cost. However, this has to be backed with the right technology and we have a plan laid out. My current role gives me the opportunities to oversee both departments and how we can make customer experience seamless from a platform perspective.

Regional Growth

Our regional growth has worked in tandem with our plans. We opened an office in the early part of this year in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. However, at the moment, we do not have an office in KSA or Qatar. Our office in Qatar will be formally launched by end of this month or next. The plan is to have a combination of a retail and online presence. Oman will be our next step in regional expansion as there is huge growth potential. The idea to tap into these markets will be to first go B2C with a customisation approach.

Our main goal over the next three to four years is to be the number one OTA in the region. With India, our target is to be in the top five.

In our view pertaining to the Middle East, we have done the right thing. In UAE we have established our presence in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah. We have expanded into Saudi Arabia and Qatar. As mentioned, Oman is next. We are also actively studying destinations such as Egypt but there are a lot of factors that have to be considered.

Carving A Niche

Our focus is clear we want to be a regional player. In line with this aim, we have established our presence in the retail space but there is more to Musafir than just that retail shops, we are addressing this void through the right marketing campaign. We are pushing our focus on mobile and through this, certainly a larger message that we are both online and retail. Our first mover advantage in the region has also helped us understand the B2B market so well that replication is not an issue. We would like to focus on both the B2C and the B2B segments; the idea is not to digress from the overall strategy as both segments are very different. While, the B2B is profitable, B2C requires a lot of investment. Nonetheless, in my opinion, over a period of time, B2C will become extremely critical for us.

Product Differentiator

Over the years, we have seen a lot of players catering to varied verticals in the OTA space. However, we will continue with our focus with a combination on both B2C and B2B. Our advantage is that we are self-funded and have a regional presence. This gives us an edge and relevance given the current interest in home grown brands. We have also learnt over the years is the right capital infusion can give the business exponential growth. In keeping with this ideology, we are the process of fund raising.

Technology is a big differentiating factor for us which is also very critical but we have a solid platform. All we need is just a bit of fine tuning to some of the nuances which will give us an outstanding product. As a company looking to diversify we are gauging particular interest customers and how do we cater to them individually. Our advantage here is the knowledge space and how do we take it to the next level.

The future for Musafir is certainly more partnerships especially with tourism boards, banks and looking at enhancing our chartered flights segment. We are moving away from the traditional offerings and there will be a big push on technology. We are also working closely with a bank to launch a co-branded credit card for the region.