Amit Somani, Chief Product Officer, MakeMyTrip: “Indian customers love to shop online”
MakeMyTrip has proved to be an eagle among its peers. The internet ecommerce travel site, after 10 years of operations, opened spectacularly when it listed on NASDAQ last year. The company, in the inspiring leadership of Deep Kalra, who did not take a salary along with six of his senior people till the company broke even, in its earlier days, remains an inspiration for starting up in the internet space. On the occasion of 8th NASSCOM EMERGEOUT Conclave at Gurgaon today, YourStory brings to you an exclusive chat (on email with Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy, chief evangelist) with Amit Somani, Chief Product Officer of MakeMyTrip.
YourStory: From MakeMyTrip’s perspective, what do you think are challenges for an internet company operating out of India at present?
Amit Somani: Being a relatively nascent industry, an internet company in India faces couple of key challenges. First and foremost is that of reliable, high-speed internet connectivity. Secondly, customers need to have payment options like credit card, debit card and net banking that are honored online. We have less than 10% internet penetration, we still have about 40% of airline tickets that are booked online. There’s a huge headroom to grow but many traditional customers prefer reaching out to their local travel agent to make these bookings. We’re increasingly seeing hotels and holidays being bought online but the numbers there modest compared to air and rail ticketing. Again, in this case, people leverage the internet to do research and planning much more for now than consummating their transactions.
YS: What percentage of your sales come from India and where lies the big opportunity in India for internet?
Amit: Substantial portion of our revenue comes from our India facing businesses. The opportunity for the internet in India is immense. As an industry, we need to continue to simplify the customer’s life – whether it be through research, planning, shopping, entertainment, etc. It is well on its way to become as integral a part of our lives as the mobile phones became in the last decade.
YS: E-commerce is on the hype now. In your opinion, will Indian buyers rely on internet for purchasing consumer goods?
Amit: Yes! Indian customers love to shop online. The internet makes both the product selection, pricing and delivery much more transparent and streamlined. Besides, companies in more mature internet markets have shown how more and more customers are continually shopping online. We see no reason why Indian customers will be different.
YS: Your perspective on the internet space and its expansion in India.
Amit: Same as the second question.
YS: What is the likely takeaway for entrepreneurs from the NASSCOM EMERGEOUT Conclave at Delhi from the internet perspective?
Amit: NASSCOM EMERGEOUT will emphasize on a few different things: one is that customers are moving from the pure PC era to one that lives purely on the cloud, whether it be through a mobile device or through the cloud. This transformation creates huge opportunities for Indian entrepreneurs where you can target global scale without huge investments in infrastructure or distribution. There’s no reason why the next TweetDeck, YouTube or FourSquare can’t be done out of a city like Gurgaon or Pune.
YS: Share with us three lessons in starting up, growing, scaling, and listing on the stock market out of MakeMyTrip’s experience.
Amit: First and foremost, to start something, one has to think of an idea in a large space; it may initially be driven by gut and then validated with customers and the market in the early phase of the company. One must obsess about the end to end customer experience. Finally, run the business in a very data driven fashion. This is a business you are building, not just something that is cool.
YS: What should the startup entrepreneur do to succeed in internet space in India?
Amit: In addition to what I’ve shared earlier, having a stellar team and stellar execution is key. One does need different complementary skill sets in the company from finance, to technology, to sales & marketing, etc. If you have an idea that’s relevant to customers in big space, focus on the customers and have a team that can execute to the hilt, your chances are probably far better than other folks.
About Amit Somani
Amit Somani is currently the Chief Products Officer at Makemytrip.com, India’s largest OTA. Amit comes with over 16 years of experience. Prior to Makemytrip, Amit was a Group Product Manager at Google and led various global and JAPAC related efforts in Ads (Search based Keyword Tool), Mobile and Search. Earlier, Amit was the Engineering and PM Director for the Enterprise Search and Discovery business at IBM based out of San Jose, California.
Amit has published several papers and holds 7 patents. He holds a B.Tech in Computer Science and Engineering from IT-BHU, India (Gold medalist) and an M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, USA. Among his interests, Amit is a cricket enthusiast, enjoys reading and is a fusion chef!