Technology has become the key driver for Indian startups. And what better place to build a strong Indian technological base than in Bengaluru? “All the key top technical talent is in Bengaluru, it was about time that we set up a strong nerve centre and base in the city,” said Sanjay Mohan, Chief Technology Officer, MakeMyTrip, at the opening of the company's new technology centre in the city.
Founded in April 2000 by Deep Kalra, MakeMyTrip has been one of earliest Internet travel-based companies in the country. Headquartered in Gurgaon, the founding team has experienced several highs and lows, from the dot-com boom to its subsequent bust, from investor pull-out to the 2008 economic crisis.
The Bengaluru centre will be play a key role in the company's future plans and innovations. Chief Product Officer Anshuman Bapna explains that the focus on setting up a Bengaluru office was to build a centre that drives all product and platform innovations.
Building a complete travel and transportation ecosystem
The company aims to build a complete travel and transportation ecosystem that helps the Indian traveller end-to-end on every trip he/she takes. Products like route planner, travel advisor, recommendations for hotels, booking ease are some of the key innovations the team is currently making on the platform.
From the time MakeMyTrip went public with its IPO, it seems to be steadily moving towards the –singular goal of raising funds from Chinese travel service provider Ctrip early this year, making key hires from competition, acquisitions and acquihires.
The company is setting up a team of over 200 engineers, product managers and designers in the Bengaluru centre, which will have end-to-end ownership of product development and innovation.
Bengaluru: nerve centre for innovation and development
On why Bengaluru, Anshuman says,
“We fundamentally aim to make MakeMyTrip an intensely tech-led company and what better place than to start with Bengaluru. We aren’t trying to ape the West or look at China; our aim is to build innovations that intuitively help the traveller at every stage of his or her travel. And these are fundamentally Indian innovations.”
The vision for Bengaluru will be:
- Building the MakeMytTrip core platform with strong focus on mobile: While the focus will be on mobile, the team intends to build the platform for low bandwidth and low-end phone user segment.
- Incubate new product lines – The team aims to experiment with disruptive products in transportation, solve the problem of trip planning and build trip companions that use machine learning to help travellers during their trips. In terms of disruptive products in transportation, Anshuman adds that they are looking for partnerships, and developing other new products to help transform the way Indians travel.
Thrust on mobile
Indian travel has gone online and is strongly a mobile-first economy. A report by IAMAI and KPMG projects that India will reach 236 million mobile Internet users by 2016, and 314 million by 2017.
Looking at this trend, MakeMyTrip has bolstered its mobile strategy over the past year. Today, it claims to have over 50 percent of the overall online flight booking market share, and over 23 million app downloads.
MakeMyTrip generated a revenue of $121.2 million in the quarter ending June 30, 2016, showcasing an increase of 29.4 percent over revenue of $93.7 million in the quarter ended June 30, 2015.
Some key innovations the team has incorporated include 'Route Planner', which enables users to search across a billion route-and-mode combinations within India, and 'Buddy Planner', which creates connections from Point A to B even when no direct connections exist.
Apart from this, in the last six months, the team has worked on fare alerts, calendar alerts, which let you know when the best time to travel to a location would be, and at the best price, and instant refunds in case bookings fail.
The team is also looking to change the way its progressive web apps (PWAs) interact with the user. Anshuman says,
As of now the mobile web is just a modified version of the desktop. We want to change that and focus on desktop as a separate interface and mobile as a separate one. Mobile cannot be a downsized version of the desktop.
Aggressive push into hotel and accommodations space
“While flights contributed to most of our revenue share, we now are noticing a shift towards hotels and holiday package bookings, and that will be the key focus for MakeMyTrip this coming year,” notes Anshuman.
The company's revenue contributions from non-flight bookings, that is, from hotels and packages, increased to 56.3 percent in 1Q16, while its gross bookings for the period was $565.9 million, marking an increase of 27.4 percent.
MakeMyTrip made a revenue of $95.6 million in the quarter ending June 30, 2016, showcasing a 32 percent increase from $72.5 million in quarter ending June 30, 2015.
The company's year-on-year growth in this segment was due to strong growth in the standalone hotel booking segment. The team has also built products and services that not only help consumers book more easily and faster, but has also propelled the supply side to help serve the hotels in revenue generation.
The focus isn't just on hotel bookings, though. The team is looking to integrate and aggregate all the non-hotel stay options on a separate platform called RightStay, which had a soft launch on Android and already has over 5,000 downloads.
RightStay works as a separate entity, the platform as of now says ‘powered by MakeMyTrip’. With this we intend to disrupt the homestay and non-hotel stay options. In a way, we will be competing with ourselves. But like always the idea is to disrupt ourselves before others do.