[UpClose] CEO Prakash Sangam reveals redBus 3.0 is all about international expansion

YourStory gets 'UpClose' with the movers and shakers of the Indian startup ecosystem to talk innovation, operations, and the next billion-dollar bet. In this edition, redBus CEO Prakash Sangam opens up about how the platform continues to be the leader in online bus ticketing services.

Prakash Sangam joined online ticketing platform redBus in 2014, after having worked at Info Edge, Airtel, and Unilever. At the time, redBus, which was launched in 2007, was in its second phase of growth, Prakash recounts.

According to the redBus CEO, Phase I of the company included the founding team coming together under Phanindra Sama, the early investors joining in, and the platform moulding the market. The company entered the second phase after it was acquired by the Ibibo Group — which merged with MakeMyTrip in late 2016 — in 2013.

“I joined five years ago when redBus was all about scaling up. We were leveraging the growth of mobile as a primary access device for both accessing content and booking. Scaling up with technology was redBus 2.0,” he says.

Watch Prakash Sangam in conversation with YourStory in this video interview:

Prakash says that the company is now in the third phase of growth. “At present, we are consolidating our market leadership in India, and growing in geography segments, market segments, and customer segments. We have got MS Dhoni as a brand ambassador to help in this objective. We're accelerating our international expansion too.”

As part of providing more services to its customers, redBus recently launched rPool, its carpooling service. The company sees a monthly user base of 20 million, and its sales grew last year at 52 percent.

Three brands, three strategies

But the inevitable question that crops up when we speak about online booking is, between MakeMyTrip, Goibibo, and redBus, isn’t there unavoidable competition?

Prakash clarifies that each brand has a unique focus. “RedBus is focussed on bus ticketing, MakeMyTrip on flights and hotels, both international and domestic, while Goibibo is more focussed on flights and hotels for the budget traveller,” he says.

However, the three brands leverage synergy on the backend. All the inventory aggregation happens at one place, and is then distributed between the three brands. Thus, all their supplier relationships are maintained at one place.

International opportunity

Across the world, there are multiple OTA (online travel agency) platforms focusing on hotel bookings and flight bookings. But buses, according to Prakash, is a space with not much competition.

 “In India, we have a very large rail infrastructure; many countries don't. So, buses are pretty large there. Markets like Brazil, Mexico, and Tokyo are as big as India, or even bigger. The international market is, therefore, a very big opportunity for us,” Prakash tells YourStory.

RedBus provides vehicle tracking technologies, enables operators to provide automated and scientific pricing, ratings and reviews, and many other features that can be deployed in markets around the world.

Further growth

The company has partnered with module payments platforms PhonePe and Truecaller to acquire a much larger footprint, as these apps are installed on more Android phones in the country.

Prakash elaborates, “We are able to get a lot of transactions on these platforms (via people looking to book bus tickets). Although our business from all these partnerships put together is less than five percent, about 40 percent of them are new users of redBus.”

And thus continues redBus’ journey in moulding the online ticketing industry, while also expanding the ecosystem to multiple business models.

(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)


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