ixigo founders explain how they plan to acquire the next billion customers at TechSparks 2021

During the 12th edition of YourStory’s flagship startup-tech summit, TechSparks 2021, ixigo founders Rajnish Kumar and Aloke Bajpai discussed their focal points, the impact of the pandemic on their company, and more.

AI-based travel startup Ixigo was launched in 2007 by Aloke Bajpai and Rajnish Kumar to provide an aggregate platform for travel bookings, tracking of trips, and searching for transportation. As of March 2021, the platform has been processing Rs 5,000 crore on an annualised gross booking value, and has seen over 250 million app downloads since its inception.

In a conversation with YourStory’s Priya Seth, ixigo founders Rajnish and Aloke spoke about how they are trying to build for the next billion users.

Aloke said, “We have been serving the next billion users for almost eight years now. We started by building the train focused utility app back in 2013. Since then, we have been penetrating the remotest towns of India.”

He further added that the traffic in the last financial year alone came from 3,000 cities – which could be because of cheaper smartphones and inexpensive data.

However, Aloke commented that the customer profile of new travellers coming online was very different from the first 100 million users.

“The initial users were flight and hotel centric audience, whereas the next billion were more of train and bus focussed audience – more utility-driven. We were one of the first companies back then to solve their problems/concerns across planning, booking, and travelling, and during the trip for the audience beyond the first 100 million,” he added.

Pandemic trends

The founders admit that when the pandemic hit, all transportation came to a grinding halt. The pandemic-induced lockdown initially proved to be tough for ixigo as well.

“However, our biggest learning from the pandemic is to never give up and make an opportunity out of every crisis,” Rajnish said.

Rajnish Kumar during TechSparks 2021

The travel platform strived to avoid the pandemic impacting them severely. The company understood that because there was a lot of uncertainty about travelling, the team assured its users that the tickets sold would be refunded in full, instantly. Under its initiative, a full refund was guaranteed without any conditions.

According to the founders, this feature was welcomed by its users and made them bounce back faster than the other players.

Rajnish said that the bounce back after the pandemic is quite healthy and decent. “We are closer to pre-COVID-19 levels. Things are moving in the right direction,” he said.

According to the founders, ixigo’s traction rose to the pre-covid level in March 2021. The startup also recently acquired the bus aggregator platform, AbhiBus.

“In the last two-three months, things have gotten better. As long as the borders remain open and the movement starts, international travel should also see a very good bounce back,” Aloke added.

Competitive market

ixigo has been operating in the space since 2007. In these 14 years, Aloke claimed that the company has always been operating frugally and avoids burning a lot of cash as it grows as it is necessary to build a viable business.

“We have always focused on customer experiences and that is how we have discovered opportunities ahead of others and gone after them. If we hadn't listened to our customers, we wouldn't have been constantly evolving. We hardly spent any time looking at the competition,” he added.

Aloke Bajpai

The founders also said that the team is not focused on the market share, the revenue or the GMV, but rather on the customer experience.

Talking about the pricing, Rajinish said, “For pricing, the use cases we built over time were not monetisable. It helped us to win the trust of the customers and acquire them. Even if we are not the cheapest, people still stick to our platform. We give an end-to-end experience which is far superior to everybody else out there.”

He further adds that offering discounts or other strategies will not work in the long term. According to him, his team continues to focus on giving the best customer experience in the long run.

“We have focussed on customer experience and never looked at the competition. That has always helped us,” said Rajnish.

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Edited by Kanishk Singh