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Buoyed by 2X growth since Flipkart acquisition, Cleartrip aims to become a travel superapp

Cleartrip aims to become a one-stop destination for travellers where the offerings go much beyond bookings. The company has added more categories to reach its goal.

Buoyed by 2X growth since Flipkart acquisition, Cleartrip aims to become a travel superapp

Tuesday August 08, 2023 , 6 min Read

In 2021, online travel aggregator Cleartrip became one of COVID-19 pandemic’s many casualties. Travel bans across the world meant many OTAs, including Cleartrip, could not find business.

For the financial year 2020-21, when the pandemic disrupted the travel plans of many, Cleartrip's revenue was $14.6 million, a steep 67% fall from the revenue recorded in the previous financial year, according to data from Tracxn. In April 2021, ecommerce giant Flipkart acquired the company for an undisclosed amount.

Cut to 2023, more than two years after its acquisition, Cleartrip says it has been recording a 2X growth in business annually. It expects this momentum to continue in the near future as it expands into newer categories. The company's ultimate goal is to become a travel superapp.

Ever since its acquisition, Cleartrip says it has focused on three areas: customer service, design and technology, and expanding portfolio. It believes it can offer a lot more to Indian travellers as many of their needs have not been addressed by OTA players.

“Existing OTAs have solved for searching and buying but not for browsing and buying and this is a big market,” Cleartrip CEO Ayyappan R tells YourStory.

He explains OTAs are largely transactional in nature where people come online when they have already decided where they want to go and finish their bookings. Cleartrip aims to change this model and become a discovery platform where people can browse for destinations, get content, make their plans, and finally book tickets.

Industry outlook

Fortunately, for Cleartrip, the travel industry is expected to get back to the pre-pandemic levels of business by the end of this year.

According to Mordor Intelligence, India’s online travel market is expected to grow from $15.60 billion in 2023 to $25.69 billion by 2028, at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.49%.

A study by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry says the Indian travel industry will grow from $70 billion in FY20 to $125 billion in FY27.

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The overall penetration of the online segment in India’s travel market is around 25%.

Customers in India have an eclectic choice when it comes to making travel arrangements, with online bookings being in demand for certain categories, while not as popular for others.

In the domestic airline market, the industry estimates that the split between online and offline is around 50:50. Interestingly, the difference is wider when it comes to international air travel. Here the online penetration is 25% and 75% is through the offline route.

Online penetration in bus travel is only about 20% compared to 80% of bus bookings conducted offline. However, in the case of train journeys, 80% of the bookings are done online thanks to the government-owned agency—IRCTC.

As far as hotel bookings go, around 75-80% of such transactions are still conducted offline.

Expansion

Given the complex nature of the travel booking market in India, Cleartrip believes it has much more to offer to travellers, especially those in the 18-36 years age demographic.

According to Ayyappan, this section of the population is much more adventurous about travel and hungry to discover new destinations.

Over the last two odd years, since the acquisition by Flipkart, Cleartrip has brought about several changes in how it operates.

First, the company has sharpened its focus on user experience. “For us. everything else takes second precedence when it comes to customers,” Ayyappan says.

As part of this new strategy, customers are getting refunds in about 24 hours, access to flexible travel itineraries where they can make changes to their plans without worrying about cancellations, and better call centre services for a quick resolution to problems.

“We want to make the planning and booking activity such a joyous moment for a customer that they should not worry about anything,” says Ayyappan.

Second, Cleartrip says it has been constantly innovating its product in an attempt to make it simple and easy to use for customers. The company says it has invested in bolstering its technology backbone to integrate hundreds of entities connected with the travel industry and provide a richer experience for the end customer.

“Everything we do one has to work backwards from the angle of what the customer wants,” says Aditya Jalan, Senior Director - Product, Cleartrip.

Prior to the acquisition by Flipkart, Cleartrip was largely a site for flight bookings and a certain amount of hotel accommodations, but it has been adding newer categories of late.

For Walmart-backed Flipkart, Cleartrip has helped diversify its services. In Q1FY24, the ecommerce company started offering bus reservations through the Cleartrip platform, a move that has helped its topline. Cleartrip claims it has an inventory of 10 lakh connections on bus bookings.

Besides this, Cleartrip has also expanded its hotel portfolio.

“We want to be across every single travel node and this will be built over a period of time... There will be many more launches in the coming quarters," says Ayyappan.

Value philosophy

Affordability, which is vital to a price-sensitive market like India, is one of the key business philosophies of Cleartrip.

“Value for us is how can we offer you the same product at a much lower cost or if we are offering a product at the same cost as the market what else can we offer you,” says Karthick Prabhu - Head of Strategy, Cleartrip.

Cleartrip has introduced flexible financing plans for its customers, which include installment-based payment and the buy-now-pay-later scheme.

The leadership team at Cleartrip stresses the influence that Flipkart has on its operations. As Ayyappan puts it, “When Flipkart evaluates an industry to enter, we look at how there are any needs of the customers that have not been solved as yet.”

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This would mean providing the largest selection of products or services for the customers, which gives better value and experience for them.

The other aspect of Flipkart's influence involves building scale within the organisation and targetting a market opportunity that is very sizeable.

Cleartrip wants to tap into the 450-million-plus customer base of Flipkart who could possibly look at fulfilling their travel needs through them.

Growth

The company expects the growth momentum it has experienced over the last two years to continue.

“We do not see this growth tapering and it will be the bare minimum that Cleartrip will be doing if not higher,” says Ayyappan.

Cleartrip clarifies that its growth aspirations will not be just for growth's sake. An important metric will be high net promoter score, which is a barometer for customer satisfaction.

“Customers will not come to Cleartrip after deciding where they want to go. People will be coming to us to decide on where they want to go,” says Ayyappan.


Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti