MakeMyTrip’s Deep Kalra on rapid testing, product enrichment and travel bubbles | #deepweb | #darkweb | #hacker

Deep Kalra, co-founder and group executive chairman, MakeMyTrip was interviewed by Yeoh Siew Hoon, founder, WiT during the WiT Virtual Summit on June 24. Here are the key takeaways:

Tentative recovery – expect mis-steps in opening up

“Flights have been allowed to open to 33% capacity soon but
the reality is after an initial flurry, where people were trying to get back to
home base or bring loved ones back, it has settled down more at about 20%. So
it’s still very tentative. And the reason is very simple that, you know, the
virus is still growing pretty rapidly.”

“ … hotels have been allowed to open from June 8, for
purposes other than medical quarantine. So we do have now about 25% of hotel
inventory, which is now open … opening slowly. We might have a couple of missteps
in our journey to open up.”

India has “a lot to lose” – rapid testing is going to be
the way

“Our domestic market is huge. Though 15 million Indians travel
overseas every year, the size of the domestic market is almost $50 billion. And
travel and tourism contributes about 10% of GDP.

“I think it’s fair to say that we need to have a proxy for
safe travel, and particularly for international travel. I think rapid testing
is going to be the way.”

How long will it take? Less about time, more about cure/vaccine
– “we will spring back with a vengeance”

“Actually, it’s less about predicting the time. I think it
all depends on finding a cure/vaccine. We’re going to spring back with a
vengeance and not just us … around the world, leisure travel is going to come
back and I call it revenge travel, I think it’s going to be revenge shopping – simply
because everyone has realised just how fragile our liberty is, and how
overnight your freedom can be taken away and people are going to be attacking
that bucket list of travel with ferocity so I think we are going to come back
in a massive way.”

Product acceleration – self-serve post-sales will be
taken to another level

“I realised very early on that self serve has to be taken to
another level, particularly post sales. When lockdown was announced within 24
hours, people were changing plans overnight. And they needed help and call
volumes went through the roof. At that point of time, we wished we could have
done more with ourselves. So products, some of them were limited because the
airlines themselves were changing schedules at a very rapid pace. And they
couldn’t actually update the API’s all the time. And some of it was just
because I don’t think the sophistication was there.

“So the first thing we did was to put a lot of focus to be
ready for something like this where people don’t have to physically pick that
phone … we’re going to take self serve to the same level as sales. The thinking
is going to be more around that if people call up post buying something, then
that’s a defect and you got to look at that as a defect to your product.”

Richer in product features and design

“We’re definitely going to be much richer on feature,
product design, when things open up. The new features are around contactless
check in … we’re working closely with airlines and airports to see how we can
cooperate and build something which is cutting edge for them. For our intercity
bus business (Red Bus) … we’re looking at very interesting things where you can
actually book seats together if you’re together but the default is actually
social distance to leave a seat.”

What product is needed to create better travel?

“I’m more about, how can we make it safer? How can we give
you alerts up front? How can we give you all the tips that you need in
different places  … are there help lines
that you can very quickly one tap person get information that you need?

“Maybe that’s going to be the need of the hour. Like not all
restaurants are open. So suddenly the restaurant guide is not that relevant but
you need to know the ones that are open and that are safe when you’re

Decoupling of the world and what it means for travel

“These new travel bubbles are a reality … it’s a reality
where people feel more comfortable receiving guests from where they are
satisfied with their level of testing. So it’s not just a passport or visa
alone, you have to be satisfied. Thailand’s talking about premium, inbound travel
and for Thailand, tourism is huge. There’s already pushback from the budget
hotels saying, hey, you can’t make this just exclusive. This is travel for

“I think you’ve got to allow entry. And I go back to testing. I think a lot of work should be done on testing in parallel, as we try to find a cure. So testing is not about finding the cure. Testing is already out there. You just have to make it faster, more accurate and more freely available and probably cheaper. And if you do that it’s going to get baked into the cost and people are going to say, okay, we can travel.”

Have a watch. Mother India, As She Awakens: Deep Kalra, Co-founder & Group Executive Chairman, MakeMyTrip (WiT Virtual Summit, June 24, 2020)

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