Building a Travel Empire: The Story of EaseMyTrip's Rise from a Small Business to a Billion-Dollar Company

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EaseMyTrip was once a small business built out of the founder’s room. Today, it is India’s second-largest online travel agency with a market cap in excess of one billion USD. 

This is the fascinating story behind this OTA giant.

Nishant, Prashant, and Rikant Pittie were unlike other kids in their neighborhood. They always had that entrepreneurial spark in them. Long before India’s digital revolution, before the advent of smartphones, when the brothers were still school-going kids, Nishant and Rikant started small-time business ventures where they would download movies and sell them on CDs to their classmates.

Sons of a coal trader, the trio had a modest upbringing in a joint family of fourteen people in East Delhi.

Nishant and Rikant were the ones always trying to do different things at different times. They were the ones who started booking flight tickets for their father to save agent commission, and as the word spread, they set up a small travel agency – Duke Travels. 

Prashant, meanwhile, went to study electrical engineering at IIT-Madras even as his brothers were busy with their boutique travel agency.

With Duke Travels, Nishant and Rikant found some of the main pain points of travel agents that could be solved using technology. Armed with this knowledge, in 2008 with Rs 15 lakh as capital, the brothers set up EaseMyTrip.

This was the time when customers were heavily dependent on travel agents to do bookings, and EaseMyTrip cashed in on that by providing a platform for travel agents to sell flight tickets.

But why would any travel agent choose EaseMyTrip when they could sell the tickets on their own and keep the commissions?

The reason was that EaseMyTrip was solving one of their biggest pain points – which was that the travel agents had to pay up to Rs 30,000 to airlines as advance. So, for five airlines, a capital of Rs 150,000 would be stuck. The solution EaseMyTrip offered was to integrate with all the airlines, and travel agents would use EaseMyTrip. For this, the agents needed to put up only Rs 20,000 thus reducing their capex dramatically. Plus, EaseMyTrip offered them commission as they were aggregating the travel agents too.

Business grew at a faster pace, and things changed. Soon after, they started realizing more gaps in the market related to transparency and customer service. By 2011, EaseMyTrip pivoted to a customer-facing business, but with well-established players like MakeMyTrip and Yatra, EaseMyTrip needed to do something different. They found out that their competition was not only getting the margin from the airlines but they were also charging convenience fees from the customers. Since EaseMyTrip’s cash cow was their travel agent business, they decided to waive this convenience fee, and it worked extremely well for the company.

And as the word-of-mouth spread, they started getting popular. So, what actually helped EaseMyTrip to grow was their competitors trying to milk some more money at the last step.

Today, EaseMyTrip is not only India’s second-largest online travel aggregator (OTA) with a market capitalization in excess of one billion USD, it is also the fastest-growing OTA in India and it has managed this feat without any external funding.

Their lean cost model and no convenience fee strategy remain key pillars in their rapid and profitable growth. This has also led to stickiness by customers with a healthy repeat transaction rate of 86 percent in the B2C channel, as brokerage firm ICICI Direct Research said in a report.

To grow faster, EaseMyTrip is focusing on acquisitions too.

One of their acquisitions is Spree Hospitality, which has a network of hotels in multiple Indian cities. Another acquisition is YoloBus, an intercity mobility platform. 

Today, EaseMyTrip has acquired 7 companies in total in similar businesses. 

EaseMyTrip is a new-age company that focuses a lot on tech to keep its costs lower and pass the benefits to the customers.

Today, EaseMyTrip has the largest agent network in the Indian OTA industry. It also ranks 2nd in terms of air ticket volume and 3rd in terms of gross booking revenue (GBR) and the number of registered customers, as brokerage firm Edelweiss Wealth Research said in a report.

The remarkable evolution of EaseMyTrip from humble beginnings to India’s second-largest online travel agency is a testament to the power of entrepreneurial vision and adaptability. 

Nishant, Prashant, and Rikant Pittie, with their innate business acumen, successfully navigated the transition from a traditional travel agency to a digital powerhouse in a competitive market. 

By identifying and addressing the pain points of both travel agents and customers, EaseMyTrip crafted a unique business model that set it apart from its competitors.

Its strategic decision to eliminate convenience fees, a bold move in the OTA industry, not only distinguished the company but also fostered customer loyalty and trust.

The company’s rapid growth, achieved without external funding, underscores the effectiveness of its lean operating model and customer-centric approach. The strategic acquisitions further illustrate EaseMyTrip’s commitment to expanding its services and enhancing customer experience. 

Today, as EaseMyTrip continues to thrive, its journey serves as an inspiring example of how innovative business strategies, coupled with a deep understanding of market dynamics, can lead to extraordinary success. 

This story is not just about a company’s growth but also about setting new standards in the travel industry and showing that customer-focused solutions can drive both profitability and popularity in a highly competitive sector.

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