How EaseMyTrip Became the 2nd Largest Online Travel Platform in India: A Case Study in Innovation and Customer Focus

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Remember when the travel and tourism industry was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving many travel-tech startups in the country without business? 

The Pittie brothers – Nishant, Rikant, and Prashant – The brains behind EaseMyTrip, a startup that’s all about making travel easier were also facing the heat.

But they did something extraordinary to weather the storm and come out of it stronger.

EaseMyTrip’s journey had begun in the days when most folks would go through travel agents to book their trips. Those were the days when booking a flight felt like pulling teeth. Long waits on the phone, hidden fees, and limited options – it was enough to make anyone hate the whole thing.

Fed up with the opaque and expensive travel booking system, The Pittie brothers envisioned a better way. 

In 2008, they launched EaseMyTrip, a platform built on transparency and convenience. Starting with empowering travel agents, they provided better deals, software solutions, and a level playing field.

Their approach was revolutionary. Instead of requiring agents to prepay for each airline, EaseMyTrip allowed them to deposit a small amount and book with any airline, significantly reducing their costs and increasing their margins. This win-win situation solidified EaseMyTrip’s reputation as a trusted partner for travel agents.

By 2019, the Pittie brothers were gearing up for a big move next year – an IPO (Initial Public Offering). But, as life often has it, their plans got sidetracked. But here’s the thing about tough times – they’re often packed with hidden gems. And for EaseMyTrip this was definitely true. 

Prashant shares, “Since we never really had any outside funding, we’ve always been super careful with our spending. We’re all about that bootstrap life, which really made us focus on being profitable. We weren’t even thinking about an IPO until the end of 2020, but then we saw our numbers shoot up by 76%, hitting pre-COVID figures. That’s all thanks to our knack for keeping things lean from the get-go.”

Like many new founders, the trio initially wanted to raise some funds. Prashant, an IIT grad who had been in the US, tried to woo some investors. But the market was tough, crowded with big names like MakeMyTrip and Cleartrip. The investors just saw them as another drop in the ocean. They didn’t get that the Pitties were eyeing the B2B space, not just B2C.

So, they decided to roll up their sleeves and build the business from the ground up. By 2011, they made a cool move into the B2C market and did it without tacking on any extra fees. They already had a good relationship with the airlines and were getting commissions, so they didn’t see the point in charging customers more.

The team settled on a 3 percent commission from the airlines for the B2C bit. Prashant thinks that the initial rejections they faced were actually a blessing. It kept them grounded and savvy, especially during the pandemic when keeping costs low was key to sailing through the storm.

2020 turned out to be a game-changer for EaseMyTrip. 

When COVID-19 struck and threw the Indian aviation sector into chaos with all those flight cancellations, EaseMyTrip found its golden opportunity.

By that time, the company was mostly dealing with retail consumers who constituted about 94% of their business, while the rest came from travel agents. 

Prashant recalls, “Before all this pandemic madness, we were sitting at number three in the market. But right after the first wave hit, we jumped to the second spot.” A lot of this leap was because they decided to do things differently with refunds.

Prashant explains, “Everyone was freaking out for refunds, right? But the airlines weren’t keen on giving back actual cash. They were like, ‘We’ll hold your money, book later.’ That was what everyone was doing. But not us. We had around Rs 200 crore in the bank, and we chose to refund almost Rs 110 crore to our customers straight from our pockets.”

This move was a bit of a shocker for everyone. It was a risky play for the company’s finances, but it paid off big time. Customers were super relieved, and even the airlines were happy about it. This decision built massive goodwill for EaseMyTrip. Plus, financially, it turned out great as none of the airlines went under, and they got back the money in a few months from repeat bookings.

When travel started picking up again in July ’22, people remembered how EaseMyTrip had their back. 

Suddenly, bookings and traffic on their platform skyrocketed, and they shot up from the third to the second largest online travel platform in India.

This whole saga just goes to show, your brand isn’t just about your name or logo. It’s really about the reputation you build over time.

That whole 110 Crore they used for refunds during Covid? 

Turns out, it was more of an investment in building a loyal customer base. And it worked wonders.

On March 8, 2021, EaseMyTrip made its grand entry into the stock market, banking on its smart spending ways and no-extra-fee policy. 

The IPO was a blockbuster, getting 159 times more demand than what they offered – we’re talking about Rs 44,881 crore worth of demand! 

At its IPO, the company was valued at Rs 2,040 crore, and now, it has a market cap of over a billion US dollars. 

Ultimately, EaseMyTrip’s success story is more than just a business accomplishment. It’s a story about the power of integrity, innovation, and an unwavering commitment to customer well-being. It demonstrates that even in a crowded and competitive market, a company can thrive by focusing on what truly matters: building trust, exceeding expectations, and making travel a more enjoyable experience for everyone.

This story serves as a valuable lesson for entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes. It reminds us that success can come from unexpected places and that sometimes, the most important investments are the ones we make in our customers and our values.

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