Mobile first, but not mobile only, for MakeMyTrip

01st July 2016
Mobile first, but not mobile only, for MakeMyTrip

Anshuman Bapna, Chief Product Officer, MakeMyTrip talks about the company’s strategy behind designing products for mobiles before desktop
From V. Sudhakshnina
Bangalore,  July 1 2016: MakeMyTrip, one of the leading Indian travel companies  and OTAs (online travel agents)  recently announced  an  app-only travel sale, the Great International Getaway.  The sale was to promote the company’s international transactions via its mobile app with huge discounts on  holiday packages and flights.  With a rapid smart phone penetration and increasing Internet usage in India, mobile apps also have gained their momentum.  But how successful is the app -based business model for m-commerce in India, especially in the travel sector? 
According to Anshuman Bapna, Chief Product Officer, MakeMyTrip,  the app-based usage in India is growing tremendously.  
 In an  interaction with IndiaTechOnline, Bapna said,  India is just behind China and much ahead of the West when it comes to the  app-based business model.  “The mobile app based usage in India is insane. It’s a Tsunami!. About 18 months ago 30% to 40 % of our traffic was from mobile and now it is 70% to 75% and is going only in one direction."
He added, “CTrip, a Chinese travel company, which is like MakeMyTrip there, has invested in us and we went to Shanghai visiting them and found that in China, the  desktop is like one of the old platforms you still have to support, but  and everything else is mobile and I think that’s where India’s headed.”
MakeMyTrip’s current business strategy is more focused on the mobile as it sees its mobile customers as more valuable than the desktop users. The company in the last one year,  got its in-house engineering team to build on the  mobile platform by having training programmess, strategizing and shifting the focus from desktop to mobile and redeveloping its existing app.
“ MakeMyTrip was a basically desktop company. But we had to learn about how to get users, how to get them to convert  (to  mobile based model). All we had was a desktop centric learning, which was embedded in our heads and we had to unlearn all of that and relearn it all over again in mobile.  That’s why it was very important for us to have a very clear break.” 
The app  now has 18 to 20 million downloads, which according to Bapna was less than four or five million a year ago. One of the new features  is where the app detects your location to give you personalized search and inform you  about interesting things to do around that particular place. It would also act like a virtual travel guide and take care of your web check-in, inform you  about flight delays, give weather updates of the place you are visiting, or inform your hotelier that you are arriving in 30 minutes and keep your room ready, etc.
“So this is one more advantage of the app. On desktop you can’t do all these things right. There it is 'out of sight out of mind'. But mobile is a personal device where we can send you notification, just like GoogleNow. But here it is more travel centric,” added Bapna.
Does this mean that MakeMyTrip would soon be joining the app only bandwagon?  The company did consider that option but figured that it wouldn’t work for the travel sector. For example unlike the fashion sector where the buying decision is quick, travel sector sees a lot of thinking and planning, which can last up to months. There is no instant decision. Also the transactions are on the expensive side, which could make the user think twice about security before spending on mobile.
“The Interesting thing with travel is, it is mobile first but it is not mobile only.  An average person would have one session or maybe two sessions before transaction on a fashion portal, but in our case it is many, many sessions. You do this whole thinking around so many things, which means we have to be available across all platforms that users care about. So if they care about desktop we have to be on desktop also. We were very clear that we are never going off desktop and especially for travel. We have to respect where our users are,” concluded Bapna.