Innovation driven startups in the travel sector are poised to play a crucial role in making tourism more accessible and immersive for travellers, asserts Amitabh Misra, CEO, Gofro.com. He was reacting to PM’s clarion call to the private sector for a more concerted effort in promoting Brand India in the international market. He believes that creating experiences for tourists is a private sector driven activity and must be led by creative stratups in the marketspace.
What and why: The Prime Minister, in his recent address to 200 CEOs in the capital, had given a clarion call to the private sector for more proactively promoting brand ‘India’. He had exhorted the industry to market nation’s unique cultural and historical offerings. In a bid to understand how the industry reacted to PM Modi’s passionate plea, we spoke to Amitabh Misra.
His take: Commenting on PM’s assertion, he noted that he was bang on the point and had “struck the right chord”. Stating that while the government had done an incredible job of laying the groundwork for branding India as a tourist destination, he reasoned that private companies needed to ensure high quality of experience for tourists, domestic and international. “The government has been doing well. The ‘Incredible India’ campaign has been going on for some time. I travel across the globe and I see the presence of it all over. But once tourists are here, ensuring the quality of experience is left to the companies that are in the business of tourism,” he said.
He argued that the gulf between aspiration and reality in projecting India as a favourable destination could be filled by startups. “In the large part, for creative startups in the travel space that actually create such experiences and make them accessible to a large number of people all across the country are playing a big role in both creating the product and making them successful,” he illustrated.
Elaborating how his company had created a unique market proposition for tour operators, Amitabh Misra said, “we are one of the unique marketplaces in India where all kinds of tour operators can list their product on our platform, and people can search and buy.” Highlighting the abysmally low-levels of online transactions in the travel booking domain, he argued that the lack of choices and variable price-points were key deterrents in driving numbers. “The fact is that less than one percent of people book their travel online. The reason for this is the lack of choice of products, variability and price-points available online for consumers. We are one of the first companies in India making that possible,” added Amitabh Misra.
The Big Picture moving ahead:
Pointing towards the recently implemented GST (Goods and Services Tax), he said that it was an important step, yet only a part of the larger change. “GST will only eventually make things more convenient. I am very hopeful of how things will unfold in the future, but it will be some time before the impact shows. It will surely be there and it will be profound. However, GST is only a part of the larger change. Bringing in products under the larger umbrella is equally important. It is that segment where we have tremendous differentiating products,” said the CEO.
Taking stock of the big picture, tourism world-over is private sector driven enterprise. Nations that have emerged successful in driving tourists to their shore have been backed by proactive governments that have consistently facilitated the private sector in creating appealing tourism products with favourable policies and business climate, thereby maintaining their pole-positions as destinations. The PM has rightly made a passionate plea to the industry to take the lead in branding India. Given the buoyant startup climate in the country, with constant focus on innovation and problem solving, startups in the travel technology landscape will increasingly play a crucial role in realising nation’s true tourism potential.