What according to you makes a brand `hot’?
Proactive Innovation. the ability to look ahead of the curve and define new products/service offerings that customers will need/want and be ready ahead of the pack to market. Also never being satisfied with the status quo – pushing the envelope to do better, more, faster and with better quality delivery.
Ways in which you connect with the new age customers?
Firstly our unique “hybrid” approach to offering our travel services that recognises that India is unique and we need to offer services to both (growing) segments ie_ “click” or online customers and “brick” or offline customers – and most importantly for the large opportunity that are hybrids – using both modes of possibly offline info gathering and then offline etc. The idea here is to be able to offer the optimum mix of technology or human intervention/service as the customer is comfortable with. Not thrusting a “one size fits all” solution that assumes technology comfort.
So for the pure click customer we have thomascook.in that has now evolved into India first (and only) one stop travel portal that offers everything from flights to accommodation to sightseeing to visas (online application) to Forex (Online Forex buying with live rates), Insurance etc. For the pure brick – we have a footprint that currently extends to over 232 locations (including 23 airport counters) in 95 cities across India, Mauritius & Sri Lanka and is supported by a strong partner network of 115 Gold Circle Partners and 112 Preferred Sales Agents in over 130 cities across India. At these branches, we have now moved away from the traditional brochure based approach to presenting and selling holidays, to using pads to walk customers through an interactive journey where he/she can get a far more realistic perspective of what they will see/experience on a day by day basis – sightseeing, hotels etc. For the hybrids, we seamlessly allow a customer to start a journey with one format and then move to another seamlessly.
Our Tour managers also carry pads today that allow them to capture and share special moments while travelling, capturing real time feedback etc.
Has the Indian consumer changed the way they consume?
He has – and continues to evolve continually. The media overload that exists in today’s urban context, exposes customers to a lot more. They have access of information and prices at their fingertips. They can buy disaggregated services themselves online after comparing prices – all in minutes from their sofas. They are all socially connected and bad news/service can create a avalanche of bad media faster than ever before.
They are impatient and unforgiving. The control has moved completely to them. They have the power of choice and exercise it much more easily now. The effort to shift loyalties has also eased. There are multiple providers vying for business and size/scale matters less than ever before with the E Commerce environment and more so with the sharing eco system. What has not changed is the importance of quality and good customer service.
What makes Mumbai a unique brand?
Its energy, positivity and all welcoming culture. This is truly the city of dreams. Almost everyone you meet, has moved to Mumbai from some other part of the country a few or many years ago. Everyone has made Mumbai their home and stayed/stay to make their dreams real. Millionaire homes jostle with the shanties of the poor. But there is a civility that insists on fairness and respect for time, hard work and professionalism. Possibly the only Indian city where women are safe to work & travel at night and do.
Multiple tragedies – from bomb blasts to floods to terrorist attacks have attempted to tear its fabric – but failed. Because at its core, Mumbai embodies the indomitability of the human spirit. So you can love it (for those who live here) or hate it (those who don’t) – but you cannot ignore it!
Abraham Alapatt is Chief Innovation Officer, Head Marketing & Customer Service at Thomas Cook.
He is also a speaker at Mumbai Brand Summit & Hot 50 Brands 2015.