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Travel 2012-04-30

Filling the gap of Indian travel biz

By Feature Writer
Filling the gap of Indian travel biz

Following the philosophy of simplicity by taking complexities out, and bringing quality and affordability in travel related issues is Via. Vinay Gupta, Co-Founder and CEO, Via shares the brand’s success story in an interview.

Namita Bhagat(NB): Tell us about the origin and concept of Via?

Vinay Gupta(VG): Via was co founded by Amit Aggarwal and me on July 28th, 2006 and was incorporated in May 2007. The company has played a significant role in bringing world-class travel products at affordable prices, to the Indian consumers. Launched as flightraja.com the brand has silently revolutionised the Indian travel industry. In 2004 there was a flurry of activity by companies in the online travel space. When I landed in India from the US after spending years at Wall street in 2005 I realised:

  • Internet penetration was in low single digits
  • Credit card penetration was lower and close to 98 per cent of India was transacting in cash
  • There were thousands of travel agents across the length and breadth of India serving the needs of millions of customers with a personal touch. This was a very integral part of the Indian ethos and culture --Atithi Devo Bhava.

Therefore, I saw huge opportunity to partner with the travel agent community by leveraging technology to create a platform where airline, hotel companies, Indian Railways, bus operators would share inventory and travel agents would sell to their customer base creating efficient win - win partnerships.

NB: What was the motivation behind taking up franchise route?

VG: We started franchising in 2007. The franchise route for Via, is a natural extension of powering travel agents. While the agent business was primarily one of travel distribution, the franchise concept takes that one step forward and brings it under the brand name, Via.

NB: What are the reasons for the brand’s success?

VG: The key to the success of Via was that they were able to aggregate all the travel sectors under one umbrella. Via's DNA has been ‘to identify need gaps in the travel industry based on extensive market research and help consumers win and the industry prospers’.

NB: Share with us the present network of Via?

VG: Via is the largest player in the domestic travel market in India. Presently, it has a presence in 2400 cities through a network of close to 20,000 travel agents.

NB: Via also operates in B2B space? Could you tell us about the company’s B2B model?

VG: With its unique B2B model which is over five years old, Via has created a silent revolution in the travel sector in India.The company’s philosophy is simple: take complexity out, bring quality and affordability. Build a company around customer and market needs with a focus on innovation. I built a unique B2B model that enabled the smallest shop owner to book tickets on travel and holiday for the customer. Paying cash or using credit and debit cards as a mode of payment.

Via started with the premise of selling travel to everyone through their partners, world class travel products and services in every neighbourhood and deliver great customer service and serves to over two million customers that walk into their outlets every day. They are the 'Via' Inside’ of the travel world.

NB: How would you tackle the issue of competition from the Indian travel brands?

VG: We used a different market entry strategy based on consumer and market needs without blindly copying a model that existed in other countries. This model is now being replicated across markets in Asia.

NB: What is the requirement in terms of capital/ infrastructure/area to partner with you as franchisee?

VG: Marginal...and yet we provide not just the technology platform but also access to great prices and service in the travel space. Our partners range from small to big travel agents. If you book a travel service from a travel agent there is a very strong likelihood that it will be a Via agent.

As for the investment, other than the franchise fee, the investment for Via franchise is as low as Rs 50,000 for the individuals having equipped office space near corporate/residential areas.

NB: What are company’s expansion plans?

VG: Currently, we are looking for pan India expansion.

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