Thomas Cook has 110 Gold Circle Partner (franchisees) pan India and the franchise model has been a key strategic initiative for the growing brand.
Thomas Cook India with a total of 104 franchise outlets has gladly covered over 150 metros, mini metros and Tier II & III markets pan-India. We spoke to Rajeev Kale - President & Country Head - Leisure Travel, MICE, Thomas Cook India Limited on his plans for the brand and how franchising is proving to be a boon for them.
Tell us about your growth via franchise model in India and how have your franchisees supported the brand in terms of expansion
With over 110 Gold Circle Partner (our franchisees) pan India, the franchise model has been a key strategic initiative for Thomas Cook India. Our Franchise outreach has played a mission critical role in our expansion plan- pioneered our entry into viable and key markets especially Tier II & III geographies of Regional India. While we have our Thomas Cook India shops in key metros, our Gold Circle franchisees allow us to ramp up our presence and extend our network in upcoming metro/mini metro locales too. Given our focussed agenda of ‘getting right to our customers doorstep’, our franchise route is a key ingredient.
We carefully shortlist and select our franchisees basis their local standing/credibility, expertise and significant network. This ensures reassurance and high levels of service delivery to our customers. We ensure that our franchise partners are well equipped with sustained education and training—giving them access to Thomas Cook India’s best practices and destination knowledge; additionally we station a Thomas Cook representative Manager at key locations. Our Gold Circle Partner outlets are branded with the look and feel of Thomas Cook India and hence play a key role in representing our highly reputed brand in the India market. Incentives and awards to top performers keeps our franchisees engaged and at the top of their game.
Your comment on the growing tours and travels industry. Is the mushrooming of small players making the market scrappy?
Demonetisation and the increase in service tax has resulted in a shakeup of the unorganised market and given opportunity for several small players. There are a lot of small players coming up, most of them turn to one of the major tour operators like Thomas Cook to be their partner/back-end supplier. The smaller players are of value to us helping increase the market size by accessing untapped markets and providing that vital last-mile service delivery to our customers.
Your views on the use of digital technology in any franchise business?
Thomas Cook is in a unique position where we have an extensive and robust brick and mortar business,spread across 90 cities pan India and this is backed up with our significant digital presence and hence our strategic positioning as a unique Clicks & Bricks omnichannel tour operator. This offers a distinct advantage to our Franchise partners given the access they get to our technology, including internal booking engines and online systems, to complete a booking with the assistance of live inventory and accounting management process/systems. While Online players have been mushrooming, face to face interactions and that much needed human touch is of great value to Indian customers. Our franchise outlets hence give our customers an opportunity to visit the shop, consult with our experts and understand the product better before making a decision. The quality of knowledge, consulting know-how, and personal dedication that a personal interaction brings can’t be matched
What are the biggest challenges of services industry? How do you overcome them?
Although we feel that the quality of manpower is a big challenge given the high standards of service orientation, integrity, detailing and dedication, at Thomas Cook India, we have been proactive through our intensive training programs with the Centre of Learning(a Thomas Cook initiative) by offering industry-relevant certificate courses like Travel and Tourism Management, IATA foundation and IATA consultant, part-time and full-time with which we also provide quality resources to the industry at large, while also getting to handpick the best of the batch for our own recruitment.
What are your expansion plans for this year?
Keeping in mind the growing momentum and success of the franchise model, we plan to strategically leverage the opportunity to further expand our reach to viable and key emerging source markets in India and beyond.