Celebrating 130 years of world-class service in India by providing services in leisure travel, MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences & Exhibitions) facilities, corporate travel management, foreign exchange insurance and e business is Thomas Cook (India) Ltd. In an interview Jatinder Paul Singh, AVP-Franchisee & Channel Development, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd elaborates on company’s expansion strategy in India
Namita Bhagat (NB): Tell us about the origin and concept of the brand?
Jatinder Paul Singh (JPS): We are celebrating 130 years of world-class service in India. In 1881 Thomas Cook started its India operations, with its first office being set up in Mumbai. As it expanded its horizons across the sub-continent, the company came to be known as Thomas Cook Overseas Ltd. On October 21, 1978, it was christened Thomas Cook (India) Ltd, only to make its first public issue in February 1983. In the year 2000, the Group commenced its operations in Mauritius and also acquired the Sri Lanka business from Thomas Cook Overseas Ltd, UK. Our company operates in the following areas of business, namely leisure travel, MICE, corporate travel, management foreign exchange, insurance and e business. Thomas Cook (India) Ltd ventured into franchise business in 2009 and since inception, our endeavour is to provide one-stop solution to all our customers, our partners and trade associates.
NB: What were the motivating factors for the brand to opt for franchise expansion model?
JPS: The most influencing factors were increasing demand of consumers from Tier II & Tier III cities, high disposable income, product preferences, accessibility of trusted tour operator and increasing aspirations of consumers in small towns. These factors motivated us to develop a franchise model which helps to capture new geographical markets. We aim to design innovative products for regional consumers and expand our reach and distribution of our uniformed quality products and services, pan India.
NB: How promising is your brand for the Indian market?
JPS: Our franchises are facilitated with consumer centric products, large price-band and skilled professionals to offer everything under one roof. We are delighted to receive phenomenal response from our franchise owners as we have achieved 85 per cent growth over the last year. To promote our franchise outlets, we provide employee training programmes, conduct workshop for technical and soft skills, advertising campaigns and events to increase the footfall at the outlets. Our strategic alliances and innovative business approach have given us the prestigious ‘Favourite Specialist Tour Operator’ award at the Condé Nast Traveller Readers' Travel Awards 2011 and was also conferred with the CNBC AWAAZ - ‘Best company providing foreign exchange’ in India for the third year in a row. In addition, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd has been awarded the ‘Most Trusted Tour Operator Brand’ by the Times Travel Honours 2011 and also recognised as a ‘Superbrand’ 2011-2012 by the consumers for excellence in travel services.
NB: How would you tackle the issue of competition from the Indian Travel brands?
JPS: Thomas Cook (India) is a well established and readily accepted brand worldwide. Customised holidays, group escorted tours and third party products are available at our franchise outlets which allows us to understand the different needs of our potential customers.
Our innovative and differentiating products and services include: regional tours, holy land tours, indulgence (in a focused attempt to leverage the premium luxury market), readymade holidays for retail market segment via its off-the-shelf holidays, Thomas Cook Sport: a new brand, was launched as part of a worldwide Thomas Cook Plc catering clients via Sports Tourism. Under the franchise model, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd monitors every outlet, design product specific to the needs of franchise and innovate products for our consumers.
NB: What is the franchise model for your brand in India? Share the capital and area requirements form franchisee’s end?
JPS: Thomas Cook (India) Ltd (TCIL) has Direct franchisee model. TCIL treats franchisee outlets as a Branch Office. The partner needs to fulfil various requirements. Capital needed is Rs 10-15 lakh, area required is 500-600 sq.ft and an outlet also requires one staff member.
NB: Share the brand’s current presence? What are your future expansion plans in India?
JPS: Presently, TCIL has 107 Gold Circle Partner and 180 Preferred Sales Agents in India. We will continue our expansion plans across India. Young entrepreneurs and small retailers can avail this opportunity to grow their business vertical via cross selling of products to generate additional revenue.