India’s leading travel company, SOTC has been catering to the holiday and travel needs of the discerning Indians for over 50 years. In an interview, Kashmira Commissariat, COO, Outbound Division Kuoni India talks about SOTC and its franchise venture.
Abha Garyali (AG): Share with us the inception, growth and success of SOTC as a travel company?
Kashmira Commissariat (KC): SOTC, the country’s leading outbound tour operator company was acquired by Kuoni Travels in 1996. Widely acknowledged as the most successful group package tour brand in India, SOTC Tours caters to the first time and second time traveller in India. Fulfilling the travel needs of the customers for over five decade now, SOTC World Famous Tours continues to seek new and exciting destinations for its outbound travellers.
SOTC Do-it-Yourself Holidays meet the holiday needs of individual travellers, who want to explore the world at their own pace. SOTC launched Special Interest Tours in 2001; a division catering exclusively to the needs and requirements of various travel segments that include corporate tours, trade fairs and sports.
AG: When and what motivated you to adopt the franchise route for expansion?
KC: A booming economy, affordable air fares, better connectivity, increased seating capacities, and prospering middle class together contributed to large number of holiday-seekers. In keeping with this, SOTC has introduced the franchisee network. The network across the country will effectively fulfill the needs and requirements of the wide segment of discerning Indian customers desiring to travel abroad.
AG: What is the USP of the company?
KC: The company’s fundamental strength lies in its commitment in making the worldwide travel accessible, affordable and customer centric. Being the pioneer and market leader in the travel industry, SOTC believes in creating innovative value-based offers to suit the needs of various travellers. Following price transparency and believing in offering the best value in the market with no hidden costs has led to huge brand loyalty. For SOTC employees keeping clients happy is part of the challenge; meeting their expectations is reward.
AG: Travel market is growing by leaps and bounds. What can you foretell about the success of the brand in India?
KC: India obtaining one of the highest GDP growths across the world, travel industry is expected to boom and witness an exponential demand from Indian consumers. The core aim of the franchisee network of SOTC is to increase customer access points and enhance customer delight through a contemporary IT-enabled ambience. It will provide a vast array of packages to choose from at various price points backed with highest service quality and brand feel.
AG: How many franchised outlets does SOTC has and in which cities across India?
KC: Currently, SOTC has 85 franchisees across India in cities like Bhopal, Lucknow, Indore, Kanpur, Salem, Jabalpur, Agra, Kolhapur, Varanasi, Aurangabad, Dehradun, Nagpur, Ludhiana, Jammu, Amritsar, Ranchi, Mangalore, Rajkot, Madurai and in many other locations.
AG: What are the qualities for selecting the prospective franchisees?
KC: Franchisees are selected on the basis of following characteristics:
AG: What are your future plans in terms of expansion through franchising?
KC: We have plans to increase customer access points and enhance brand awareness by expanding across 100 outlets across the country via franchise route.
AG: What training and support do you provide to your franchisees in running their outlets?
KC: SOTC has been in the business of providing travel and holiday services to the discerning Indian for over 50 years. Therefore, partnering with SOTC offers various benefits that include marketing; exclusively retail group series, free individual traveller and domestic products and services from the outlet; staff training; IT-enabled services for the outlet to dispense services with faster turn-around to customers; business manager to conduct the business as well as continuously monitor the performance of the locations and deploy effective strategies to ensure healthy ROI.
AG: Any challenges that the franchisees need to overcome in this business?
KC: Franchisees can face challenge in the fields like provision of consistent quality customer service, knowledge about local customer requirements and relevant local marketing promotions.