Skyscanner, available via mobile apps, PC sites and mobile sites, searches through thousands of airlines, hotels and car-rental suppliers to find the best travel options for customers, for free. The company established its business in the APAC region in 2012, and it has grown over 400 per cent. Asia now accounts for 20 per cent of its total business. Looking at the growing opportunities in Asia and India, Ewan Gray, director APAC, Skyscanner, is looking to expand his business in India. By Abhishek Chakraborty
What are your plans for the Indian travel market?
We launched our site in India in 2012 and have grown, with the increase in number of visits and business to our website by 123 per cent. Visits to our mobile and apps has gone up by over 400 per cent. So we intend to continue capitalising on that and further localising our site so that it has content useful to the Indian consumer. We are working with local providers, such as Cleartrip and Goibibo and the airlines as well.
Tell us something about your journey.
Skyscanner started in 2003 with a focus on low cost airlines in Europe. In 2007, we made the decision to cater to all flights everywhere. We were clearly number one in Europe, so in 2011 we decided to expand to Asia and we opened our first office in Singapore. We have an office in Beijing as well. We also did a lot of research focusing which markets we wanted to target. With the growth of aviation, increasing number of internet and mobile penetration, India was clearly a target for us. So we employed a small team in Singapore who focused on the Indian market.
Do you have plans to open an office in India?
Not yet. We had our first office in Edinburgh, Scotland, followed by Singapore, and then Beijing. We are planning our next office in Miami. We are planning on opening offices beyond that and India is also under consideration.
What made you launch Skyscanner in the APAC region?
There is no online site engine which offers comprehensive flight search in the APAC region. There may be lots of travel agents but we are not a travel agent. We find the best deals, serving users through to the Android site. There has been a huge growth in terms of internet penetration, credit card penetration, online bookings for travel in the APAC region, so this was a prime opportunity for us to expand our business beyond European shores.
Are you planning to introduce any new technology or products?
We recently launched new products, specifically for India. One was the fair alerts. As Indian consumers are quite price sensitive, we have devised this product which, if people subscribe to, will inform them about any changes in the fare between two destinations in the chosen period of time by the user. We have also added economy fares in our search engine. Other products that we are planning to introduce is the car hire site, which we had recently launched in the UK, in India within the next two-three months. We have also launched in our Windows 8 application the ability to search with three texts. Suppose you type in to the search box, I want to fly somewhere hot in the next week, and it will send some meaningful results.
What is your immediate focus in India?
Our immediate focus is to continue building our partnerships with local airlines, travel agents. We are working with most of the key players already. On the B2C side, we want to continue our marketing efforts and increase traffic to our search engine. Moreover, we are also focusing on social media campaign in India, and we have 1,50,000 fans on Facebook, which is more than any other market globally. So we want to continue building on that.
What are your strategies for 2013?
We are consistently launching new products and functionality in our site. It’s not just on our website, but also on our mobile applications. We will be working on improving car hire and hotel offerings. As much as 65 per cent of our downloads or traffic of mobile from India is on Android. But we don’t have an Android app yet. So we are looking to launch this too in the Indian market.
What is the difference in search patterns seen among customers worldwide?
The way people use our site is very similar in India. The key difference is price sensitivity. Another difference is that there is a higher percentage of usage on mobile in Asian market than the other markets. In India, for example, two-third of our visits come from mobile app whereas globally it is under 45 per cent.
Which countries in the world offer you the best services in terms of revenue?
China, India and Australia are three of our biggest growth markets in terms of speed.