Digital Interaction with Ashwin Jayasankar, Country Head, Wego India

There are multiple travel planning sites like MakeMyTrip, Yatra and more. This is the startup age and startups are proving to be more efficient that large enterprises in multiple ways. We interview Ashwin Jayasankar, Country Head of Wego India who is competing with large enterprises with his startup approach. Wego is the leading travel search site in the Asia Pacific and Middle East, headquartered in Singapore, with regional offices in their fastest growing markets which include Bangalore, Jakarta and Dubai

About Ashwin Jayasankar, Wego

As the Country Head of Wego India, Ashwin Jayasankar manages the leading travel search site’s operations, including partner relationships and development, marketing, tech, content and data analytics. Ashwin was an early employee of Wego when the company first opened its India office in Bengaluru in mid 2012. He covered a variety of duties as Wego established relationships with local Indian travel industry suppliers, including airlines, hotels and online travel agents. He was integral to building Wego’s presence in India and continues to grow those relationships with partners and Indian travelers.

1.How is Wego different from popular travel planning sites like MakeMyTrip?

 Wego is a travel search site dedicated to delivering the best flights and hotel options available online from hundreds of local and global travel suppliers. Launched in Singapore in 2015, with regional offices in Bangalore, Dubai and Jakarta, Wego has focussed on localisation and building relationships with travel partners both locally and internationally.

 Wego.co.in is different from OTAs like Makemytrip for a number of reasons. First of all, Wego is an aggregator or comparison website displaying flights and hotel rates from multiple partners – OTAs, airlines and hotels. Using a site such as Makemytrip provides only one source of tariffs whereas Wego displays search results from multiple websites including domestic sites such as Goibibo, Cleartrip, Yatra etc, as well as multiple airlines such as  Indigo, Jet Airways and more.

The ability to compare a comprehensive display of travel costs from a number of travel suppliers on one application or via Wego’s desktop site, travellers are assured they’re able to purchase the best value to suit their travel budget.

Another big competitive advantage for Wego is its international presence – Wego has over 50 country sites, displayed in local currency and in 20 languages. Travelers are also able to compare rates from global partners such as Booking.com, Expedia and more. In this way we provide users a complete and thorough range of airfares and hotels rates both at home and across the globe.

By delivering both local and international airlines, hotels and OTAs we have been able to support local industry, while also delivering an extended reach to global travel partners.

Our objective is to create the best possible experience on the Wego site and through our travel apps to deliver an effective, convenient and simple to use travel comparison tool. The process continues as our team responds to market and technological advances as they arise, and it’s a job that doesn’t seem to end, nor should it. If we’re able to improve in any areas that make travel planning and booking more personal and enjoyable through new tech, we analyze and implement wherever possible.

 2.What is your plan to beat down popular travel planning sites in India?

We have focused on delivering a seamless travel planning experience for travelers that makes sense to them. Our focus remains to consistently develop our product with the latest in technology innovations as it becomes available. Mobile technology especially tends to change fast and our team of talented developers are in touch with changes in technology communicating directly with Google and Apple to ensure we’re on top of whatever is coming next. The objective is to make travel planning as relevant and hassle free as possible. App users are loyalists so it’s imperative that we deliver to retain our users and attract new ones.

Our strategy remains to deliver a relevant and localized product for our core markets, the success of which relies on personalisation features which make sense to the individual user. Wego’s travel apps continue to rank as one of the most popular travel apps in the markets we operate in, and in October was recognized as Editor’s Choice globally by Google.  Another differentiator for Wego over its competition is its focus on localized partner service (by dedicated teams in key geographies) and data driven analytics and decisions performed by our in-house data analytics teams.

3.Does this industry have business opportunity for startups?

Definitely. The Indian travel industry is still evolving but the speed at which it’s growing over the last decade and going forward is unique to this country. Opportunities abound for new businesses, especially e-commerce sites, using the talented resources we’re lucky enough to have in India.

The pace at which mobile/internet technology is infiltrating smaller Indian towns and the increasing customer tendencies of traveling provide enormous market potential for growth. This can be seen with the recent growth of budget hotel players such as Oyorooms and Zorooms, in spite of the presence of established behemoths like Makemytrip and Cleartrip.

4.How is this industry looking in the next 10 years?

As more Indians become connected and internet penetration figures increase, so too will the opportunities for the online travel industry. We have witnessed similar speed of growth in other emerging markets such as the Middle East and Indonesia, and with this country’s population numbers, predictions are that the Indian travel market will be a global driver of tourism both locally and internationally beyond 2020.

Corporate travel is also growing at a fast pace in India. A recent Global Business Travel Association report cites continued double digit business travel spending growth for India, resulting in one of the most rapidly expanding business travel markets in the world.

 5.How are you using your past experience to drive this company?

Prior to joining Wego, I worked in one of India’s largest life insurance companies in a variety of roles including corporate sales, product, customer service and data analytics. The sales experience has definitely assisted my ability to continue building strategic partnerships for Wego with content and distribution partners. The service experience has contributed to my ability to maintain these relationships over long periods of time to ensure our partnerships are mutually beneficial.

My data analytics exposure has been particularly useful. Online business is data intensive and monitoring and understanding trends and actioning them is critical to grow your business. Wego has prided itself on being “best-in-market” in terms of data analytics which translates into better insights for our partners and a better understanding of our customer behavior. In line with this, Wego has set up a data analytics teams based in Bangalore to support our global business teams in working more effectively.

6.How important is partnership to Wego?

 Wego makes shopping for travel simple and easy, but the other side of that is that we support local partners by providing an increased visibility to those shoppers. Wego refers flight and hotel booking referrals worth US$1.5 billion to its travel partners. Travelers appreciate the familiarity of local brands and also the opportunity to identify local deals as they travel both domestically and internationally.

Partnerships with local content suppliers is critical to our business – superior partner service/response (through a dedicated local team) and effective data analysis (through our in-house data analytics team) are key factors in successfully maintaining these relationships over a long period of time.We have worked successfully with tourism bodies and other business partners seeking to reach millions of travellers through internally designed campaigns, and also supported by our 2+ million social media audience. Wego users have travel intent and our partners recognize that this is an opportune moment in the purchasing timeline to inspire and connect with travelers.

Data trails left by Wego’s audience allows us to deliver targeted campaigns that are relevant to the traveler, both on and after they’ve left the Wego site. It’s a valuable opportunity for our advertising partners to reach an audience with messaging that is relevant to the user. Partnerships are very important to us, but also very beneficial to our partners as we are a vital piece of their online marketing strategy.

 7.Your advice to budding entrepreneurs?

Understand the clear differentiator of your product/service; ask yourself if it’s unique in the market. Also understand the any barriers for your product/service in market – is it easily copied by larger players? Ensure you have a clear plan to scale your business and assess how much funding you need to achieve it. Also consider what additional costs may be required if your business scales.

Most importantly build a great team. Identify your company goal and identify your team member’s goals and find a method that aligns individual goals with the business. A great team is key to a business flow without micro-management. Read more CEO Interviews.

Digital Interaction with Ashwin Jayasankar, Country Head, Wego India
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