During the 2nd edition of ET Travel & Tourism Annual Conclave & Awards, key industry leaders engaged in a panel discussion on the topic of “Growth – Scaling Tech-Led Brands and Business Expansion.” The insightful conversation covered a range of topics, emphasising growth strategies, technology’s role in the travel industry, building brand loyalty, industry trends, and the challenges faced by startups.
Moderated by Chirag Gupta, Co-Founder, TravClan, the panel featured Ankush Nijhawan, Co-Founder, TBO.com, Anshul Gupta, MD, Industry Lead for Travel & Hospitality, Accenture, Rakesh Negi, Head of Business Transformation, FCM Travel India and Manish Rathi, Co-Founder & CEO, IntrCity.
When asked about setting growth benchmarks, the panellists emphasised the importance of clear objectives, key results and metrics. Anshul Gupta noted companies should focus on consistency, reliability, and recognition over visibility alone. For international expansion, Ankush Nijhawan highlighted overcoming cultural differences and complex compliance requirements in new markets.
Rakesh Negi discussed the importance of tailoring marketing strategies and prioritising customer recognition and loyalty. Whereas, Manish Rathi advocated for technology to be transparent and focus on business strategies rather than tech strategies.
During the discussion, partnerships with startups were seen as key to gaining new capabilities and speed to market. Data-driven personalisation and unique experiences were also noted as important for retention.
Sharing his thoughts, Nijhawan emphasised on the importance of tech-savviness, funding, and ethical practices in determining the winners in the medium and long term. “Giving a very honest opinion on partnerships, I feel, it’s all about sharing, it’s not about, you know, I think I’m great, you’re great, no, it’s not about that. It’s about what you can offer to each other, and how you can grow together, in a very, very sustainable, long-term fashion,” he said while talking about the importance of partnerships in the business.
While Negi, discussed FCM Travel’s growth strategy, focusing on customer recognition and market penetration. “We are actually a people-first company, and technology is something that is ordering how we can support our people to be able to service our customers. So, when we look at all those aspects, we look at the data from the angle on what is the lifecycle of the customer, and how is that our person can actually be given more support from the technologies. The person is able to spend more and more time with the customer, talking to them, understanding the problem, and then solving the problem,” he said.
The panel discussed leveraging technology to gain operational visibility and scale through platforms like predictive analytics and real-time tracking. Partnerships across the ecosystem, from airlines to startups, were highlighted as critical. While raising funds, the two founders on the panel emphasised the importance of strong governance, a clear path to profitability and founder autonomy.
Gupta detailed on Accenture’s approach, including partnerships with startups through incubation setups, investments, and strategic collaborations. “I am a firm believer that technology shouldn’t be for the sake of technology; it has to be transparent; it should never be visible. Right. So, Tech-lead strategy should be the strategies for business and not tech strategies, is my personal opinion. And I and I strongly believe in that,” he stated.
Rathi said that partnerships are the biggest element of their business because they fundamentally believe that if we were to make a successful bus business as a category in India, it has to be a very collaborative effort. “There’s no single entity that can succeed here because the ecosystem is so complex. It requires a lot of collaboration. Now, for us, that collaboration happens across various dimensions. It’s with state governments, with bus operators, with users, but increasingly, it’s also with a lot of technology players because of the kind of experience we’re trying to provide. It’s pretty dynamic. It’s pretty advanced,” mentioned Rathi.
Overall, the discussion provided valuable insights into growth strategies with a focus on customer-centricity, partnerships and harnessing data and technology for the evolving travel industry.
In summary, the panel discussion covered a wide range of topics, including growth strategies, international expansion challenges, technology-driven approaches, loyalty in the travel industry, and the significance of partnerships for business development. The insights provided by the industry leaders offer a comprehensive view of the current landscape and the strategies employed for scaling tech-led brands in the travel and tourism sector.