What I Learned at the E-Tailing and Travel Commerce Conference 2015

eCommerce in India is considered as one of the fastest growing B2C sectors, mainly due to the massive advancements in the following segments - Travel, eTail, Hospitality, and Classifieds. The growth is further accentuated by funding from venture capitalists who see a huge opportunity with the increasing number of mobile and web users in the country.

As a travel consultant, I am eager to be part of this phenomenal growth and unparalleled engagement. And it is with this objective that I enrolled myself for the E-Tailing and Travel Commerce Conference 2015.

The two-day summit touched upon the most common issues faced by the eCommerce industry in India. Industry veterans spoke about unique concepts, ideas, and practices that changed the game for their businesses.

Here is how the event unfolded on Day 1.

Moi with Nikhil Ganju, Country Manager, TripAdvisor India

Blogger's Booth (Courtesy: Blogmint)

Inaugural and Welcome Address by Kumar Karpe, Chief Executive Officer, TechProcess

Kumar Karpe

Key Learning:
  • Consumer confidence has increased in eCommerce sector.
  • The shift from eCommerce to mCommerce is taking place right now but the rate at which it is happening has surprised many. Mobile holds the key to the future.
  • Mobile based strategies are getting discussed.
  • Some of the challenges of eCommerce are connectivity issues in Tier 2 and Tier 3 Indian cities, Cash on Delivery, Refund, etc.
  • Challenges of eCommerce cannot be solved without close collaboration of the enterprise customers. 
  • Growth in eCommerce has led to innovation as well as disruption.
  • Consumers are transacting online. Their trust is increasing. However, consumer expectations are hard to contain. They are demanding more.
  • Consumers want to control the following:
    • Time of payments - They want to pay at their own convenience and time.
    • Flexibility of place - They want to be served at doorstep.
    • Payment mode - They want the comfort of deciding whether they want to pay by cash, card, etc.
    • Digital Interoperability or Digital Device Flexibility - Consumers use multiple devices these days and expect consistent user experience on all the devices. Any compromise in that experience may result in friction.
  • Together we need to grow this ecosystem. The biggest challenge for eCommerce players will be to capture consumers for life.

Address by Guest of Honor, Dr. Suman Billa, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India

Suman Billa

Key Learning:
  • Technology is dramatically changing the marketplace.
  • Huge amount of info is getting delivered to consumers to help them transact online.
  • Trust and predictability in what you sell online is important. Deliver the promise you've made during the point of sale.
  • Tremendous opportunity for aggregation across platforms, which is happening at a wide scale.
  • Virtual real estate is replacing physical real estate. For instance, in leisure tourism, people want to see the view of the hotel first before confirming the actual booking.
  • Advertising happens through word of mouth; bloggers are the new harbingers of change.
  • People create their own customized experiences and personal itineraries now. 'Alert independent' travelers are the new game changers.
  • This is the age of reviews but we don't have enough credibility yet. Companies like TripAdvisor are doing their bit but we need to build an independent reviews ecosystem.
  • Main challenge is to empower citizens: From Job 'Seekers' to 'Creators'.
  • Evolution of travel in the world is exacerbated due to the developments in technology.
  • Putting products online for sale is just the beginning; what makes or breaks an eTailing venture is the trust it generates in its customers.
  • Implementation of Good and Services Tax will help everyone. Tax needs to be paid at the point of consumption.

Special Address: Customer Experience through Design by G. Shankaran Nair, President and Chief Strategy Officer, Servion Global Solutions


G. Shankaran Nair

Key Learning:
  • We are all humans. We are all consumers.
  • In the eCommerce industry, put 'consumers' not 'technology' at the heart of the conversation. Ask "where is the consumer in all of this?"
  • Technology disrupts and distances the bond between the consumers and brands. It is also disrupting the consumer journey (awareness, purchase, usage, and after-sales experience).
  • Interaction with the brand is no longer personal. (Quote: "Don't remember when I last visited my bank. Don't need to!")
  • Brands keep selling somewhat same products. Has an effect on the consumer behavior. 
  • Something new comes along catches the consumer's fancy. Fizzles out eventually.
  • Acquiring the consumer and creating a unique identity to influence their buying behavior is the key.
  • Loyalty is the prime mover in the online B2C space. Use technology in a way to give the consumers a rich experience and generate a lifelong loyalty.
  • How to create emotional connect on the Internet? Consumers are promiscuous as they never stay loyal to a particular brand, move from one to another.
  • Capitalism propels easy availability of capital for new ventures, thus helping the upcoming eCommerce ventures today in India.
  • The design of interaction with consumers has to be unique for the brand.

Case Study Presentation by Anuj Kumar, Co-founder and Managing Director, Affle

Attribution analytics led Mobile advertising - Measuring and maximizing the quality of your mobile app users

Anuj Kumar

Key Learning:
  • The nature of Economics is changing even for the small players. If you are not coming from a digital advertising background, the terminology used can baffle you.
  • Audience acquisition is an important point of discussion for entrepreneurs who have mobile app as significant part of their growth strategy.
  • To increase the numbers and maximize the RoI, ensure that your services reach the right users, not just any random person.
  • Learn from the first hundred you spend, so that the next hundred is spent in a better, more optimal manner.
  • Measuring and maximizing returns involves four steps:
    • Build a mobile app.
    • Promote it through advertising and PR.
    • Spend the money raised on acquiring users.
    • Understand user behavior and aim for building loyalty (Make monetization as your key KPI).
  • What can you do differently?
    • Audience acquisition - Getting people to download your mobile app.
    • For advertising to be successful, reach out to the 'relevant' audience through data analytics.
  • 40% of digital advertising is consolidated with two big players - Google and Facebook.
  • Evaluating partners is a thing of the past since most advertising or trading is done programmatically.
  • Most big companies can reach out to the same audience now.
  • Build a unification strategy - spend your dollars on one single platform. Choose a partner who can help you with the audience acquisition.
  • Data comes from behavior (of the app user).
  • Attribution - reuse intelligence to enhance RoI.
  • Need a better mobile app experience? Optimize your RoI by building a Single Audience Intelligence Cloud. A single dashboard can make a huge difference.
  • App First and App Only are the new trends. Re-engagement is the motive.
    • Re-engagement can be achieved by advertising and push notifications.
    • Re-engaging on your own media gives you an advantage.
  • Once you build loyalty, users are more likely to contribute back to your app.
  • Key message summary
    • Unification of platform.
    • Mobile app driven strategy.
    • Transparency of placements and optimization capability is very important.
    • Attribution of events as source.
    • Reusing data.
    • Reusable analytics and audience intelligence.

Plenary Session 1: Impact of Travel Market Places for The Online Travel Market

 Impact of Travel Market Places for The Online Travel Market

  • Karthik Sathuragiri, Director - Field Marketing, Asia Pacific & Japan, Akamai Technologies 

  • Aloke Bajpai, CEO & Co-founder, ixigo
  • Yogendra Vasupal, Founder & CEO, Stayzilla
  • Simran Sial, Founder, FindMyStay
  • Deepak Wadhwa, Co-founder, WeAreHolidays
  • Sidharth Gupta, Co-founder, Treebo
  • Sankalp Agarwal, Chief Executive Officer, Travel Triangle 

Key Learning:
  • Travel is becoming an expression now. Companies like Uber are bridging the gap between demand and supply pretty well.
  • Travellers won't tell you everything but may have higher expectations.
  • People are looking for experiences; what experiences can be curated is the big question for businesses.
  • Managing 'transactions' is not a problem anymore. But managing 'quality expectations' from travelers is.

Plenary Session 2: Social travel - how new age start-ups are redefining the travel industry?

Social travel - how new age start-ups are redefining the travel industry?

  • Anshul Srivastava, Head Sales & Marketing, Arzoo.com 

  • Ish Jindal, Co-founder, Padhaaro
  • Gautam Shewakramani, Founder & CEO, AudioCompass
  • Akhil Malik, Co-founder, Zostel
  • Chitra Gurnani, Co-Founder, Thrillophilia Adventure Tours
  • Piya Bose, Founder, Girls on the Go Club

Key Learning:
  • Solo travelers in India are probably the largest in the world right now. Technology, especially social media, has amplified this trend.
  • Capture the 'intent' to travel; once a traveler has booked, focus on how you can engage.
  • Setting the right expectations upfront and understanding all that the consumer expects is half the job done.
  • In 2014, 3% of bookings were made through cell phones. Today, that percentage has increased to 40%.
  • Information asymmetry can be reduced through technology.

Plenary Session 3: Global expansion in travel industry - An appetite for growth

Global expansion in travel industry - An appetite for growth

  • Himanshu Singh, Managing Director, Hotel Commerce (Him and Kays Group) 

  • MadhurArora, Head of e-Commerce Business, India and Thailand, Expedia
  • Ganesh Iyer, VP - Distribution and Air Business, Goibibo
  • Anshuman Bapna, Chief Product Officer, MakeMyTrip
  • Siddharth Dabhade, Head of Industry, Google

Key Learning:
  • Holiday is the single most complex, proprietary product that is difficult to replicate.
  • Google is not your foe. If used effectively, Google can be the best friend for the entire travel industry.
  • Seamless integration between products and technology is supremely important.
  • A travel agent isn't a middleman, but an ally.
  • The thrill of exotic, custom-made adventures is unmatched.
  • Technology is the biggest strength for OTAs but also a sour area when it comes to their service offerings.
  • Is global expansion viable for OTAs or hotel aggregators? Going global is just the means to an end. Go where Indian travelers go.
  • Let software do the heavy lifting, but ideas and creativity are the sole domain of people. They cannot be replaced.

Plenary Session 4: New realities in the payments landscape

New realities in the payments landscape

  • Rajeev Narayanan, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, TechProcess 

  • Saurabh Srivastava, Chief Marketing Officer, Mobikwik
  • Nitin Gupta, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, PayU
  • Deepak Chandnani, Chief Executive Officer, South Asia and Middle East, Worldline
  • Mohit Kabra, Chief Financial Officer, Make My Trip
  • Bhavin Mody, Director, E-Billing Solutions (EBS)

Key Learning:
  • The price of opening a business is getting smaller because of the online platform.
  • Payment has its own set of challenges, even though a lot of innovation in form factor is happening in India.
  • With new payment/wallet companies setting up business in India, these companies must continue to focus on providing a seamless user experience via issuance of credit instruments, acquiring payments, and easy transactions.
  • Compromise with user experience can enhance the rate of transaction failure.
  • Amazon's Aur Dikhao campaign highlights the power of choice and focuses on the array of choices available, analyzing consumer behavior.
  • PayU focuses on the view of the customer. Capturing the value propositions from customers is important.
  • Wallet companies aggregate all sources of fund. The biggest challenge for these companies is how to get customers to use the platform.
  • Transparency, convenience, and seamless transactions on payment gateways are the way to go.
  • A lot of eTailing companies are focusing on usability. Experience on mobile should be seamless. Security should not be compromised.
  • Wallet must be seen as a means to aggregate funds and convenience is a 'subjective' parameter.
  • A time will come when all online stores will have a common Checkout option.
  • Ability to pay and mobile as a channel will play important roles in every business.