BITS and Pieces

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Ranjeet Oak

MakeMyTrip

A name synonymous with online bookings in India, MakeMyTrip has consistently been recognized as India’s best online travel portal. In this exclusive interview with BITS and Pieces, MakeMyTrip’s Ranjeet Oak talks about business, advertising, travel, language and culture, giving us an insight into how going multilingual is one of MakeMyTrip’s stated strategies for 2015-16 and how, in his first job, knowing German helped him connect better with the key management in Germany.

MakeMyTrip has become a household name in such a short while. What would you attribute this success to?

The trust that MakeMyTrip has built in the minds of its customers is one of the preeminent reasons for its success. The company believed in strengthening its return and exchange policies in addition to providing the ease of booking tickets online. MakeMyTrip was one of the first names to come up when India moved from offline to online and the awareness created on various media platforms has helped it enormously.

When it came to penetrating markets and promoting MakeMyTrip, how important a role did languages play?

Languages were and continue to be a critical aspect. In fact, we have very recently launched our rail funnel in Hindi. Every citizen in the country is buying either a rail or a bus ticket which is why vernacular has become essential for reaching out to a wider audience. And languages are a crucial part of advertising as well. We need to understand how exactly the Indian customers in various regions will say certain phrases. We worked on various key regional languages in India for this. The penetration, however, hasn’t gone down to all the regional languages because our target audience is the people who pick flights, which is largely an urban phenomenon.

And with more and more portals going multilingual, doesn’t MakeMyTrip feel the need to use more languages to reach out to a wider customer base?

Going vernacular and going into more regional languages is one of our stated strategies for 2015-16. And we are the first and currently the only travel site whose mobile app is available in Hindi. We now plan to roll it out in four more regional languages. They are yet to be decided but we have Tamil and Gujarati for sure.

Any particular reason for having chosen these two languages?

We basically look for language speaking groups that form the largest chunk of our customer base. Secondly, some languages like Hindi are accepted positively in many regions even if it isn’t the primary language of the region. Similar is the case with Tamil. Though it is the regional language of only one state, it overlaps with the neighbouring states as well. So with these languages, we can target more than one state, making them logical picks for our multilingual portal.

And do you think the Indian tourism industry, as a whole, will benefit from languages?

One hundred percent. To start with, tourism as an industry in India holds great potential; so much so that our new Prime Minister has given it top priority in his scheme of things. With the number of inbound tourists and the infrastructural development in the field of tourism, application of languages in the form multilingual tourist guides, travel portals will do wonders for the Indian tourism industry. It will help enhance the experience of the tourists making the country more tourist-friendly.

On a slightly different note, we have come to know that you are quite “multi-lingual” yourself!

(Laughs) I speak about five languages- Hindi, Marathi, English, a bit of Punjabi and I speak German.

So how has knowing all these languages, especially German, helped you shape your career?

I joined a German company after completing my graduation in engineering. Despite being based in Bangalore at that time, knowing German helped me connect better with the head office and with the key management that came in from Germany. As for the regional languages, they have helped me connect with the people I work with. I think if you can connect with people, it helps you get accepted within the organisation.

In conclusion, what would you like to say to our readers? I am sure there are at least a few who would want to enter the tourism industry.

Well, it’s a potentially blossoming field. People who will be customer-facing need to have a command over languages. And they need to learn a language like a native would speak it; not like a subject. This, I think, applies to anyone who is learning a language. Being able to incorporate the colloquial elements is just as important as being grammatically correct. Learning German has helped me a great deal in my professional life. And knowing languages is always beneficial in many ways. I mean, on a very personal front, even my wife speaks German and it’s the only language that my kids don’t understand. Very convenient! (Laughs)

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Sonali Kulkarni - Editor-in-Chief, French-English Translator A novice at adulthood and an ardent disciple of Dan Brown and Ayn Rand, Sonali is a pathological bookworm, a borderline nerdy introvert and a hardcore adventure junkie who cannot live without chocolate. She is currently studying French and manages to speak some Spanish too. Having represented her state in national level Athletics for the better part of a decade, the nomad in her has now given it up to venture into the exciting world of languages, writing and travel.