The COVID-19 outbreak created unprecedented challenges for the online travel industry. With the world brought to a standstill, travel restrictions, and lockdown in most countries, 2020 was one of the worst years for the travel industry. But now with rising vaccination rates, some countries have begun slowly relaxing travel restrictions and reopening borders. In-city travel has also increased, with work from anywhere policy, more and more people are now travelling even in off-seasons.
All these trends bring good news for the online travel industry, however, the companies need to be prepared for the emerging travel boom to be able to recover. In a recent interview with us, Ajay Sreedhara, Head HR, Cleartrip discussed the new trends shaping the travel industry and shared Cleartrip’s talent plan to bounce back.
Currently working remotely, Cleartrip is in the process of working out the modalities of getting back to work. “We would only bring back our employees to the workplace when we are confident of their safety and well-being,” said Ajay. The company will slowly move from a fully remote to a hybrid working that would give enough flexibility to the employees and more importantly foster more collaboration, productivity, and high performing culture.
On the hiring front, Cleartrip started the year on a fairly cautious approach and wanted to check how the markets and travel sector in particular opened up.
“We are very bullish on how this is transforming. In the last 6 months, we have added about 50 employees to our workforce. And in the next 6 months, we would add close to 50% more to our workforce,” revealed Ajay.
Coping with the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic
“At Cleartrip, we always have kept customers at the core and brought in a few products like TravelSafe, EzCancel, Flexifly that would give our customers all the necessary information and the flexibility to travel,” said Ajay.
One in four customers today either adopt either EzCancel or Flexifly and it has been a great customer value proposition. Ajay said, “We will continue rolling out products based on our customer needs.” That would require Cleartrip to innovate and bring in key differentiators.
With the rate of infection coming down and coupled with the rate of vaccinations going stronger, the travel sector is picking up. To stay relevant with the market trends, Cleartrip’s talent attraction and development strategy needs to be in tandem with the evolving business needs.
Attracting & retaining premium talent to propel business growth
The tourism and hospitality industry saw large layoffs and pay cuts. But now as the pandemic ebbs and travels resumes, the online travel companies need the talent and key skills to capitalise on the imminent spike in travel demand.
“The travel tech industry, like other tech-driven industries, is rapidly transforming. This translates into strong demand for premium talent,” said Ajay.
Thus, attracting quality talent is a top challenge in today’s environment. Ajay has seen a huge demand for engineering and product workforce as organisations have understood that to stay ahead of the curve, the investment is in the Tech space. “Of late we are also seeing a spike in demand in other areas like marketing, business development, etc,” he added.
Not only talent acquisition, retention of talent is also key given the great shift in talent priorities and tough market competition in the sector.
Cleartrip has a clear objective to create an environment that makes their employees feel challenged enough to bring their best to their work.
Banking on the new Cleartrip-Flipkart synergy to stay ahead of the competition
Ajay highlighted the many areas common between both brands enabling one another to foster innovation:
Customer Experience - This has taken a beating in the last year and a half because of refunds and cancellations. The policies around this with the airlines are also not very friendly. “Flipkart keeps customers at the core of its policies, this will be one major change,” said Ajay.
Brand Image - While Cleartrip has a good brand image and has many loyal customers, in the last couple of years, Ajay shared the company has also lost many customers.
Along with Flipkart, it is now working with a renewed focus on customers and hoping to win back some of the lost customers.
Hiring Right Talent - Cleartrip plans to hire about 50% more in this financial year. Ajay said, “We are eager to onboard the best of the talent and help the organisation grow.”
He added, “Flipkart has been delivering value and delight for its customers over the last many years. Thus, there are multiple collaboration products that are on. Ajay also hinted towards an interesting launch in the month of October.