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BENGALURU : Easy Trip Planners Ltd, which operates travel platform EaseMyTrip, crossed a market capitalization of $1 billion during intraday trading on Friday. It closed the trading day with a market cap of about $955 million (roughly 7,045 crore). The jump in its stock price came just days after the company announced its plans to expand internationally across the Philippines, Thailand, and the US.

In an interview, EaseMyTrip’s Rikant Pitti insisted that as the travel segment continues to recover from the grip of covid-19, the company will also aim to expand into newer international markets. Edited excerpts:

What are the key factors that drove you towards a ‘unicorn’ valuation while being bootstrapped?

We believe a lot of factors have played a key role in helping us reach the position that we are in today. Most of the players in the industry were caught up in becoming profitable through extra convenience fees. We saw convenience fees as a tool to retain customers and have never charged any convenience fees since inception. Despite this, we have maintained our profitability year after year. We were also clear right from the start that we wanted to bring in customers through our value-driven services rather than our marketing efforts. In an industry that witnesses exorbitant private equity funding, we are glad to be completely bootstrapped.

How do you plan to expand into new markets, and what will be your operational focus?

This is the second phase of our global expansion strategy as we have previously established our presence across the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Singapore, and the UK. We want to establish our air ticketing business in these new countries (the Philippines, Thailand, and the US) and are anticipating huge pent-up global demand for the travel and tourism sector in the coming months. As a part of this new phase of expansion, we plan to launch a localized travel search engine in each global subsidiary to enable customers in the region to enjoy value-based services of EaseMyTrip. The search engine developed for the UAE is live, and we intend to open two more websites by December.

These subsidiaries will continue to operate as low-cost centres where we have hired a couple of talented people within the respective countries to connect with local partners, local airlines, and also local payment gateways. We will compete on the basis of pricing in these geographies as we will be able to offer tickets at a much better price.

Do we see you entering newer geographies by next year?

We aim to rapidly grow across our international markets.

However, as we are a cost-efficient company, we will look at the performance of our subsidiaries across these six international locations and then take a call on future expansion steps. We may look to expand to more viable countries if we see a strong performance and value addition from our existing subsidiaries.

In line with your expansion plans, do you expect to incur any short-term loss for your business?

We have always had a profitable quarter and would like to maintain that track record.

What do you see as your big areas of growth in the next 12-24 months?

We aim to continue with the record growth in the airline ticketing vertical with increased revenue margins and market share. While air travel bookings constitute around 95% of our revenues, we are also growing our non-air travel businesses, including hotels, buses, trains and holidays, in double digits.

The company plans to focus heavily on its hotel and holiday package businesses and expand in the existing markets. We will look at enhancing the revenues and profitability by leveraging our existing base of customers for cross-selling. We also plan to leverage our vast agent network and utilize it for holiday bookings, which shall complement the company’s hotel and holiday businesses.

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