While most large corporates focus on startups that are related to their own industry, Lufthansa wants to help entrepreneurs across the spectrum with an aim to create a new customer base for leisure travel on its airline in the future, George Ettiyil, Lufthansa Group Airlines’ senior director for sales in South Asia, told Mint.
“The future corporate travellers are not going to be the large corporations alone, but that will also be these entrepreneurs, to whom we have given a platform to present themselves, where they were mentored and were able to find an investor, and our brand will always be associated with the journey that they have made. That’s a potential new customer base for us in the future," Ettiyil said.
The airline along with TiE Delhi-National Capital Region on Saturday held the fourth edition of its Startups Expo, where over 100 startups participated, many of them bootstrapped.
The aviation giant also shortlisted three of these--a content management firm Pepper, Probus Smart Things Pvt Ltd, a company creating internet of things (IoT) products for the power sector, and This For That, an online fashion portal running a barter system--for which it held elevator pitches.
The Lufthansa Group has built and invested in startups like Aviatar, an independent and open platform using predictive analysis for maintainance of aircraft. However, it has so far not invested in any company in India. Instead, the airline’s Indian arm has partnered with startups like Chaayos and endorsed brands like Sirona’s Peebuddy, Ettiyil said.
“We have 58 flights every week and the masala tea that is served on all these aircraft is Chaayos masala tea. So while it may not be investment, still it is some form of partnership," he said.
Unlike companies like Google and Airbus, Lufthansa is not planning to open an accelerator in India in the near future as there is no avenue for disruption in the sector and the only issue to focus on for airlines is digitisation from improving passenger experience to enhancing efficiency in aircraft maintenance.
Ettyil said that there may be possible it may invest in some startup that focuses on the aviation sector, but as of now it sees no avenues.
“I’m not faced with the extinction of a product. Maybe perhaps one day, there will be a ‘Beam me up Scotty" invention, and then we will look at that. Right now flying is a very settled and very mature product that is there, and the focus is to identify the consumer of the future." Ettyil said.