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Online travel behemoth CTrip has larger strategy for Indian market

After achieving formidable success in their own demographic region, several Chinese conglomerates have been eyeing for supremacy in the global arena. Besides Alibaba and Tencent, a slew of emerging Chinese companies such as Meituan Dianping, Toutiao, Xiaomi, and Fosun have been aggressive on their international expansion.

One such company is two-decade-old online travel behemoth CTrip. The Baidu-backed company had begun its global ambition through acquiring Skyscanner in December 2016 for a whopping $1.74 billion.

Five months later, it bought $180 million worth stake in Indian online travel leader MakeMyTrip. To understand – how India fits in CTrip’s overall global strategy, Entrackr spoke to Victor Tseng, Senior Vice President (SVP) of the company.

According to Tseng, India is an important and large travel market. However, it’s very different from China as well as other overseas markets. “We have invested in MMT to grow and capitalise maximum from the Indian travel segment. It’s the largest online travel company in India and we will continue to support for its future growth,” says Tseng.

While many pundits believe that India is at least five years behind China in terms of scale and evolution in the travel segment, Tseng thinks otherwise. “In my view, India is only a couple of years behind China,” he adds.

Although, Tseng believes that China is very different from India. “Strong GDP growth coupled with rising disposable income and interest in outbound travellers have been key drivers for us,” he explains. Interest in independent travelling and long-haul holidays in China are also adding scale for CTrip, he adds.

Since CTrip had invested in MMT, it doesn’t want to serve India travellers directly. However, the company sees immense potential in serving Chinese travellers coming to India. “We are very interested in working with companies who are keen to partner government and tourism boards to entice Chinese travellers to Indian destinations,” says Tseng.

When asked about the potential investment areas for CTrip in India, Tseng pointed out that travel is the only focus for the company. “We already had placed our bet on the market leader. Nevertheless, CTrip is open to investing in technology and content companies that touches any point of the travel value chain. We can add value to them with our global offering,” he asserts.

Why is Ctrip interested to invest in Zomato?

Recently, there have been media reports about CTrip’s interest in picking up stake in Zomato. Tseng, however, declined to talk about it. But, the question remains – why a travel company is engaged in talks to invest in foodtech company.

To understand this, let’s look at some moves made by the online travel giant in China and a couple of global markets. Since Meituan-Dianping forayed into online travel to challenge CTrip’s dominance on local turf, the travel behemoth entered restaurant reservation segment through partnering Priceline-owned Opentable.

The alliance lets Chinese travellers to discover and book restaurants in China and around the globe.

To strengthen its aspiration in foodtech, CTrip also held talks to invest in foodpanda, Yelp (US), Chope (Singapore), iMenu360 (US) and MenuDrive (US) last year. Also, its rival in China, Meituan-Dianping had invested in Indian online ordering leader Swiggy. This may tempt CTrip to put capital in Zomato.

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