After clocking Rs 600 crore in online bus ticket sales last year, it’s targeting the Rs 1,000 crore mark this year. To get there, it’s advertising offline in a big way starting with a TV campaign.
After six years of rapidly growing the business of selling luxury bus seats, redBus.in is about to launch its first offline advertising campaign. The campaign comprises three television commercials. The message is summed up in its punch line – ‘When you gotta go, you gotta go’. The brand will also promote the campaign extensively on the digital front through social media plus display and banner ads.
redBus’ chief marketing officer, LK Gupta, who held the same position at LG Electronics until recently, explains that the brand spent its initial years building the backbone of the business. This was done by providing software solutions to bus operators and computerising the booking process. The brand had been concept-selling to the operators, showing the inventory to consumers and organising the whole category for the last five years. However, the bulk of the consumers still book their bus tickets offline, through booking agents. The next phase, therefore, is to attract them.
“The initial transactions on the site happened through net-savvy people. But the category will grow only when we educate consumers about the merit of booking tickets online: that it is simple, secure and offers a wide range of choices,” Gupta states.
The luxury bus ticketing is a $3 billion market in India of which barely 10 percent comes from online. Apart from raising awareness, the second objective is to increase the traffic on the site. “We expect a pretty healthy increase post the campaign,” Gupta says, adding that as the leader in the category, the idea is to grow the business pie rather than market share. Looking at other e-commerce businesses, which have undertaken TV campaigns, Gupta expects the web traffic to grow by three to four times. At present, the portal receives on an average 3 million people every month and sells about 30,000 seats per day. The average bus ticket sale is over Rs 500.
While offline, the brand has to contend with booking agents as its biggest competitors, the online story is quite different. redBus occupies 60 per cent of the market share in the category and even the services offered by makemytrip or ibibo are powered by redBus (the brand offers its seat inventory). As for the few other independent portals, who are offering similar service, redBus is not worried.
The campaign will run for two months and is aimed to coincide with the vacation season. The campaign has been conceputalised and created by Lowe Lintas & Partners, which was appointed a month-and-a-half ago. The advertising will be focused on South and West India, where the Bengaluru-based redBus first turned its attention, and where luxury bus travel is well developed.
Since the TVCs will be shown in regional channels as well, redBus has got around the language problem by using minimal dialogue. “We debated quite a lot on this and decided to include only a few simple words. We are targeting those people who are online but don’t book tickets online. They have basic familiarity with English so, there shouldn’t be a problem in understanding the films,” Gupta points out.
Apart from booking private luxury buses, redBus also manages seat inventory for the state roadways corporations of Karnataka, Goa, Bihar and Rajasthan. redBus also offers cash on delivery service in 25 cities, where customers can either book online or call to book. However, this facility is not widely popular and constitutes less than 10 per cent of the business. Gupta says this is because the brand hasn’t promoted this feature enough.
Besides booking tickets, the website also offers tips from passengers, passengers’ rating of buses on various parameters, among other features. In February, this year, the brand launched its android app through which people could book bus tickets. Gupta claims that among the travel sites in the country, redBus’s app is the highest downloaded app. “We are getting a healthy transaction with about 2 lakh downloads till now,” he reveals.
Bengaluru-based Pilani Soft Labs (PSL), which owns redBus.in, was set up in 2006 with the backing of three investors – SeedFund, Inventus Capital and Helion Venture Partner. The company has a presence in 24 states with 26 offices and is associated with over 1,000 operators.
(This article appeared on afaqs! on May 6, 2013)