Paytm Travel claims to have a base of around 13 million customers, a threefold increase over the user base in FY17. “In the first three quarter of FY19, we have added over 4 million customers and another million users may be added during the current quarter,” said Rajan. The customer base of Paytm Travel, while significant, is a fraction of Paytm’s wallet user base of more than 300 million.
But Rajan is confident of the prospects. “We are just scratching the surface. The wallet base shows a much bigger opportunity is waiting for us in online travel. We are trying to reach out to users in a targeted way. We are now running minimal cash back offers. There is no cash back on booking of rail tickets”, he said.
Rajan did not share the break-up between rail, bus and flight bookings. He, however, said IRCTC was the market leader in online rail ticket space and it would continue to dominate the space. In bus and flight bookings, Paytm’s competition is with the Nasdaq-listed MakeMyTrip, the country’s biggest e-travel firm. MakeMyTrip, which also owns redBus (a dedicated bus ticket booking platform), sold over 28 million tickets in H1 of FY19 (up 54 per cent YoY). It sold over 19 million flight tickets, along with ibibo, a brand it acquired in 2016.
Paytm will have to ramp up numbers over the coming quarters to overtake MakeMyTrip. Rajan said the firm was getting a strong response from customers in tier-II and tier-III cities “A lot of users in these cities transact offline. We are trying to build the trust factor to bring them online. Of our new customer acquisition, more than two-thirds share is coming from these markets”. The company said it was taking initiatives to enhance the online booking experience. Last month, it waived off all transaction charges, payment gateway and service charges on train ticket bookings made on its platform. It is also offering an instant refund for cancellations.
While there is no cash back for rail ticket booking, Paytm said it was ploughing back the margins earned on bus and flights tickets in promotions and marketing activities. “We are at a break-even point. If we stop incentives today, we can turn profitable. But our focus is to first expand the reach and then look at profitability,” he added.