Making Travel Simple
Cleartrip: The leader in online integrated travel solutions from flights to hotels to experiences
Since the trend of online travel bookings has come into existence, people have shown a clear preference to search and book their travel online. The disruption of the traditional travel industry has made people’s lives more comfortable and secure in terms of travel planning. From flights to hotels to experiences, the new booking trend has brought transparency not only about secure booking confirmation but also in being cost-effective and efficient in today’s fast-paced world while being comprehensive in terms of the options available to the traveller. Over the years, several companies around the world have tried to serve travelers a satisfactory service with their different business models. But among very few successful businesses, Cleartrip has set a new benchmark in online booking for travelers and has positioned itself strongly in travelers’ hearts.
Founded in 2006, Cleartrip is a platform for flight, train, hotel and experiences search and bookings. A brainchild of Hrush Bhatt & Stuart Crighton, Cleartrip is now one of the largest online hotels, experiences and air travel aggregator in India. There are many other companies working in the same domain, but what differentiates Cleartrip is fanatic focus on customer experience and product innovation. Cleartrip offers the single most comprehensive travel experience to users through its award-winning mobile and desktop solutions. Cleartrip is also amongst the largest online businesses in India in terms of GMV and has one of the highest capital efficiency ratios in the industry. The company has also recently launched Cleartrip Experiences to become the first global travel tech company of scale to offer users an opportunity to discover and engage in leisure activities and experiences. To stay true to being a Product Company, Cleartrip believes its Products should be intuitive to even first-time users. In a country like India, where a large section of the population still does not have access to high-speed internet connectivity –performance has also been identified as a key differentiator. Cleartrip, for instance, has optimised its app to load images faster, even on 2G networks, by foregoing the traditional approach of progressive image loading.
Through its intuitive, award-winning mobile and desktop solutions, Cleartrip offers its customers unparalleled convenience, choice, competitive prices and exclusive content.
The passion has paid-off and the company has grown remarkably. Headquartered in India, the company now has footprints across the globe with a strong presence in Middle Eastern countries, like, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Cleartrip is a result-oriented company and the people at the company are continuously striving to enhance the user-experience by making travel simple for their customers across geographies. This in their opinion is the best path for long-term value creation for all their stakeholders. However, they also believe that ends do not always justify means and their value systems place a strong emphasis on always doing the right thing.
Cleartrip brings many new solutions to the market with the help of its tech-pivoted and innovation-focused team. With this pioneering approach, Cleartrip has introduced many industry-first products in the travel market from time to time. The split-screen window for seeing round-trip search results, making airfare calendar with fares across five weeks available, were some of the innovations introduced by the Cleartrip in the market in its early years. It then went on to introduce online train bookings via its mobile app, another industry first! Cleartrip entered the Middle East Market in 2010 and today stands tall as the largest online player in the region.
Expressway, India’s first stored card solution on mobile was introduced by Cleartrip in 2012, thereby laying a foundation stone for making secure online payments swift and easy in the Indian e-commerce ecosystem. The company’s product ‘Cleartrip Mobile’ was listed in Apple’s App Store ‘Best of 2014’ list and has also been featured as the ‘Editor’s Pick’. In 2016 Cleartrip forayed into the Experiences segment to become the world’s most comprehensive travel app ever. Recently, the company announced that its end-to-end travel solutions (air, accommodation & experiences) were now available in Southeast Asia and Europe, adding another 66 countries to its growing full-sleeve multinational presence.
The CEO Magazine finds the company as a great place to work. Through an exclusive interview with Prasad Menon, Sr. VP – People function of Cleartrip about the work culture and a few other topics, our senior editor Abhishek Dubey brings amazing insights to our readers from the wonderful chat.
Here is the edited excerpt:
What kinds of employee achievements are recognized by the company?
An environment where we encourage hearts to feel a sense of belonging, which fosters teamwork, while also challenging Cleartrippers to compete with each other with a spirit of playfulness, is what drives our core system of recognition. These values manifest into intentions by not just ensuring adequate compensation, but more importantly peppering an array of experiences and kindling feelings in an open, special manner.
‘Celebrating exemplary performance’ is our value. It is rooted in all facets of our organisation. Be it our rewards and recognition program, performance management or office celebrations, acknowledging exemplary performance in a very transparent way is key for us.
Cleartrip is completing twelve years of making travel simple this year and in the journey we have always cherished the commitment of our employees who have stood with us over the years. Our recognition program includes Cleartrippers who have shown long-term commitment to Cleartrip. The Cleartrip family encompasses our employees, including our house-keeping staff and the security guards.
Our efforts are also aimed at encompassing the ‘One Tribe’ Cleartrip value and include the extended members of the Cleartrip ‘Tribe’ – the family membersof Cleartrippers, at every possible celebration or recognition opportunity.
Our rewards, engagement initiatives and learning interventions are based on the philosophy of being transparent while valuing meritocracy. Together, we are all empowering an ambitious future.
Can you describe the environment here?
We are on an obsessive mission of ‘Making Travel Simple’ – and driving highly compelling and sophisticated customer experience is one of the fundamental objectives at Cleartrip. We’ve been relentlessly working towards this in a cluttered market and today are known for the simplicity and intuitiveness of our product. Now, to achieve simplicity is complex and this is the challenge that drives every Cleartripper at work every day.
This customer-centric attitude of our culture is built in the way our product is created by passionate Cleartrippers. Harbouring such level of passion and commitment requires Cleartrip to be a home for its people where Cleartrippers can be themselves. Our ‘cool-quirky-fun’ value impresses on our understanding that every Cleartripper has her individuality – something that we cherish.
Office space: We are operating in amulti-geo, multi-national environment. We want the environment to interact and stimulate the minds of our people. Great people with creative minds require an open creative environment and the Cleartrip space is designed just like that. Our office design themes will intrigue you, kindle thought but at the same time will give you a sense of openness with minimalism as an underlying theme. Our office space and collaboration tools speak of our being a tech-driven organisation at the core.
The Cool, Quirky, and Fun’ tribe: While designated break-out and entertainment zones are available it is not rare to see Cleartrippers moving on a scooter, cycling around or being involved playing indoor golf within the workspace. Cleartrippers identify themselves as a part of One Tribe. So whether it is cracking a code or rejuvenating breaks, you’ll see people being comfortable always. They rightly call Cleartrip their ‘second home’. The dress code is casual and there are no restrictions on log-in timings – discretion is key. People getting their kid(s) along is a common sight at Cleartrip. And yes we are a pet-friendly office!
Everyone is accessible: Cleartrip’s offices around the globe harbour a no-cubicle culture; and managers and functional/business heads sit with their respective teams, instead of staying cocooned in cubicles or cabins. This enables a free-flowing channel of constant informal chatter, seamless communication and unfettered conversation. All this enables teams to take faster decisions; work in perfect sync and orchestrated harmony. Such a culture imbibes a feeling of oneness within employees and management alike, a scenario where an employee can walk up to the HOD or the CEO alike, to provide feedback or seek information.
Cleartrippers are hard debaters. We value positive outcomes and keep the objectivity in the discussion to focus on the right thing to do. You will often find us provoking each other’s thoughts
At the ground level, how a Cleartripper feels is close to our heart. We are as obsessive about our eNPS score as about NPS. Cleartrip, being a very vocal and expressive tribe sees over 80% participation in such pulse surveys. We come together each day to fulfil a promise of offering the single most comprehensive travel experience to users, through award-winning Mobile and Desktop solutions.
How does the organization support its employees’ professional development and career growth?
Employees have a strong say in their goal and career path at Cleartrip. Cleartrip has implemented a career architecture program, Autobot to define the career path, job roles and competencies. This program facilitates flexibility, accountability, and scalability for the next decade of growth, while giving an opportunity to Cleartrippers to define their direction of growth. Under Autobot, career ladders and expectations are visible to everyone. Together this empowers the development of conversations to be precise and granular thus keeping the process objective, transparent, methodical and open.
As people climb the ladder, fungibility grows. Fungibility of talent is a major element of our focus on nurturing people. Talent is rotated across roles to give them the necessary breadth and depth of work exposure to accelerate their way to higher levels. Today, we are proud to remark that many Cleartrippers who joined us as freshers have been challenged and nurtured in a way that they are a part of the executive leadership team.
Another aspect of employee professional and career development at Cleartrip is our unique program LEAP (Leading through Exemplary Action & Performance). LEAP is our Performance Nurturing Program (as against industry’s Performance Management Program) where individual development is a key focus area. True to the core of being an organisation that stands up for what is right, we did away with bell curves and ratings that artificially force-bucketed our people and joined the league of few pioneers across the globe to foster a culture of honest conversations that are growth-oriented.
How does your company respond to and overcome failures?
At Cleartrip, we follow the mantra of ‘fail fast and learn from your experience’. We believe that you need to entrust your people with responsibility and independence at work. At the same time we understand that failure is a possible outcome. We give our employees the necessary arsenal and trust, and more than often they shine bright with a scintillating performance.
What we have created at Cleartrip is a unique culture of undertaking risks. The message flows top-down. Cleartrip’s strategic stance on standing up as an organisation that is focusing on value-creation as against reckless discounting that other industry players are going after sends a powerful message to our employees. The same was the case when Cleartrip was among the pioneers to stand-up for net neutrality and challenge something that the entire industry was gunning after. Most recently, in the heated debate on privacy, Cleartrip holds a special mention and industry acknowledgement as a pioneer organisation that has enabled its customers with an account delete feature ever since 2014. What better way to tell your employees that it is OK to be different as long as you know what you are doing is the right thing to do?
Even at a team level, we don’t bury our failures. We talk about it, learn from it and get inspired by it. We understand that success is built on failure and is an important part of every fulfilling journey.
How are employees recognized for their efforts?
At Cleartrip, fairness and transparency are the two key tenets around which every reward program is designed and implemented. We have enabled an online program called ‘Xtramiles’ to celebrate Cleartrippers who go the extra mile. The program is designed for flexibility, instant appreciation and social visibility for the recipient.
Performance has been at the core of all our reward programs. Our PLRP (Performance-Linked Reward Program) is a unique monetary reward program especially for those Cleartrippers who have knocked it out of the park. Our quarterly performance pay is completely decentralised and provides a timely opportunity for Cleartrippers to experience an upside in their earning potential.
We also have our high potential high performing talent, the CT Top10 group included in an ongoing Ignite project for solving some unique organisation-wide challenges across diverse streams, a coveted opportunity to learn on the job. This gives them an opportunity to get a macro level picture of the organization and develop their skills in areas that may not be directly related to their work. This keeps them challenged and allows them to rub shoulders with many other brightest minds in the organisation.
What is the work-life balance like here?
Care is in the roots of the organisation and we create our employee policies with utmost precision to make them optimal and comprehensive. Our aim is always to benchmark the benefits for Cleartrippers in the top quartile in the industry.
Having said that, we never refer to policies when a Cleartripper is in need. The Cleartrip history is replete with examples in form of special leaves, flexi timing, financial help and special assistance, etc. which show how the organisation bends backwards in whatever manner possible to ensure well-being for Cleartrippers.
For us, the fun quotient is a serious affair. The employee events are a serious and well thought-out feature in Cleartrip. In line with the culture of openness, transparency and an innovative spirit, the employee events are planned by the employees and for them. These again are crafted in a way so as to help bring out the best in every Cleartripper.
With an objective to inculcate a sense of a healthy work-life balance, we introduced a Wellness Strategy at Cleartrip – FitTrip. It helped get a reality check of how healthy our physical being is. Something that is directly correlated to how well we perform at work, and when it comes to the wellbeing of our Tribe, we vehemently rallied behind. Employees were given a fitness band each and access to Professional Health & Nutrition Coaches, who worked with them to set personalised goals and provided a positive reinforcement of a healthy work-life balance.
Does the company host social outings or events for employees?
We are a quirky set of people. We always ensure that Cleartrippers get to celebrate their hard work and commitment together in two gala annual parties – the anniversary party and the year end party which are conducted in the form of a major bash that employees look forward to.
Other than the big orchestrated events, the more decentralised opportunities for collaboration outside the work environment are also considered invaluable at creating the necessary energy and aligning thoughts across our multi-geography offices. Inter-function team outings are also not rare.
We believe that travel can be a powerful agent for detoxing. We offer employees with ample opportunities to satiate their wanderlust in the form of rewards.
Community gets its due importance at Cleartrip. Cleartrip has been associated with the Magician Foundation and the Magic Bus foundation since the early years of these NGOs. The association entails purposeful outings with the members of the NGO giving them time, energy and compassion – something that Cleartrippers have always actively participated in.
Is the company’s strategic approach driven by processes or results?
We are a result-oriented company operating in a dynamic environment. When it comes to solving for travel problems the world has merely seen the tip of the iceberg and a lot remains to be done. As we are now scaling our ambition, there is equal emphasis on what should be in place to help meet our goals. There is a need for simplicity and scalability to aiding that process. This in our opinion is the best direction for long-term value creation for all our stakeholders.
As we tread newer territories of the travel solutioning field and expand our geographic footprint we don’t want to lose the sense of family and the startup-culture that we have always cherished.
We have placed a huge amount of trust on Cleartrippers whom we believe are judicious and responsible. We also believe that ends do not always justify means and our value systems place a strong emphasis on always doing the right thing.
What is the road map and future plans of the company?
Cleartrip is one of the early innovators and leaders in the e-commerce space in India with our strong product interface and focus on customer experience helping millions of Indians build trust in buying travel solutions online. We started off as an air only product and over the years have augmented choice for our customers by adding hotels and experiences to our offerings. This breadth of product diversification remains unparalleled in the industry and we will continue to enhance these offerings and develop new offerings in line with our stated objective of “Making Travel Simple”. In addition to this, we also believe that our product can be successfully leveraged to solve for customer needs in other emerging markets that are witnessing a shift from offline to online channels aided by the increased internet and mobile penetration. We have already demonstrated our ability to execute geographic diversification successfully by becoming market leaders in UAE in a short span of time and we will continue to look for opportunities to delight customers in related travel corridors across India, the Middle East and North Africa. We believe that we are positioned to demonstrate strong growth and leadership across these offerings and geographies while maintaining a sharp focus on profitability. This unique mix of superlative customer experience, market leadership, product diversification, pan-regional presence and healthy unit economics will allow us to create substantial value for our customers, shareholders, employees and partners in the coming years.