What makes Indigo Airlines one of the best budget carriers in India?
I flew on Indigo Airlines for the first time about three weeks ago. This was a flight from Bangalore to Jaipur, via Ahmedabad, in India. All airline staff seemed to have a spring in their step that morning, from the point of check-in, where I was greeted by a lady smiling ear-to-ear. But the best seemed to be reserved for in-flight.
When the stewardess, Neha Shenoy, came to ask me if I wanted any drinks or sandwiches, she greeted me by name. Yes, you read that right. I was asked, “Mr. Nigam, how’re you doing today? Would you like to have some sandwiches…?” I was bowled over. It was the first time I was being greeted by name, in an Economy Class on a domestic sector in India. Something that’s usually a feature of international Business Class on reputed carriers like Singapore Airlines had somehow made its way to this Indian budget airline. And very simply too. Neha was carrying a copy of the passenger list on her cart, and just read out my name from there. A simple method. But very, very effective. I got a drink from her.
But that was just the beginning of my fascination with the airline. I managed to get in touch with a senior executive at Indigo and had a candid chat with him about what makes the airline so successful that it has captured 15% of the Indian market in just a short time.
Three tenets of success for Indigo Airlines
Sanjay Kumar has been with Indigo Airlines for almost two years now, having previously made SpiceJet a runaway success upon launch in India. Sanjay is the Chief Commercial Officer at the airline and is responsible for generating revenue and building a sustainable business model for the airline.
When I asked him what makes Indigo so successful, he mentioned three key tenets for success: affordable fares, on-time performance and hassel-free travel. These may seem like big words, but I personally experienced this while flying the airline. The fare was the second-lowest on the sector I flew, and I picked the flight because of its superior on-time performance as compared to others on the same route. In fact, even in-flight, there was emphasis on these three tenets, especially on-time performance. As for hassle free travel, I found the planes to be extremely clean and soothing music was being played upon boarding and alighting from the plane. Even the turnaround in Ahmedabad was extremely efficient, which took less than 15 mins!
Focus on excellent customer service pays off
It’s Indigo’s emphasis on ensuring a great customer experience during interactions with the airline that is doing wonders for the brand. Sanjay shares that special attention is paid to ensuring consistency in service across the A320 fleet and the experience at the airport matches that on-board the plane. In congested Indian airports, Indigo has roving “check-in counters” where passengers with only cabin baggage can check-in with an Indigo official with a handheld device, rather than lining up at the check-in counter. Another simple, yet effective measure.
Personally, I feel Indigo is on track to be one of the best airlines in India, especially with such experienced professionals like Sanjay at its helm. And I’m not alone in this thinking.
For now, I’d like to invite you to watch Sanjay’s interview and hear straight from the man himself, on how he and his team of less than 20 have created an airline in India that everyone seems to be talking about. Do turn up the volume a little.
What are your thoughts about Sanjay’s strategies? Are they easily duplicatable around the world? Why is it that some airlines like those in the US seem to have stopped caring about customer service? Let’s discuss…
Do look out for Part 2 of this interview this Friday, when Sanjay talks about Indigo’s brand strategy and the Indian aviation scene.