Building the “spiciest” airline brand in India: Interview with SpiceJet COO
In the past year, I’ve featured interviews with a number airline executives and branding experts. Here’s one with a person I feel has a very good grasp of the airline industry and is not afraid to speak his mind. In his crisp answers, Sam Sridharan, Chief Operating Officer of SpiceJet, one of India’s foremost low cost carriers, speaks of what makes SpiceJet so good, and why branding is a work in progress.
No Indian LCC has a distinct brand positioning, yet
Sam believes that since LCCs in India are only 3 years old, in the consumer’s mind, they’re all the same. Most of the LCCs are still very price driven, and have not built a distinct brand positioning yet. Full service carriers certainly have cues that come to mind, like Jet Airways signifies efficient service, and Kingfisher Airlines bring forth their flamboyant image. Air Deccan was probably the only one with a strong brand positioning – make the common man fly, but it’s now dissolved.
The SpiceJet Brand
When asked what customers feel the SpiceJet brand stands for, Sam answers, “warmth, Indian-ness, “Masti”(fun) and vibrancy.” SpiceJet is four years old, and the three years wasn’t the right time to make the brand statement. But now, the timing is perfect. Over the next 12 mths, SpiceJet aims to evolve from the price-centric positioning to that of a mature brand. And all of this will be translated in the brand experience and delivery.
A Work in-progress
SpiceJet aims to become an efficient airline that offers value for money. What is value for money? According to Sam, it’s on time performance, pricing and quality of service delivery. To build the brand positioning in that manner, SpiceJet seldom does price-only promotions. The more you cue in price, the more the tendency to come across as a “cheap airline”.
Some of their recent promotions have read, “It’s not lonely at the top anymore” for a buy one-get-one-free ticket scheme. On Children’s Day, any child flies for free. Again, parents often accompany their children. The idea is to get people to buy the two adult tickets. The most successful promotions are about value, not just the price.
I’m sure you’ll enjoy this interview as much as I did. Special thanks to Deepa Dey and Mohona Chakrawarti for all their “Spicy” hospitality belted out to me at their headquarters just outside Delhi.
What did you think of Sam’s ideas? Is SpiceJet heading in the right direction with regards to their brand? How would you compare Sam’s plans with that of Sanjay from Indigo, featured last week? Which one if more likely to succeed? Let’s discuss.