Traveling back from Parel today (Visa on arrival) flickering through Twitter, saw a couple of RT (retweet) on what is now being termed The Kiruba incident by ClearTrip itself; The ClearTrip episode: my experience Part I by Kiruba Shankar and as ClearTrip resolution of a neo-influencer complaint is a case-study by Rajesh Lalwani of Blogworks; besides other comments being tweeted so on & forth.

At the outset let me clarify the following:

  • I do not know Kiruba Shankar personally, except having exchanged some tweets & mail some time ago
  • I do not know Rajesh Lalwani in any capacity – never having met him, hired him or been hired by him.
  • I do not know ClearTrip as an Organization, except Matthew Spacie – One of their founders with whom I worked in the distant past.
  • I have not bothered to read/book anything on ClearTrip except Domestic Hotels long ago but found my personal direct rates were superior.

Having read all the three blogs; been on both sides of the Fence not so long ago myself think that there are many facts said & left unsaid by virtue of which people with half baked knowledge have just piled on to the band wagon on all 3 blogs with a view to put in their two bits in whatever form as a means of so called social media or online activism. Crap. The expectations of a few are simple – convey support maybe since they know one of the two parties personally, for the others use the medium to comment & expect a reply or track back – cleartrip has to answer or get accused of not being customer friendly; Kiruba may not care either way; Rajesh may get one of his people to monitor & use it later to add to the study.

One tweet that I recall quite vividly was @Kiruba asking where would you book an international ticket or similar & my reply – offline, travel agent – surprising is it not coming from someone who ran the combined sites for ICICI VentureJ

Then the forum tweet from Kiruba sometime ago & a friend offline asking what would happen to Kiruba & a couple of others laughing ‘ClearTrip would make a call & it would be sorted out’

Today having read The ClearTrip episode: my experience Part I by Kiruba Shankar some thoughts occur to me:

1)    When the email comes, why rush to the Malaysian Embassy? Pick up the phone blast ClearTrip for not being clear. (Here I presume that the website, mail make no mention of requirements to book an international ticket, in which case there is a contradiction regarding Name on Passport & Ticket)

2)    Typically, a website has auto generated mails based on Time Limit for bookings – wonder how this did not happen – maybe filter put them in Spam?

3)    Casual approach – asking for additional money is a complete NO NO as unless there is heavy overbooking (a laugh this year) & even if there were, there is no reason for them to do this to a regular customer.

4)   Solution – BULL – There is no way this money needed to be paid & paid for what? Which class of ticket was issued, that such a heavy penalty was levied?

5)     Received the PNR – It has to be the new one, since in an automated system as soon as the fresh booking (presumably) is carried out & a click is sent for email, there is no way the old PNR is sent automatically. Somebody is pulling a real fast one here.

6)     At the airport VOID – Hey Hey What did I say earlier? If the ticket has expired then it should not reflect & the new PNR would reflect in the airline sheet, does not matter what class or what name.

7)     And BTW if 2 tickets were booked simultaneously, both without Visa, WTF generate 2 PNR when one can work just as easily

8)    This IDEA business of counter & agency is very good SIRJI & exists worldwide:)

NOW for The Kiruba incident by ClearTrip posted by Hrush Bhatt. I would say a Response & a good one at that – the other transparency etc. I do not know their business model hence cannot comment. However some thoughts here:

1)    Written extremely passionately, which is definitely a must have for a founder.

2)     You are in the online space, a Brand, who also claims to use social media in whatever form quite successfully in which case accept the speed at which a Backlash comes, particularly when one of the leading limelight with 00’s of followers’ updates his status. And remember Negativity always flows faster.

3)    The other point about customer centric etc. is a basic template that is nice.

4)     And there are no 3 parties, there are only 2 – ClearTrip & Kiruba

a.     In point 1 it is clearly your fault, the email should have specified all requirements etc. And if you had not ticketed but made a reservation on time limit basis, why ask for additional money?

b.     Point 2 contradicts Point 1 in terms of ticket issuance.

c.     Airline had no role to play if ClearTrip had given the right PNR & as suggested earlier have a single PNR for both tickets, unless the airline has discontinued doing so.

5)    Your recovery of the problem created including paying out of your pocketJ is extremely admirable & well executed.

6)     Twitters asking explanation is warranted based on ClearTrip being a transparent customer centric business, so why worry about it.

7)     Is the media, people not screaming for Dhoni’s head? Does it mean he shall retire & stop playing cricket, NO Life, Business goes on?

8)    On a lighter note, your social media manager actually has the time to count for & against tweetsJ Please remember Negativity always travels faster…

Finally ClearTrip resolution of a neo-influencer complaint is a case-study by Rajesh Lalwani of Blogworks. My thought here is that it is a nice balanced PR post because that is how the case study has been evaluated.

Some common questions that probably may remain unanswered from an outsider perspective:

1) What would have happened if Kiruba was not a power blogger, twitter with followers etc?

2) What would have happened if it were an offline travel agency?

3) What would have been the case if Hrush Bhatt did not blog, did not have a forum, did not have person (social media manager) who tweeted & kept an eye open?

4) Would it have become a case study that Rajesh wrote about or Kiruba presented today at the PR association of Bangalore?

So YES, the online community (or the oft used Social Media) if networked or used works. More power to it.

I agree with Rajesh when he recommends that ClearTrip tops it with something that screams ‘We Care’. This will only add to the mystique of online & prepare a case study with findings that has helped you change the internal processes to overcome such lapses in future for everyone not only power bloggers.

On the other hand, Yes Kiruba has every right to be royal pissed off, but at the same time, being an entrepreneur accepts the fact that there was an element of lapse on his part that could have avoided the problem in the beginning – which he graciously accepted. And yes this has added to your repertoire of case study so that acceptance along with the way ClearTrip has accepted should be laid to rest.

The biggest Learning which this episode leaves behind:

  • People – online/offline – love to talk about the negative things first & take unholy pride in doing so. Accept that
  • Media & other publicity is always a bonus & can reap rich dividends if harvested with honesty & transparency.
  • It does not matter what business & how you conduct it, customers will only become more demanding as knowledge & information grows.
  • Accept that mistakes shall happen & as volume grows, more so, however as long as the % is manageable & action taken immediately it should not be a problem
  • Mistakes, learning from them are the cost of doing Business!

I had written about @Cleartrip here and hope that it shall give me an opportunity to change my view soon.

Written by AD
ex waiter, angadia, travel agent, dotcomer, dukaandaar, marketeer, people watcher. appreciates single malt, food, friends