Saturday, December 08, 2018

Vistara: Mission International

New car, caviar, four star daydream…. Any “cool” kid who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s will recognise that line from Pink Floyd’s ‘Money’, from the hit album Dark Side of the Moon. It’s also a song that you’re likely to hear played on any Vistara flight. That one line alone seems to describe what Vistara wants to be—the four-star dream airline. But more on Vistara’s ambition later. For now, let’s listen to the music.

“We play blues, jazz, and soft rock as our boarding and landing music on our A320neos. Together with the mood lighting, this creates a warm and welcoming club-like atmosphere that appeals to our target segment. This is a place they can relax and feel like they belong, with comfort music from their school and college days in India or abroad,” explains Sanjiv Kapoor, chief strategy and commercial officer, Vistara. The younger fliers, he adds, who may not have grown up on Pink Floyd or even Louis Armstrong, seem to enjoy the music, and the airline has got positive feedback on its playlists.

The club-like atmosphere Kapoor speaks about is something Vistara is trying to recreate, not just through its choice of music, but also through the menus it offers, and the overall ambience. “Vistara has maintained a distinct identity for itself,” says Harish Bijoor, brand expert and founder, Harish Bijoor Consults. He compares Vistara to “what Jet Airways used to be in the old days”.

As one of the youngest airlines in an increasingly crowded space, Vistara, which was launched in 2015, has managed to stand out by refusing to be seen as a low-cost carrier. Its focus on premium offerings has led to inevitable comparisons with that other premium airline, Kingfisher. Of course, Kingfisher came to a bad end, but that was not because its premium positioning did not work. Vistara doesn’t have the same financial baggage that Kingfisher had to contend with; as a joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines, its lineage is spotless.

In the three years that it has been in business, Vistara’s positioning has worked in its favour. There have been people more than happy to pay more to get more—more legroom, more food choices, more perks. It hasn’t translated into a healthy bottom line yet, but that’s something nobody is very concerned about just yet. Airlines generally take at least five years to show a profit, and that depends a lot on global fuel price movements as well.

Vistara is now looking at the international market as a way to turn in a profit. “Without international it is very difficult for an airline to make money,” explains Dhiraj Mathur, partner, leader-aerospace & defence at PwC India. That’s why every domestic airline in India today has global ambitions; recently, even a company as small as GoAir has announced its plans to foray abroad.
08/11/18 Arnika Thakur, Purba Das/Fortune India