India, the world’s biggest democracy, is rapidly becoming the key market to crack for international brands. In a new series of blog posts Anjul Sharma – fluent in Indian culture and languages Hindi, Punjabi & Urdu - looks at the approach to branding in one of the planet’s fastest growing markets.
In my first post I talked about how Taj Hotels and Palaces were wowing travellers with their amazing portfolio of properties, luxury personified and customer service par excellence. This week, lets carry on exploring the customer experience offered by Indian brands – lets start talking about Kingfisher (the airline, not the beer!)
Kingfisher Airlines Limited are India’s largest airline - both in size and market share - operating over 400 flights a day with its regional Indian and international services. Even more impressive, it is one of only six airlines in the world to have a five-star rating from Skytrax. That’s quite something.
Kingfisher was never planning to be a small bird in a big sky – it wanted to be a big bird in a big sky. Chairman Dr. Vijay Mallya made his intentions clear at launch when he said “we are committed to achieving our ambition of making Kingfisher Airlines India’s largest private airline both in capacity and market share by 2010.” Ambitious indeed! But here’s the thing. This was not an empty promise – it’s been a reality which, in my experience, has beautifully and elegantly over-delivered on its promise to the delight of customers.
Let me tell you about my travels on Kingfisher. I’ve flown with them internally within India both in Economy and Business Class. In economy, the stewardesses addressed me by my own name with smiles as big as the Taj Mahal – ‘Good morning Miss Sharma, what can I offer you for your lunch? Would you care to have vegetarian or non-vegetarian?’ ‘Very good Miss Sharma, I’ll get that for you’. By the way, the food was brilliant too. So used to being treated like a battery hen in Economy even in Emirates and Virgin Atlantic, no wonder I was speechless when she knew my name. I later discovered that they pay special attention to females travelling alone and mums with kids. So even in Economy I had the nice Kingfisher male attendant politely ask me for my luggage tag so that he could bring me my suitcase off the carousel.
In Business Class it’s an even better experience. The male Kingfisher attendants met me in the car park by the taxi drop off point. He took my bags and escorted me to a seating area in the check-in lounge. He then took my passport and bags and checked me in, before leading me to the Executive Lounge. The same attendant collected me at the time of boarding to take me through immigration, through the gate, up the stairs to the plane and sat me in my seat. Being used to carrying my own bags everywhere I was somewhat taken aback by this level of service. I told him in Hindi “I feel embarrassed that you are walking in front of me with my bags and I’m walking behind like a Memsahib”. “Madam, you are our guest and it’s our job to look after you” he replied.
Kingfisher demonstrates the power of heartfelt passion for customer service which other carriers and non-aviation based service providers could learn much from. This potent message is captured succinctly on their website…
Welcome to a world without passengers: Welcome aboard Kingfisher Airlines, where you are made to feel like an honoured guest and not just a passenger. At Kingfisher, a flight is not a journey between two airports but an experience of a lifetime.
Every time I’ve flown with Kingfisher, they’ve done just that: treated me not like a passenger, but like a truly honoured guest.