Shreyas Kulkarni

"The return rate of our core consumers is 90 per cent": OYO’s Mayur Hola

The global brand head speaks about their latest campaign, the power of OYO’s tech, and weighs on in-house teams versus agencies.

The travel and hospitality sector is making a recovery, albeit a cautious but much-needed one. It was perhaps the worst-hit sector last year. More and more people are splurging on domestic trips, workcations… The moods of “revenge tourism” and “leisure travel" have begun to bloom.

OYO, a leading hotel chain has been urging people to travel since September since October last year when the lockdowns were mostly pulled and people had begun to gain the confidence to move outside their cities.

Its most recent campaign featuring actress Neena Gupta and actor/lyricist Swanand Kirkire caught our (afaqs!) eye the most of all its campaigns in the past eight months.

Also Read: Middle-aged, and yet looking hot; OYO’s latest spot is an endearing retort to “Log kya sochenge”

Called “Yeh Rishta Hai Bada Khiska”, the campaign featured four ads that showed how this middle-aged couple kept their spark and love alive… all four spots took place inside an OYO hotel room. But, it turns out it was not a real room. “We found a room on the OYO app and recreated it,” revealed Mayur Hola, the hotel chain’s global brand head.

What intrigued us about the campaign was the casting choice i.e. the middle-aged couple. Why? Because OYO’s core TG is the younger audience (19-25-year-olds)… Said Hola, “Our core consumer for same city bookings tends to be a young audience. Equally, 40 per cent of our bookings come from small-medium businesses and a large chunk is also coming from business folks. We’ve to be cognizant of it and reflect it in a relationship campaign.”

Mayur Hola
Mayur Hola

He went on to remark that “the whole couple dimension has been represented in a very male-dominated way.”

The brand speaks to its customers before any campaign and for this particular one, it did the same. “Women from our team called women staying with us, 80 per cent said they take the decision when it came to choosing the room.”

So a wide diaspora beyond young folks that regularly stay with you and the aspect of women leading the decision-making process were two of the important aspects that led to this campaign, said the global brand head.

Speaking about Gupta and Kirkire, he told us the actress was a natural choice because she’s a great representation to cut across ages. As for Kirkire, Hola’s known him from his agency days and while the couple seemed an unusual pairing, it was “nice and fresh” to accomplish the campaign’s goal.

Parallel campaigns

The February campaign was a refreshing detour from OYO’s earlier campaigns that relied on geography. Be it 'Chal Pahad' in October, 'Chal Beach Chalein' in December or the Registaan in January… But, this one emphasized more relationships that locations. We wondered if we would see such differing campaigns run simultaneously in the coming months.

“If you notice, we are going through demand patterns,” remarked Hola and went on to credit his in-house team that, because it is close to the business, can respond to trends/pattern quickly.

“These are small-scale productions which don’t mean they lack quality, it means we have more control over them, we can respond to data coming in and we can put these out”

Also Read: "Leisure travel will be a huge focus for us this year": OYO's Mayur Hola

We will keep activating different pockets of India and we will continue to do that as they keep opening up. Equally “brand building” – communication we did in February is something we will continue to develop as all brands do, said Hola.

The in-house versus agency conundrum

It’s one of those debates that will continue to thrive. We asked the global brand head that while he and his team dole out these campaigns, are they missing out on those ideas agencies generate and discuss… Please note Hola has worked at agencies such as Havas, Contract, McCann, Ogilvy, TBWA, and Grey.

He was quick to respond that all of his colleagues have spent a good enough time at agencies and very and observant of whatever is going on. “Ask us what’s happening, we’d have seen it…”

He told us the benefits of working as an in-house team was the fact that “you manage all aspects of the brand across all ecosystems, you have observations on not just the large campaigns but pretty much everything that goes on – CRM, push notifications, mailers…”

There’s a bunch of talented people that make it look good and OYO even better. I don’t think we miss that, we’ve learnt well from that system and applied it well here.

Tech at its heart

While our conversation with Hola was around their campaign, a brief part of it revolved around how technology was the beating heart of this brand.

“If you take away the higher price point game/market in the travel and hospitality market, basically we’re ubiquitous with space in this country…” remarked Hola and then went on to say that because of this fact, the return rate of their power users (core consumers) is 90 per cent.

We were told technology plays a huge role here. For instance, he claimed you can book an OYO room within three to five seconds on the app once you get the hang of it.

Our tech allows the partner to run the hotel, it’s not just only about the demand. It enables him to set pricing as per his comfort, as per his local knowledge. "This is why we go back to data and tech each time we talk," signed off Hola.