Kingfisher: The Rampup

Kingfisher quickly ramped up its no of planes and routes. But the real innovative aspects were:
1. First Class
2. Cash frequent flyer advantage
3. King Club

The KF first class is really something. The experience starts from the time one enters the airport as the baggage is carried for you to the plane. The ride from the terminal to the plane is in a car or in a bus fitted with sofas instead of the usual coach. The seats are comfortable and adjustable. In addition to the being flatter compared to jet seats, the KF first seats have adjustable lumber support and foot support (though some of those haven’t worked for me many times!). A TV screen can be brought out but is a bit painful to handle. The service is excellent with more choice in the drinks and food. The presentation of the food is great. As far as food and drinks are concerned, its like being in a 5-star in the sky. The experience continues on landing with the special bus and the luggage being carried to your car.

Kingfisher also realised that Jet’s lead was essentially due to the corporate traveller who stuck with Jet because of the accumulated Jetmiles. Its attack on that aspect was fantastic. KF realised that most corporate travellers take the first flight out and are back the same day. So first they matched their flight times within 15 mins of Jet times. Second, they offered a thousand ruppees if one took a flight back the same day! Thus, one got cash of Rs 1,000 in hand instead of cashing the jetmiles later. It was of course controversial as the tickets were purchased by the company and the money collected by the employee. There were also tax issues. In the end, the scheme got dropped and a frequent flyer scheme introduced.

The frequent flyer scheme was also innovative. KF realised that the immediate benefit for most people was the ability to tele check-in and hence they lowered the entry barrier. At jet one needs 10 flights to be able to tele check-in while the king club allows one to do that in 3 flights. Another expected response which did come was to give a Gold card to anyone who had a Jet Gold/Platinum. This was done through the employers to get a good coverage.

Overall, aggressive launch followed up with aggressive ramp-up. Paints a picture of a new boxer punching the older and larger guy into the corner. So the next post on how Jet has responded.

Importance of mental models in Innovation

My own discussion at Barcamp was centered around Innovation in large IT services firms such as TCS. A bulk of the audience had exposure to IT Services but almost no one believed that there was any innovation in the large IT Services firms.

It was a free flowing discussion where I wanted to hear as much from the audience as to leave them with something worthwhile. We spent a lot of time talking about how mental models inhibit or foster innovation.

We asked ourselves questions like what exactly is IT Services? Are the lines as dictated by conventional wisdom really hard lines on the ground or mere simplifying mental assumptions that need to be questioned from time to time? Does innovation start by challenging conventional wisdom?

I firmly believe that one has to continually probe at the received wisdom of the day to really see what new can be done. At the same time, one has to respect the received wisdom because its established for a good reason. Let’s take an example: Google is an example of business service enabled by strong IT. Is there something to be learnt for IT Services companies? At the first blush no, because the ad-driven revenue model is far out from current business. Not core competence as some would say. But does the basic concept of providing service to one party using strong IT and collecting money from a third depending upon the quality of service extendable to IT Services? At TCS, the answer has been yes!

Case in point: MCA21 project of government of India where TCS is directly responible for provision of service to customers and collects money from the government. The money collected depends upon the quality of service just as the ad revenue depends upon click through in Google’s model. And this is not the first time this was done. A precusrsor to this with a slightly different model was APonline which provides citizen services on behalf of Govt of AP. APOnline is 80% owned by TCS.

Bottomline: Conventional wisdom challenged but in a more realistic way which is closer to the core business. No hard and fast rules but the best way is to try and learn.