Google to begin flight search in India; what will OTAs do now?
Internet giant Google is all set to launch its flight search feature in India. The flight search tool, which lets users search and book flights directly without the need to go to travel booking portals, was first launched in the US and then in parts of Europe. It also allows users to compare prices and book tickets directly from airlines' Websites. In its international avatar, the flight search page also gives an option to do the same search on OTAs via sponsored links.
The development was first reported by The Economic Times. The report stated that the search giant is 'very close' to unveiling its flight search tool in India, forcing existing players such as MakeMyTrip, Yatra, Cleartrip and Goibibo to ponder over and figure out new strategies to sustain their market position. Google's entry in to the flight search space is likely to make these OTAs more or less redundant in terms of flight search.
Media reports said the OTAs are considering going to the Competition Commission of India to protect their interests. They claim Google is discriminating against them when it comes to search results for queries relating to online travel. We tried to reach MakeMyTrip for a response but it declined to comment on the development.
Google is slowly targeting new segments which have traditionally been fiefdoms of local Internet companies. The product listing ads that Google launched recently will definitely give a fillip to local merchants but price comparison sites will be hit by the new offering. Other such offerings too will hurt the local Internet services though they will help users directly shop or search products/services. Google is emerging a big potential threat for these players because of the scale it can achieve supported by its massive reach function and the sheer quickness with which it can achieve the scale in any business it chooses to enter.
(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)