EaseMyTrip Highlights MakeMyTrip’s Chinese Ownership In Nationalism Play

All’s fair in love and war — and business.

EaseMyTrip has been highlighting the Chinese ownership of its biggest competitor MakeMyTrip since the Maldives-Lakshadweep row broke out, hoping to get users to switch to its services instead. EaseMyTrip CEO Nishant Pitti shared a post on X which highlighted the directors listed on MakeMyTrip’s website, of which two were Chinese. “So the company MakeMyTrip will never suspend their operations for Maldives because they have CHINESE board of directors! We have to see where it’s loyalty lies to Indian Pride or the Chinese Stooges. Support EaseMyTrip who has more Nationalistic Sentiments!” a post by a social media user said. Pitti shared the post, while adding a “Got it” of his own.

It’s unclear if it was Pitti’s post that was the catalyst, but #UninstallMakeMyTrip soon began trending, with Indian users urging each other to uninstall the MakeMyTrip app. Several pledged to never use MakeMyTrip again, and said they’d instead switch to EaseMyTrip, which was fully Indian-owned. Soon people began sharing memes with tags like Vocal for Local with pictures of MakeMyTrip’s Chinese directors. Over 1 lakh tweets with the hashtag #UninstallMakeMyTrip were shared yesterday.

What brought about this situation was the snowballing of a simple visit to the Lakshadweep islands by Indian PM Narendra Modi. As the picturesque shots from his visit went viral, some Indian social media users began urging other Indians to visit Lakshadweep instead of foreign alternatives like Maldives. This wasn’t taken to kindly by some ministers in the Maldives government, who responded with disparaging remarks about “smelly” and dirty hotel rooms in India, and said that Lakshadweep could never hope to compete with Maldives. Some of these Ministers’ earlier Hinduphobic tweets with references to cow-dung were also unearthed, and this led to Indians netizens calling for a boycott of travel to Maldives. As the Maldives government scrambled to make amends, first distancing itself from the ministers who’d made the remarks and then suspending them, travel portal EaseMyTrip made the most of the situation by saying that it was suspending all flight bookings to Maldives.

This was wildly appreciated on Indian social media, and Nishant Pitti’s stance went viral. The results have already shown on the stock markets and EaseMyTrip’s stock has risen more than 10 percent over the last two days. But social media users noticed that while EaseMyTrip had suspended all flight bookings to Maldives, its bigger competitor MakeMyTrip hadn’t done so. Many took this to be an outcome of MakeMyTrip’s Chinese holdings — Maldives currently has a pro-China government, and users thought that MakeMyTrip’s stance was being dictated by their Chinese owners.

While it’s unclear why MakeMyTrip didn’t suspend flight bookings to Maldives, it certainly has a sizable Chinese stake in its business. In 2019, China-based CTrip had acquired a 49 percent stake in MakeMyTrip after its original South African investor Naspers had exited. And EaseMyTrip seems to be capitalizing on this fact as it looks to draw users away from its chief rival.

And it might be a smart strategy to do so. MakeMyTrip is India’s largest bookings platform with a 55 percent market share, followed by EaseMyTrip at around 8 percent. Travel bookings is a largely commoditized business, and the prices and user experiences on different platforms are now largely the same. As such, EaseMyTrip appears to be using its homegrown swadesi card to compete against its bigger China-owned rival. And with India-China relations the way they have been over the last few years, the move might actually get plenty of Indians to switch from MakeMyTrip to an Indian alternative.