"Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going."
- Paul Theroux

Views & Interviews

Q&A: Ashok R Sankethi, Kaybase Research

November 2017

Ashok R Sankethi is an MR veteran who set up Kaybase in 2005. He has over 25 years of experience in the industry, and worked in leading multinational research firms as well as in small set-ups before setting out on his own.

Kaybase chose to go the non-funded route, and focused on higher levels of research and analytics involvement in their projects and assignments. This has paid off with the firm growing year-on-year - despite depending entirely on repeat business and referrals for new business opportunities.

Ashok has developed and maintained a strong connection with academics over the years – he and his colleagues teach at leading business schools, and Ashok sits on the doctoral committees of several Ph. D scholars. Moreover, along with his colleague Poornima Bhaskaran, he has published a book called Kay’s Book of MR – which is the first book of case studies from an industry perspective. This book is now being used by faculty at over 15 business schools in the country.

Over to our interview with Ashok Sankethi.

Q: From your experience as a research partner of Airda, do you see a further consolidation of the organized sector in the timeshare industry?

We could see some smaller resorts moving out as a result of getting absorbed by the bigger players. I also think we will see new entrants, new products and changing service experiences.

To answer your question, yes, there will be a consolidation of the business as it is now, but the pie will expand, grow and diversify in my opinion.

Q: What are your commonly tagged indicators for growth and market expansion? Are we growing at an acceptable pace?

I think the key indicator here would be penetration of the timeshare industry – I’m referring to the proportion of the population using timeshare plans. I am not sure this is really growing fast enough and my feeling is that two things are acting against it. On the one hand people are ready to spend and indulge here-and-now - which means a one-time holiday and not a timeshare vacation. On the other hand I notice that macroeconomic indicators are visibly dull, which often makes consumers postpone bigger ticket spends.

Q: According to you, is there a visible shift in typical customer profiles?

Yes, there is a visible shift, while the demographic profile is largely the same. Compared to 10 years ago, after adjusting for increases in salaries (for instance) I think there is a very real shift in terms of expectations from the holiday experience. And this can be a wide and varied dashboard - the same consumer could well have different expectations at different times.

Taking this further, with the product evolving around customer needs, one wonders if the new profile of customers will help accelerate growth in the industry. My response to that would be as follows - I am not sure it will accelerate growth so much as lead to development of newer, specialized products.

Q: According to you, how can resorts make timeshare more attractive to new customers?

I would think that it is important to keep upgrading the experience – with reference to all components that make the mix - tangible elements, intangible elements, the assurance factor, or empathy for a customer’s concerns and problems. There’s a whole lot to consider out here.

There is one other thing which I feel strongly about – and this is something I have sometimes heard in informal conversations with friends who are timeshare customers. I feel timeshare companies must stop taking customers for granted (can happen sometimes over a relationship that extends to 25 years.)  While this may sound harsh, I do believe this is a problem that exists.

Q: What are your views on customer retention in the timeshare model.

As I see things, customers are in a way retained because they have paid for the membership upfront. So, in a very physical and money sense, retention is not the issue. Resorts should ensure that annual fees are paid on time over the years, and a constructive relationship is maintained with each customer.

I also think advocacy is the real challenge. And this aspect is important as market dynamics keep changing. Customers MUST see the benefits of owning timeshare, as opposed to being free holidayers – the perceived difference here can be the game changer.

From a delivery model point of view, if newer and specialized products come up - even if for smaller target groups - the industry can evolve into a really mature stage. For that to happen, it requires the entry of a few more deep-pocket players with long term commitments.

Overall, there is a lot to look forward to in India’s timeshare space, and the industry is on the right trajectory to grow, consolidate and make meaningful contributions to the tourism pie.

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