Agoda’s Krishna Rathi on recent marketing results & building a stronger presence with AI

In a competitive market like India, establishing a strong brand presence is crucial. Krishna Rathi of Agoda India shares insights into the company's strategic decision to start investing in advertisements and innovative marketing approaches that have helped Agoda connect with the Indian audience on a deeper level.

Shamita Islur
New Update
Agoda’s Krishna Rathi

Planning to travel soon? You are surely taking a look at different sites, locations and best prices for accommodations. This particular insight that people choose to extensively research and plan their travels is utilised by the digital travel platform, Agoda in its marketing. 

In February 2024, the brand created over 200 videos for different destinations, featuring brand ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana with a setting showing him travelling to that particular destination. This advertisement aimed at prompting viewers to book deals on Agoda for that particular destination - all with the help of artificial intelligence (AI). 

In 2023, AI campaigns were available in abundance with brands personalising content based on user behaviour. Not only this, summer and winter travel are two key seasons for travel planning in India and the brand aligns its initiatives accordingly, as per Krishna Rathi, Senior Country Director - India Subcontinent & Maldives, Agoda.

Aligning these two insights, the brand created personalised ads in collaboration with Blink Digital and's generative AI technology. If someone was watching YouTube videos to research a possible holiday to Phuket in Thailand, the brand would show them a video ad where Ayushmann mentions Phuket. 



“The voice-over, lip-syncing, and footage were all processed with the help of AI, making the ad extremely personal. We can’t share specific data, but I can confirm that we saw an uptick in most of the metrics vs. non-personalized ads,” shares Rathi as he talks about experimenting with the technology. 

According to Google, advertisers using AI-driven campaigns typically see 18% more conversions for the same cost compared to those who don't use AI. IBM's experience with AI-personalised creatives also showed the click-through rates (CTR) increasing by over 113%, and the overall campaign effectiveness improved by 120%.

Focus on personalisation

The summer season, which marks roughly March to June in India, saw Agoda ramping up its marketing efforts. “Apart from the performance marketing initiatives that are always on, we ramped up the AI-generated creatives to target travellers looking for summer first destinations,” mentions Rathi. 

The brand also launched its new brand campaign with Ayushmann last week across multiple channels including TV. 


Set in a home setting, the ad shows Ayushmann Khurrana’s wall filled with travel photos, as his friends ask him about his travels. He explains that these trips are made possible due to Agoda’s affordable prices. 

According to a report by McKinsey & Company, domestic travel in India has surpassed pre-COVID levels in 2023, and international trips are expected to witness significant growth, projecting an increase from 13 million in 2022 to 80 million in 2040.

While Agoda has been active in India since 2008 and has maintained the third position as one of the top platforms that dominate India's growing travel market, surprisingly, the brand only began advertising in 2023. 

While the brand has had its strengths in performance marketing, Rathi shares that a brand campaign isn’t something they do in every market. 

“When we do decide to do a brand campaign, we’ll make sure it’s tailor-made for the market. You won’t see Agoda doing a one-size-fits-all advert with an audio dub as the only localization. India is one of only a select few markets where Agoda invests in brand campaigns.” 

Agoda's decision to launch significant brand campaigns in India stemmed from the realisation of their inventory and competitive pricing and the pandemic played a pivotal role in this discovery. 

"Our confidence in our international inventory was always high, but the pandemic highlighted our strength in domestic offerings as well," explains Rathi. 

As travel restrictions confined people to domestic travel, the brand’s localised efforts focusing on customer experience showed that it could attract Indian customers for both domestic and international travel.

Media Strategy 

To sustain growth in a market such as India, apart from the right offering, it’s important to focus on affinity as well as awareness, as per Rathi, noting that India's market is diverse and has a strong affinity for storytelling. 

To build upon storytelling, the brand’s first TV campaign relied on a relatable point for consumers. If your friends, family or neighbours are travelling, they are sure to bring souvenirs, with the common gifts being fridge magnets. 

As part of the ‘See The World For Less’ campaign, the brand released an ad where Khurrana is seen gifting fridge magnets to his next-door neighbour from the many destinations he visited. Perplexed as to how he manages to travel so much, the neighbour asks him to explain. This leads Khurrana to share that travel is possible due to the affordability provided by the brand.


“With TV we have seen positive results on awareness build-up,” says Rathi, highlighting that TV is relevant and an impactful non-digital channel to reach the masses.

However, the brand is a digital travel platform hence digital stays an important media channel. Rathi mentions that the brand experiments on the media strategy that suits its immediate and long-term objectives. 

The brand’s first digital campaign featuring Rashmika Mandanna was released in 2022. It addressed the pain points of planning travel with family as one tries to accommodate everyone’s needs. In the ad, her family is seen debating over different aspects of the vacation and their personal preferences including affordability, activities, spacious rooms, free breakfast and more, which is ultimately resolved after Mandanna plans to travel through the platform.


The brand’s digital presence builds upon highlighting the various benefits offered on the platform as influencers are seen travelling to destinations, providing tips on the best places to visit and doing so sustainably. 


“For any brand aiming to connect with the Indian audience on a personal and deeper level, leveraging storytelling that resonates with the masses is essential and the same is possible through brand-building initiatives,” Rathi comments.

Through relatable storytelling and personalisation efforts with AI, the brand has enhanced efficiency and delivered relevant messages to the right audience. The brand’s core focus has been centred around technology when it comes to marketing initiatives. 

Agoda's CEO Omri Morgenshtern recently mentioned that searches in India on the platform had grown 60% since 2019. With this, Rathi sees immense potential in AI beyond personalisation. AI in advertising is rapidly growing and by 2028, the market is expected to reach $107 billion

Agoda's marketing strategy, driven by innovation and an understanding of the Indian market, helps it to connect with Indian travellers. With monsoons taking over, the brand will focus on developing affinity. 

“Our intent is to stick to our localised approach, be more relatable to consumers and serve them relevant ads and our new initiatives align with this approach,” Rathi signs off.


Agoda India travel marketing Krishna Rathi Agoda marketing strategy