Some three months after expressing his indecision as to whether or not to retain the Thomas Cook brand name in the wake of Thomas Cook UK’s fall, Madhaven Menon, chairman & managing director of Thomas Cook India (TCIL), is “absolutely elated” that he had listened to his heart to “hold on to the brand”.
TCIL earlier this week sealed an agreement with AlixPartners, Thomas Cook UK’s appointed special managers, to acquire the rights to the Thomas Cook brand in India, Sri Lanka and Mauritius for a one-time payment of 1.5 million pounds (US$2 million).
Instead of paying an annual royalty fee of Rs20 million until 2024, which would amount to Rs100 million over the five-year period, the agreement ensures TCIL the rights in perpetuity to use the Thomas Cook name on a royalty-free basis, while also preventing other possible new entrants into these South Asian markets using the brand name.
“I think I’ve got a good deal considering the circumstances,” Menon told TTG Asia in a phone interview. “The most important thing is that the November 2024 deadline (the annual brand license agreement that TCIL was previously contracted to with Thomas Cook UK) no longer exists, and there’s no more time pressure on how we want to refresh the brand.”
The travel chief also sees this new acquisition of rights as potential savings made for TCIL, as the detailed roadmap the company has previously laid out in preparation for a potential name change is no longer needed.
Moving forward, Menon believes there still remain plenty of opportunities to use the storied travel service brand name that is Thomas Cook, which has operated in India for 138 years.
Asked if China-based Fosun’s recent announcement to acquire the global rights to the Thomas Cook name would affect the branding and identity of TCIL, Menon said he did not foresee both companies to “interfere or come in the way of each other” as they both operate in different markets.
While they both share the use of the Thomas Cook name, he said the branding, logos and identities would be different between the two companies, although he foresees that “we would need to sit down with Fosun and try to understand what their plans are”.
The last three months, however, have brought “many ups and downs” for Menon. Not only did he have to reinforce the separation of identities between TCIL and the erstwhile Thomas Cook UK, he also had to grapple with the “trust deficit” in the travel marketplace following the collapse of Cox & Kings and Jet Airways in India.
But all these “one-season impacts” shall pass, Menon stated, as he projected the uncertainty and confidence plunge that characterised 2019 would likely fade away in 2020. Once traveller confidence in tour operators picks up, TCIL and other major players set to benefit from the vacuum left from Cox & Kings’ fall, he added.
While 2019 has been a “a mixed bag”, Menon affirmed that purchasing the branding rights for Thomas Cook in India, Sri Lanka and Mauritius was one of the best business decisions he has made.
“This is probably my proudest achievement in the 20 years of my career (at Thomas Cook),” he declared.