Emerald Case Study: Kulula.com: now anyone can fly in South Africa Stephanie Townsend, Geoff Bick
To cite this document: Stephanie Townsend, Geoff Bick, "Kulula.com: now anyone can fly in South Africa", Emerald Emerging Markets Case Studies, 2011
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Kulula.com: now anyone can ﬂy
in South Africa
Stephanie Townsend and Geoff Bick
Stephanie Townsend is a
Case Writer and Geoff Bick
is a Professor, both at Wits
t was January 2003, 17 months since kulula.com had taken to the skies for the ﬁrst time. This low-cost airline had survived almost two years in an extremely tough industry and, in addition, claimed to have been proﬁtable since its inaugural ﬂight on 1 August 2001.
Gidon Novick, Comair Limited’s executive manager of marketing, was involved in kulula.com’s somewhat unusual communication strategy from day one and maintained a close relationship with the advertising agency, morrisjones&co. The brand had been very effectively established and the airline had received two awards: the Marketing Federation of Southern Africa’s prestigious 2002 Tusk ‘‘Service Launch of the Year’’ award; and the Airports Company of South Africa’s ‘‘Domestic Airline of the Year’’ annual customer survey award for 2002.
But despite the hugely successful campaign, which had required only a few minor adjustments over the past 17 months, Novick did not feel comfortable. He realised that the business might soon face a problem – the possibility that the hype in the market had declined to a certain extent or could do so in the near future. He knew that in the ﬁercely competitive airline industry – an industry that had become even more competitive since the September 11 terrorist attacks – one could never sit back and relax. It was time to rethink kulula.com’s strategy. Novick could not afford to miss a single signiﬁcant fact in establishing whether the current formula was sustainable or not. Other competitors entering the market – such as national carrier South African Airway (SAA) with its own low-cost airline – was a lurking threat. Even the current relationship with kulula.com’s advertising agency needed some reconsideration. With this in mind he started studying all the necessary supporting documentation that was lying on his desk.
Background to the low-cost airline industry
Up until 1978 the global airline industry had been controlled mainly by national governments that owned or subsidised the so-called national ﬂag-carriers, which carried the ﬂag of their nation on the tail of the...