Thanks to Jared blank for replying to questions we had at Business India 2.0. We wish him best of luck for evolving his business models and give us industry expert insight on evolving Indian Travel 2.0 space.
Q1.Can you give us a brief on Trip Mela?
Tripmela is a publisher of travel deals for the Indian market. Of course we have a website, but the primary driver of business is our weekly newsletter.
Q2. Some background on Founders/CEO ?
Two of us founded the business. Jared Blank has worked extensively in online marketing, including working with Tommy Hilfiger and all-first-class carrier Eor Airlines. He is a former travel analyst with Jupiter Research, an Internet consultancy. Vikram Sehgal also has analyst experience with Jupiter Research, as well as deep knowledge of the consumer packaged goods industry.
Q3. Why only a deals newsletter. Why not start directly with Travel Meta Search Engine?
We certainly believe that meta search will be a part of our offering, but there are a number of companies fighting for that space. We plan on implementing metasearch in a different way than most meta search companies, and we hope to be able to show that to you soon. Even so, we believe that being a publisher will allow us to drive qualified (and profitable) leads to our partners while maintaining a lower cost structure than the meta search players.
Q4. Recently we heard you were leasing white label XML meta search engine from
TravelLab who will it effect your biggest USP differentiator in comparison to ixigo.com
We have opted against implementing Travellab’s solution while we focus on growing our newsletter business.
Q5. What is your primary business model? Are you again concentrating on being dependent on cost per lead being paid out by OTA’s.?
Our business model is based on cost per lead. But once the newsletter has reached critical mass, we expect to generate a significant portion of our revenues from selling dedicated emails to our travel partners that we would send to our email list.
Q6. In the American market deal aggregators or newsletters have really been successful due to the presence of large# of OTA’s. With Indian OTA #’s not growing at same pace as they were in 2006 do you see effect in
Actually, there are more OTAs in India than there are in the US. The US business has primarily revolved around Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz. Recently, Priceline has changed its model to compete (pretty successfully) with those guys. Hotels.com is a large hotel-focused player. In India, where the market is miniscule in comparison, we have MakeMyTrip, Yatra, Cleartrip, Travelguru, Arzoo, Desiya, Expedia India, Travelocity India, Ezeego1, etc. This increased competition will make the fight for leads even stronger, which is why you see the Meta Search guys jumping in.
Q7. What kind of revenues/growth are you projecting for the financial year or next 3 years?
We don’t share financials publicly, but we’re taking a realistic view on growth. The OTAs typically publish their gross sales numbers, not their revenue numbers. When you look at those, you see that the Indian market is not quite as large as many have been lead to believe. That said, we’ve created a cost structure that will allow us to be profitable very soon.
Q8. What and where is the target audience for your product. Is it the Indian Audience which is reacting more to your deals or NRI market?
We are focused on the Indian audience for now. We have some NRI-focused deals, but we think that if we wanted to target the NRI market, we would have to build a separate site (as the OTAs have discovered).
Q9 What are main hurdles you face to get scale in your business?
Getting traffic to the site is the biggest hurdle. In India, as in the US, the cost to drive traffic to travel websites has grown significantly. Paid search, for example, is extremely expensive and, so far, has not worked for us because we focus so much on ROI metrics (specifically, cost to generate an email address). Also, some of the online marketing methods available in the US (such as email co-registration) aren’t yet available in India, or are available only on a small scale.
Q10. What I understand from your site is that you are NY based. Does geographically being present in developed market and operating business catering to a developing economy comes as an advantage or disadvantage?
One of the founders spends a fair amount of time in India, so we have a bit of a presence there, but we hope to have people on the ground this year. That said, given email and Skype, it’s pretty amazing what we can do even though we’re based in New York.
Q11. We see on your site for airfares you have Yatra.com feed and for hotels travelguru.com feed. Whats your current experience with them and how do you see them and how supportive are these OTA’s to your business model in terms of tech support/business support/knowledge etc
The OTAs for the most part have been interested in the model. Frankly, they’d hope we can drive more traffic to them, and we think that will come with time. When we first launched this idea 2 years ago, the model was brand new and we spent a good chunk of time trying to convince people why you’d want to work with us. That’s not really the case anymore.
Q12. This question is based on my liking of Online Bus reservation systems. When can we see comparision deals on bus travel and Rail travel coming on tripmela.com?
After we figure out how to make money with air and hotel.
Q13. How do you see online travel 2.0 space evolve in India and whats your long term strategy to become leader in this space?
The whole Travel 2.0 thing has been very interesting to watch in India, since it really developed at the same time as Travel 1.0 in India. It took 10 years for the US online travel market to reach Travel 2.0. It seems that in India Travel 1.0 (online booking) and Travel 2.0 (consumer-controlled travel content, etc) developed in parallel. We’ve seen the OTAs building out their 2.0-type offerings (ie, OKTATABYEBYE) at the same time they’re building out their Travel 1.0 booking options. There will be a place for some of the meta search companies, though there will be some consolidation (or fall off) in that space as well. I’m a fan of HolidayIQ – it’s a model that’s worked well in the US, and, given the growth in hotels in India in the next few years, should be a great business going forward.
For us, we’re very focused on doing one thing well, and then moving on to the next piece. Certainly, Tripmela will have a meta search business and a community or reviews piece of the business, but I don’t’ want to do those things until we have the publishing model correct. Too often we seen businesses working on too many projects at once – a decision that’s expensive and leaves consumers confused as to why they should visit the site.
Q14 one more last question. One thing you had mentioned about your business model is that its dependent on people signing up for newsletters. With technology acting as barrier for sending out emailers(eg. Mails going to SPAM/Junk mail folder instead of inbox even though user has opted for them)due to the tough spamming policy how do you manage servicing deals to thousand users every Tuesday?
It’s a good question. To be honest, only recently have we run into this issue at all, and it’s only a problem with Yahoo’s email. I know that we are not the only company having issues with getting emails delivered to our Yahoo users. But I’m certain that this will get straightened out over time. It’s annoying, don’t get me wrong, but we have historically gotten more than 90% of our emails delivered each week, so I expect this issue will resolve itself.
Long term, we believe that email providers (such as Yahoo) will deliver relevant messages to their users. We rarely receive spam complaints, and our unsubscribes are tiny. In the long run, providing great travel deals will lead consumers to open our messages and email providers to deliver them.