Archive for the 'Travel India' Category

Farecast – Lesson in store for Travel Meta Search Engines in India

Farecast an online airline and hotel fare prediction site has been brought over by Microsoft for 115 Million dollars.  The site one of its own kind offers not only price ranged based search and route connections offering cheapest flying alternatives but takes it to next level by predicting fares of airlines and giving opportunity for people to lock fares for a price.

Near shore in India our home grown Meta search engines look Zoomtra and Ixigo still try to evolve into advertisement driven platform. Biggest problem meta search engines face in India is low rate of adoption of their model by airlines. Airlines dont want to buy traffic or pay per lead. They are ready to share the commissions if you are ready to take responsibility of finalization on your own platform. This is the reason these travel meta search engines fight for space with OTA’s like makemytrip.com, yatra.com, travelocity.com

So how can travel meta search engines survive if they wont get support from airlines? Answer for this would lay with using synergies or competition provided on offers by OTA’s to route traffic to them instead of airlines. Though in short term it will lead to reduction of repeat users but then these meta search engine sites need to evolve with better differentiator tools like a fare prediction algorithm or reverse auction of customer leads to airlines. Idea is to innovate on based of data generated on user pattern instead of relying on advertising or per user lead.

Interview with Jared Blank CEO – Tripmela.com – Indian Travel cheap deal aggregator!!

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

or zoomtra.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.

Zoomtra.com first one to join Facebook bandwagon from India

In my earlier posts i had talked about importance of social networking for meta search engines and sites looking for user generated content. Zoomtra.com – A Meta Travel Search engine has gone ahead and released an application on facebook which focuses on Indian destinations.

Application is called India Dekho helps user tag different cities in india where they have been and write reviews and rate them for other people planning trip to india. The best thing which i liked about the application was ability to add review for individual restaurants,night spots and shopping places from the city.

Although lot people will talk about initial applications which were released by trip planner etc had similar features but i liked the review of night spots and restaurants concept which others were doing only for US specific destinations.

Though every human creation has flaws so does zoomtra’s facebook application with ability not provided to add just reviews on restaurants or shopping sites later after adding a city review. Other thing which i would have liked would be if they could group all restaurants,night spots in a city in a drop down with ability to see all users rating for all places in a city at one place. Also giving it a little structure would help.

Overall a nice effort as it will help in generating lot of user generated content which will help in increasing more user traction as way forward for meta travel search engine is content aggregation.

I might be wrong on stating they are first facebook application but its the first one i stumbled upon facebook.

Travelogues in India – Oktatabyebye.com vs Holidayiq.com vs raahi.com

For Long we have compared our Online Travel portals and talk about growth of internet travel industry dependent on them. Internet in west for long has been source of travel information with travelers sharing their experiences online and destination guides available across all horizontal portals. In india the case has been different with indian internet space giving information what has been documented by Lonely Planet or international travelers on india. Though in last 16-18 months we have seen a change with travel information portals backed by these OTA’s coming into play, Makemytrip.com came in with oktatabyebye.com and yatra.com came out with raahi.com. This space has lot of growth potential with all these travelogues concentrating on destination guides and trip planning aspect mainly employing lot of technology play like blogging, social networking, forums for increasing user generated content.

Holidayiq.com – This is one of the most evolved travel information forum as compared to the other travelogs being talked about in this post. The site is meant for more evolved internet users as really i dont find it very simple to use. Keeping in mind how much people are use to OTA sites to find flights and hotels information i firmly believe the interface used by these travel forums should completely emulate that. What i liked about holidayiq.com was the quality of content being generated you go to their forums or to reviews done by other users on hotel properties to destinations they are pretty helpful as they talk in travelers language. They have a tie up with Yahoo Farechase to return impartial best possible flight results.

Expert Travel Information : 8/10

Destination Guides : 6/10

What holidayiq.com can do better is organize the site more in terms of interactive maps and attractions at destinations as core point for organizing tours in destination. They need to work more on usability front as they need to come out accessible for common INDIAN internet user which is still not comfortable using the forums.

raahi.com – A Yatra.com initiative which is more the travel portal driven instead of user review driven is a great resource to get snapshot on each destination with rich media content like videos and photographs being shared. The quality of user reviews and destinations is not as great as holidayiq.com but also doesnt fare up according to expectation. Better user navigation and interface than holidayiq.com gives it an edge. The site has more uphill task in generation of user content and with current advertising campaigns being executed we feel they should succeed.

Expert Travel Information : 4/10

Destination Guides : 8/10

If raahi.com can sustain little bit more without monetizing their site with google ads that would be really appreciated as they are very distracting.

oktatabyebye.com – Makemytrip.com play in this field is an ideal balance between the expert forums provided by holidayiq and structured destination guides provided by raahi.com. They score high on usability with all major important features of sites used by people given reference or entry point from homepage. Also the way they are sharing it information without need for user login etc makes it score points over holidayiq.com. Though raahi.com is more detailed in its reviewing OTBB scores on aggregation of internal content with structured presentation of data. Another reason why i like them better over others is ability to plan road trips which is major differentiator for regular travelers.

Expert Travel Information : 6/10

Destination Guides : 8/10

Overall these sites are good starting point for anyone planning a trip in India but they need to evolve further in terms of data on selection of airlines for traveling or airport information. Keeping in mind most of the OTA’s currently focus on offering airline tickets and services are being rendered out of airport hence lot of data should flow in terms of airport location and services at airports. How to plan trip from airport to attractions or business meeting venues available in vicinity. Its all about not copying the forums and websites in US but being innovative based on Indian market requirements.

Interview with Amit Kumar Co-Founder of Idiscoverindia.com – Independent India Trip Planning Platform

Below is an email interview we did with Amit Kumar from Idiscoverindia.com  – the site was recently launched in beta stage where its helping budget travelers plan out trips to indian destinations like agra, rajasthan etc.

 Q1. Can you give us some background on founders and their experience ?

All three current founders share a common passion for travel. While I have experience working in online advertising  in USA , our other two founders are from creative and technology backgrounds, with varied experience of working on national and international clients of repute ,both in India and USA respectively.

My experience with online media tracking and strategy combined with  our Creative Director’s experience in design and usability along with our Chief Technologists expertise in developing and implementing enterprise wide systems helps us to build a formidable team to launch our brand .

 

Q2. Some brief on idiscoverindia.com the concept, why travel vertical, why now,how you started full time involvement and current setup, how are you funded?

All three of us co-founders always felt the need for an independent third-party that could lead us through a travel trip . I mean someone that assists me thru a travel planning process and not just a purchase process. By this I mean  a guide or a friend who could tell me where to travel to, what to do there, how to get there, where to buy purchase for the cheapest or the particular thing one is looking for  ,etc ,etc. Moreover we wanted a quality site  that takes some responsibility to ensure that all the information is made available readily by a trusted third-party rather than just banking on users to generate this content or a travel agent to form content ( which anyways is aimed at maximizing their own profits and not necessarily the best option for the traveler).

In a nutshell IdiscoverIndia.com is a common platform that answers everyone’s queries regarding their Travel Search. So if you are a small hotel we have tool for you that allows you to market your property through our site, if you are a travel agent you can send offers directly to the customers looking for a service or say even market your hotels through our site by integrating into our hotel application  and soon we will have tools that will also allow users to compare online tickets. So our site is built to provide travelers with enough information regarding their travel needs and guide them and help them to decide and choose throughout their decision making  cycle up to the point of purchase.

Months before we registered as a private limited company , or you can say that from the time we formed a group , I went full-time with the company along with  1 programmer and 1 operations personnel and 3-4 freelance content writers.  Our other 2 co-founders have been working  part –time since our inception. This was important for two reasons, firstly it was imperative for one of the co-founders to be on board full time to deal with the daily nuances of a start –up .The other co-founders went on a job and worked part-time on IDiscoverIndia.com to provide the much needed financial support  throughout our building process.

Now that the much needed initial work is complete  , the company is looking for investments to consolidate its position to build further on its vision.

Q3. How do you differentiate with community driven destination guide kind of sites like holidayiq.com

Well I think to begin with we generate our own content unlike others and will have user generated content only  as an addition to our own content. Secondly we provide tools to other service providers that enable them to market their services or products directly through our technology. So in this case we fulfill a role of enabler, facilitator and an arbitrator. As of today we believe we are poised to be a more integrated site between travelers and service providers than any of our closest competitors. However , its seen that lots of other companies in similar space are trying to fulfill the same role that we are currently in .

Q4. Do you feel indian online travel space has more scope for vertical content driven portals or aggregators like ixigo.com or zoomtra.com

Well naturally there should be some kind of aggregation on this front, I know for sure that these companies want to get their hands on content , but then again currently people are just trying to get better at what they do the best and eventually the economies of scale will dictate such portals merging with some other content driven portal.  I hope these companies understand earlier than later and get on the road of scalability rather than companies spending so much money individually on media and providing distributed services rather than integrated single platform to deliver.

 

Q5.  You guys have done a great job by cataloging destinations based on interest. Do you feel lot of travel information sites rather choose destination specific cataloging over interest. You feel destination brand name brings more value when travelers are organizing trips or end of the day experience they get out of the trip is more important.

It’s a catch 22 situation .  Lots of sites choose brand destinations to promote trips because that’s what users identify with and that’s what users are looking for . On the other hand brand destinations are “known destinations” because of the way they have been marketed in the first place. Basically we have found out that how a destination gets marketed is very important in determining how it is perceived. So many times certain service providers promote a certain mode of transportation or a particular route just for their own personal gains.  As we do not have any vested interest in promoting any particular service provider or travel product we are able to assess the product or service for its merits without any bias. Consider a situation where a travel agent pushes for a trip to Agra by car  for a night , when a user could definitely have a better option for  Agra in form of morning train and coming back the next day by the evening train. The traveler in such case is coerced by the travel agent to hire a car from Delhi coz he stands to make more money  even though it’s a 5 hr drive one way which could have very well be done in 2hr by train , thereby providing much more valuable time for tourist to spend .

Q6. Which is your target market. Keeping in mind existing stage of US online travel industry don’t you feel you are better positioned to service that mature market as compared to developing learning indian market.

Our Target market varies by product or service that we market. As of today our target market might seem to be skewed towards budget category if you look at hotels , but then again  a user can request any kind of package as all kinds of travel agents / service providers  cater to the leads originating from users.  As for content this line of differentiation is already blur , and overall  will thin out even more across the board as we evolve .

 As of targeting US ,I am not sure how I can leverage this better for one geographic market over the other , I think each will have its own challenges but at the end all users look for the same. Brand Loyalty is very tepid in this segment. Loyalty comes from being positioned as independent and being able to provide an unbiased  viewpoint .

Q7. Have you looked at monetizing your content with advertisements from indian ad networks or publishers.

Yes we have just started working on that and are actively looking for advertisers and alliance partners.

Q8. What Unique marketing strategies or synergies you have in pipeline to become revenue positive and have a clear growth trajectory. Like are you looking at social networking or wireless as mass reach out play.

Currently we are looking at just ways to provide a product and service to the user that helps them get the best of what they are looking for. We are still in the process of developing our model fully in terms of the tools that we will be introducing .

Q9. What all can we expect from idiscoverindia.com in future.

In IdiscoverIndia.com you will find a trusted advisor and friend  who will help you create the trip you are looking for.

 

Q10. Any word of advice for budding entrepreneurs on the whole startup experience.

1.Sometimes its better to raise money quickly  rather than wait for a prototype before going in the market to raise money.

2. Look for ways of consolidation and scale and don’t delve too much into share proportions. Your penny can be worth a pound or a pound a penny depending on your timing.

3. Take risk and either join a startup or have one of your own , whatever your level of risk taking is , the experience is invaluable , even if you struggle with money first.

Ixigo.com – Long Awaited Review – India’s Best Air Travel Search Engine

Long awaited as i have been waiting for a long time to review this site. Why Now? Before people start to comment on my review on 91di travel engine. Its important to know my intentions was not to bad mouth the ixigo portal but the business model approach. As i clearly understand most of the travel aggregators wish to live on referral sent to other transaction portal having rail and bus doesnt supplement the business model aspect. Though when they are going the extra mile and building viewer ship  why  not  have these mediums covered as well.

Getting back to the review what i like about Ixigo.com is the right use of technology. Its one of the engineering master piece in Online Travel portal segment.  The search is not only efficient but provide multiple criteria for sorting the search results.

  • The site score heavily on UI although cleartrip.com still rocks because of their simplicity and powerful use of AJAX combined with simple logical sense like use of calendar control which lists Monday as first day of the week (Also available at IXIGO) .
  • Search results are quicker as compared to other travel portals previously reviewed on this blog.
  • No transaction fees and coverage of low cost airlines uncluttered from marketing gimmicks for showing ticket costs after giving cash back on credit card etc used by some travel portals to gain attention from customers.
  •  I have read lot of reviews of people praising Zoomtra.com but i ran a simple search for Delhi – Bangalore 8th Sept 2007. It gave me cheapest flight result on Jet Lite flying to bangalore via hyderabad 3400 INR. Now on clicking the link to jet lite website it gave me the same option for 5300 INR. Further investigating the problem back on zoomtra site it came to my notice in case of connecting flight zoomtra hasnt calculated the taxes correctly. Though as a customer my time was wasted by wrong search results provided. On the other hand ixigo gave me correct results and didnt give me such time wasting option.

Conclusion

Overall while using the ixigo.com i faced no problem and was comfortable using it search results powered by recommendation services like fare outlook etc. Its a must use site for people who wish to plan travel in advance but only thing on my wish list not covered by ixigo is the the cheap deal sheet published on homepage of zoomtra. Good job done keeping beta in stealth mode otherwise clones would have killed the whole model.

90ditravel – Travel information aggregator in right sense

Lately we have seen so many travel aggregator sites coming up that the launch of GDS travel portals was getting overshadowed for instance when flightraja changes its name to “via” not much coverage was given by people  following the online travel industry. Though i had always wondered how can these sites like ixigo.com call themselves travel search engines as they only concentrate on providing information on air ticket search via travel portals and airline websites.

No one is looking at bus or train as possible combination to draw up trip. Earlier these engines might have had problem getting information online to aggregate from but now with everything from train reservation to bus reservation available online its not a struggle.

I stumble upon 90di.com/travel from and email sent by someone from the team behind the product. What interested me to review the product is unlikely other travel aggregators they are covering atleast the Train to begin with.  Keeping in mind all studies for the travel industry is talking about B & C class town where lot of them still find nearest airport 150-200 KM drive. It makes more sense to create travel iteniary which is a mix match from their hometown to final destination.

90ditravel has an effective search engine although they need to really work on the interface part. For example the search results can provide me option to sort by journey time or pricing.

The point is its good they have got the engine ready and building the result. But these results need to be formatted and  made sense of before users can seriously benefit out of them. Bottom line they need to make it more user friendly. They should seriously consider lot more use of AJAX and hiring external designer to get the job done right.  The product is good and they try to get the usability in line before makemytrip.com or yatra.com get their agreement through with indian railways to sell tickets online. They should also look at adding the combination of bus timetables and reservation to further increase reach out and mitigate any risk associated with travel portal deals getting through with the railways.

As they are still in Beta i hope to see changes requested by me as a user are also given due consideration.


Contact Details

E-mail:siddharthpuri@gmail.com Call Me :+91-9910444460
June 2017
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