Archive for the 'Travel Portal' Category

Hotel Owner guide to accepting customer booking online

For last 6-8 months have meet lot of small hotel/guest house property owners interested in starting to accepting customer bookings online for their property. In terms of options available there are lot of hotel management software which are basically property management software which not only takes care of online customer booking but other things like staff regulation, property maintenance, billing etc. Though what hotel owners are really looking for is very primary very basic something which allows them to daily update their available inventory online and accept customer bookings for same.

If you are one of those same hotel owners just looking for very basic and functional way to convert customers coming on your website. Then you need not to be worried about investing in something fancy like a property management software. What you are looking for is Payment gateway services which are offered by Banks like Axis, HDFC,ICICI,Citibank in India enabling you to accept master card,visa etc.

Kind of payment gateway you should select is dependent on kind of target customers for your product. If your property is based out of a destination which attract higher propotion of Domestic Travellers instead of international then you shoud look at have payment methods visa,master card and others like Debit Cards, Net Banking as other payment modes for booking and reservations.

If you are looking to attract international tourists then simple Master Card, Visa and American Express should be certain choice of pay mode acceptance.

Once you have defined the payment modes which you would accept one needs to go into details of transaction fees which these banks will charge on each transaction and also monthly or annual fees one need to pay for maintaining such services on ones website. Generally these payment gateway fees can vary between 2-10% dependent on volume and number of payment acceptance modes selected. Ideally one should not go for more than 7% transaction fees and avoid using international payment gateway services like Paypal etc due to higher transaction fees one needs to shed for transfering amount deposited with them in your name to local bank and effect of money loss due to currency fluctuations.

Once you have selected payment gateway then you need a shopping cart or booking reservation engine to which the payment gateway would be integrating here again providers like CC Avenue have payment gateway enabled hotel reservation software called resavenue which at a monthly fees and higher transaction fees offer its software on pay as you use model. Though this can be a good startup option i personally recommend spending 15-25,000 INR as one time setup fees to buy the software and negotiate on lower per transaction fees with the gateway provider which on good negotiation can be brought down easily below 5%.   Which if your hotel is able to do 20-30% of its business from online booking then cost of software upfront is recovered within 10-14 months depending on size of property or number of rooms.

Once through with accepting bookings online the next stage is for monitoring those bookings and updating on daily basis room status. There are payment gateway service providers which will be ready to take this up for you and would suggest smaller hotels to use their services for inital 6-8 months till the time website is stabilized.

If you need help in selecting provider just leave comment on post and will try to help you in whatever way possible in selecting the right provider for your property.

Interview with Tripmela CEO – Jared Blank – Post Shutdown Announcement

This is an exclusive interview with Jared Blank,CEO Tripmela.com which recently went on sale on Ebay. Business India 2.0 was the first to cover the same.

Q1. What has changed since the time you started out till recent time. Is it the effect of financial meltdown affecting all industries in terms of advertising budget cut or you were not able to raise cash to further product development to sustain and get bigger audience scale?

Pretty much everything has changed since we launched.  The OTA market attracted new companies quickly – too quickly – which lead to overspending and then, all of a sudden, to a cutback in spending.  Other industries cutback as well, especially in online display advertising.  Advertising slowed down, and we were unable to raise additional funds.  We should have focused more on developing unique content, which would have helped with SEO.  That would’ve driven traffic, which would’ve helped with the CPC and CPA advertising programs on our site.

Q2.Is the site(digital assets) in its current pristine stage available up for sale or is their any existing liabilities or commitments which come with it?

There are no existing liabilities or commitments.  We believe that with a bit of financial backing, a company can grow Tripmela to be a large, profitable business.  Unfortunately, we just didn’t have the resources to invest.  As Travelzoo’s success has shown, the business model works.

Q3. Why choose ebay as medium to sell such an asset.Wouldnt approaching existing players in Indian market like zoomtra or ixigo would have fetched higher price?

We felt that selling it on eBay would be a great way to market the sale of the business.  We are talking with interested companies, certainly.  But we have been able to let more people know about the sale through eBay than if we had sold it in the more typical fashion.

Q4. Is there any reserve price in the bid or you will let it go based on the market dynamics or valuation of property?

We haven’t set a reserve price.  We feel that it will attract an offer that reflects its value in the marketplace.

Q5. What are the plans for the founders once the selling process is over?

I don’t have plans set yet.  I’d be very interested in helping transition to the new owners and working with them to grow the email list, if they’re interested.  I think Tripmela’s biggest strength was the ability to grow the list at a reasonable cost.  I have an idea for a new business, but in the current marketplace, investors seem to be taking a wait-and-see approach for now.

I think so this also stands true for lot of other players in market as well. Players like zoomtra, ixigo etc seems to be well funded and have adapted to changes in indian travel industry  which works different from the US industry where number of travel suppliers requires selection products like travel meta search engine or deal aggregators like travelzoo.

Update: (Private commentry with Aloke has been removed)

Tripmela.com – up for sale on Ebay – Bubble Burst is happening all over!!

This is just in tripmela.com an online deal aggregator newsletter has decided to shut shop. This was an email which came in from Jared Blank CEO,Trip mela.

“Given all of the upheaval in the market, we’ve decided to close up shop.  We’ve done everything we can, but we don’t see an end in sight to the slowing travel and advertising market, and we simply don’t have the cash to ride it out.

We’ve put the business up for sale on eBay India – we’re selling Tripmela.com, Searchmela.com and – what I think is actually most valuable – our 80,000 member opt-in email list.  You can see the listing here:
http://cgi.ebay.in/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=300279667102

It looks like first effect of recession on Dot com’s are becoming clearer and models which were based around audience aggregation and monetization via advertising will see the first ripple shaking their foundation. Lot of Action was seen in last 2 years in travel space with travelguru completely changing its model from flights to being dependent on Hotels which came from their acquisition of desiya.

It will be interesting to get commentary from other travel players like ixigo,zoomtra etc and get their reaction on impact current recession is having on their business model.

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.

Interview with CEO of Redbus.in – Online Bus Reservation Platform

Following is an email interview which we did with Pahninder Sama, CEO Red Bus.in. We talked more about the industry they are working in challenges faced and whats their unique positioning in market.Q1. Can you  give us some brief on redbus

redBus is the first player in India to launch the concept of online bus tickets. Today, it is India’s largest such service with the highest number of routes (over 3200) and over 250+ bus operator partners. Consumers get some unparalleled benefits that are unique to redBus:

         They can book return tickets

         They can choose their seats

         They can get tickets home delivery

         They have access to the best-in-class bus operators

         They can book tickets over the phone, through their mobile, on the net or in person at our partner outlets.

Q2. Give some background on founders and their experience

redBus was started by 3 friends from BITS Pilani.

Phanindra Sama – Ex Texas Instruments

Charan Padmaraju – Ex Honeywell

Sudhakar Pasupunuri – Ex IBM

 Q3. Why Bus reservation. What is the potential market size in terms of rupee value and how do we segment it.

Bus reservation is a very large market. There is no formal study available to dig statistics. However, approximately the market is pegged at about Rs. 15000 crores. The best way to segment it is geographically, by states. Each state has some busy (priority) routes. One can estimate the market by the number of buses and average load per bus for those routes and add it up to get the state market size.

 Q4. Is this business volume driven or with coming in of luxury buses we will see tour operator using bus as medium also being pushed online

I’m not sure if I understand the second part of this question correctly, but to answer the first – yes it is a volume driven game. Greater volumes change the dynamics of the relationship of the players in this industry.

 Q5. The space at which rail & Air is moving why don’t we see the bus operator segment evolving at same pace.

The bus space is relatively young and you will see it booming in the next few months. We have already started experiencing 30% month-on-month increase and the word-of-mouth will kick start this boom.

 Q6. Keeping in mind low operation standards maintained by smaller bus operators, when you sign them up is their a service level agreement with minimum quality standards being imposed.

We are conscious about the bus operators we tie up with. There have been instances where we have broken our relationship with operators with whom some customers had a bad experience. That’s how serious we are about service levels.

 Q7. What are the main hurdles you face to get scale for your business?

Streamlining the operations with 100s of bus operators throughout the country and building robustness is one of the hurdles to attain immediate scale

Q8. When selecting a bus operator for Delhi-Jammu segment I noticed it threw up 2-3 option with similar fares and originating point. What extra information you tend to provide which can help me to take a decision on bus operator to select as they are not brand names which I have heard of before. Eg data would be performance of operator in terms of number of times bus is running on time and so forth.

We will soon have a discussion forums powered by users. That will give other travelers an idea about experiences of people who have used those bus operators.

 Q9.  Are you looking at other monetization opportunities like advertising as even bigger transaction sites like yatra.com and naukri.com has started to do so and are getting good revenue results.

We surely are. However, that’s not the revenue model of priority right now. We want to master our core business before we can get into maximizing other revenue models.

Q10. What all can we expect in 2008 from Redbus like external integration with travel meta search engines etc.

Of late, some travel meta search engines are showing interest in displaying redBus results. It may come through in sometime.

The market is dynamic and moving at a very fast pace. The operations / offering on redBus.in could be quite different in 2008.


Contact Details

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