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.