Going places with the Internet

Hindu Business Line,

Going places with the Internet

Vijay Prasad M. R.

When the Internet user base in the country is on the rise, India- related content on the Net also seems to be growing. Indicative of this is the exhaustive site, `www.indiamart.com’, which has two attractive features to it – a comprehensive and interactive list of hotels in India and a database of over 60,000 Indian companies and businesses (apart from a host of other India- related data).

Developed and maintained by Delhi-based InterMESH Systems, the site offers one of the best facilities for Net users who not only want information on travelling in India but also want accommodation and travel bookings done on-line.

According to Mr. Brijesh Agrawal, Chairman and Managing Director, InterMESH, while `indiamart.com’ gets about 22,000-25,000 visits per day, the travel section (www.indiantravelportal.com) alone gets about 15,000-18,000 visits per day.

Apart from providing detailed information on various travel sites and services, the site gives an exhaustive list of hotels (over 2,000 hotels in India for which you can do room bookings on-line and of which about 200 have a Web site/page of their own), travel agents and tour operators.

You can choose your tour package for any location in the country, choose the tour operator and book your hotel accommodation (even in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands) and pay by credit card wherever the facility is available.

The site gives State-wise and city-wise information on hotels. For instance, there are about 40 hotels in Chennai listed on the site, right from the new, two star Hotel Pandian to the five star deluxe Park Sheraton Hotel and Towers.

Mr. Agrawal said that prospective clients are given an option between having a free listing and having a Web site/page hosted for them by InterMESH. “The majority of the businesses on our database are those that have availed of the free listing facility for now. We route the business enquiries they receive to them either by e-mail or by post. These enquiries average about 200- 300 per day,” he said.

Net surfers who want to get similar information can try some more sites such as Indiatours, India- Travel and Inetindia. These sites too provide exhaustive listing of hotels and travel agents in the country but the interactive facility stops with an enquiry through e-mail.

But surprisingly, many hotels including the leading ones such as Park Sheraton and Taj Coromandel, are either not aware of such facilities or of the fact that they are listed on many travel sites.

The centralised reservation systems of many hotels seem to be still booking the bulk of the orders by fax or phone, or in response to personal enquiries, while e-mail, and specifically the usage of the Internet, seems to be very restricted.

The most logical reason that can be thought of for this is that most of the hotels get a free listing after which they fail to keep track of this mode of reservation. Most of the time the Web hosting solution providers themselves route business enquiries that may come to a site, say, indiamart.com, to the concerned hotel through e-mail or post.

Another reason is that some hotels take the service of reservation agencies that do bookings for hotels worldwide and the Internet bookings are routed through them. “We do not do any bookings on the Internet. Most of hotel bookings happen through reservation companies such as Amadeus, Galileo and Sitar,” said an official of the Taj Coromandel Hotel.

The two-year old Web site which is still being updated, also provides lot of information and contacts to thousands of companies and businesses in the country.

These can be found through the directories (built in-house) on various industry categories ranging from apparels to arms and ammunition spread over 450 product categories.

Some of the categories are Indian exporters/manufacturers, importers/buyers, apparels and textiles, engineering tools and machinery, real estate, finance and consulting.

InterMESH which has about 10 Web servers in the US has provided hosting and development solutions for companies such as Eureka Forbes, Jindal Steels, Autopal, Apollo Hospitals, Le Meridian Hotels & Resorts, Aircon International and National Panasonic.