IT Biz Focus,
The travel sector has to a great extent, led to the e-commerce boom in India. In an exclusive interaction with ITBizFocus.com, Madhup Agrawal, CEO, HelloTravel elucidates how its online platform is helping the travel industry see a paradigm shift from being ‘seller-centric’ to ‘traveller-centric’ by emphasizing on custom travel.
The travel sector in India is currently witnessing an e-commerce boom. How are you contributing to this growth?
It is estimated that of the travelers who use Internet to undertake research about their travel requirements, only 30% use Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) to book their travel. Remaining travelers use offline mechanisms to arrange for their travel plans. The primary reason for this is that offline methods help them with customized travel solutions or plans, which are not available online. Hello Travel as a unique online platform provides an opportunity for travelers to connect with reputed and credible travel agents and vice-versa. It helps travelers in getting customized travel plans faster with an assurance of a memorable trip as promised by the agent.
What is driving the growth of travel portals in India? Where do you see the maximum thrust?
With an increase is the number and diversity of travelers every year, their needs are expected to get more customized in terms of exclusive culinary tour, backpacking, special trail tour and so on. This indicates that the custom travel segment is poised for a major thrust in the near future. Presently, customized travel as a business area is not being focused by many. This is where HelloTravel comes into the picture. For travel agents, despite specializing in providing custom travel plans, it is extremely difficult to market their services. HelloTravel helps them to acquire clients very easily and cost-effectively and also enables them to focus on their core competencies than worry about how to acquire travel leads.
There is also a need to help tourism grow in the country by making unexplored destinations known to travelers and also by bringing them under their reach. Most travel service providers focus on top selling destinations currently. This gap can be capitalized upon as a business opportunity where information about untouched and unexplored destinations can be brought online and players who could cater to such interests can be made available through this venture.
There are a number of travel portals in the country at present. How do you consider yourself unique?
India has a plethora of travel portals but certainly not many that focus on custom travel. We provide an end-to-end solution where we connect each traveler to three-four travel agents, which gets him competitive quotes from them and also customized travel agents. Only those travel agents contact travelers who are well versed with the required destinations. We pioneered the concept of ‘pay per lead’ for travel agents in India wherein they could purchase relevant leads and pursue them to clinch the deal.
In the Indian travel industry, we are fast developing into a marketplace. We have a strong base of active travel agents with whom we stay connected to solve any traveler related issue. We work towards ensuring a smooth & memorable trip for travelers.
What are the various challenges of being in this space?
Building trust of the travelers and maintaining good rapport with travel agents are the key challenges in this space. Our success depends on the quality of our services, competitive quotes by travel agents for travelers and splendid travel experiences led by quality last mile on-ground servicing. Another important aspect is the protection of our customers. We have developed a robust feedback and rating system for travel agents to make sure that our customer is in right hands.
How are you helping Indian SMEs in the travel industry such as small travel agents?
Majority of travel agents are SMEs in this industry, who do possess the right ingredients to be a successful enterprise, but lack in terms of marketing themselves to clients. HelloTravel offers a ready access to prospective travelers at a very low investment and creates a level playing field for them, expounding small-sized travel agents to compete with bigger players. While competition amongst travel agents allows best output for travelers in terms of quotes, at the same time, HelloTravel decongests competition by opening up new areas and avenues for the travel agents.
With us, travel agents get access to ‘intent to purchase’ travelers. This enables them to stay focused on their core areas and reduce expenditure as they need to spend only on those leads where travelers have expressed their intent to travel to a destination by the agent. We work on pay per lead model which scales down travel agents’ marketing expenses along with pressures on their cash-flow. This true ‘Pay as you go’ model of HelloTravel enables SMEs to plan their investments as per their needs. With this, HelloTravel is strengthening the travel ecosystem in the country.
What is your go-to-market strategy?
We have a simple and straight-forward go-to-market strategy. We put in our best efforts to provide travelers with ‘Better Bargain, Better Choices’ – better bargains in quotes/ deals, wider choices in travel plans and numerous options for all destinations. We are also building a platform where travelers can connect with each other on a regular basis even when they are not planning to travel at the time.
For travel agents, we bring numerous travel leads and an option to ‘pay as you go’ as I mentioned earlier. This enables them to instead pate on their investments and focus on their core strengths. We are building a network of agents for sourcing leads and selling leads at HelloTravel. Connecting with last-mile travel agencies also helps in cutting flab, making travel much cheaper yet delivering a better experience.
What is the road-map of your company in the next 3-5 years?
We aim to become the preferred platform for travelers looking for a memorable trip at the best price.