Madhup Agrawal is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of HelloTravel, a venture of IndiaMart.com, which connects travellers with certified travel specialists for free. It is a service through which travellers get deals for their destinations from travel professionals. Agrawal is responsible for the overall growth of this platform. Besides overseeing multifarious activities in HelloTravel, he also provides technology leadership and business guidance to other group ventures of IndiaMart.com such as BizTradeShows.com and HelloTrade.com. In an exclusive interview with India Digital Review, Madhup Agrawal speaks about HelloTravel’s business model and future plans.
What was the idea behind launching HelloTravel?
Necessity is the mother of invention’. The idea behind HelloTravel.com was the dearth of custom travel solutions to travellers. We do have many online platforms for travel solutions. However, only a few of them cater to the segment of customers that wants customised/specialised itineraries and unconventional destinations.
Besides, bringing the travel agents to a common platform and establishing their online presence was another reason behind HelloTravel.com’s formation. This particular segment of travel agents, where majority of the enterprises falls into the SME category, has expertise in personalised travel plans and destination ‘know how’. Through the mutual association of HelloTravel.com and these travel agents, we could give custom travel another dimension and newer heights.
What is the business model of HelloTravel?
HelloTravel.com pioneered the ‘pay per lead’ model in India allowing travel agents to get an access to ‘intent to purchase’ travellers. It is a simple model through which travel agents can purchase travel leads from HelloTravel.com on minimal prices. Reducing the marketing and advertising expenses of travel agents, the ‘pay per lead’ model enables agents to plan their investments wisely.
We intend to establish a network of travel agents for sourcing leads and selling leads at HelloTravel.com. We are also working towards formation of a platform where travellers can connect with each other on a regular basis even when they are not planning to travel at the time.
How many travel agents are listed on the website who provide their services to the consumers?
HelloTravel.com began its journey three years ago and presently has a community of over 1,500 big, medium and small travel agents as its members. They are not only utilising our online platform to purchase traveller leads but also fortifying their online presence to grow their businesses at domestic and international level.
What is the procedure of listing the booking agents?
Getting started with HelloTravel.com is very simple. Travel agent is required to first register with HelloTravel.com followed by submission of a very nominal amount to activate their account. Once he/she registers and deposits the initial amount, the account gets activated. HelloTravel.com creates a profile of the agent on its portal (http://www.hellotravel.com.com/agent_name). As part of this profile, the agent is required to provide a detailed background of his company, related affiliations and certifications and more importantly testimonials of travellers.
HelloTravel.com also issues a “Member HelloTravel Certificate” with a validity to the travel agent after he/she completes servicing at least 50 leads without any complaints from the travellers. Also, keeping in mind the client security issue, HelloTravel.com verifies certain aspects of the travel agent such as complaint free record, valid address proof and any one proof of company’s existence (PAN, Registration Certificate, Bank A/C, Telephone Bill etc.) before issuing this certificate.
How has been the revenue growth for HelloTravel? What are your revenue expectations this fiscal?
We have grown 100 per cent year-on-year in the last three years and expect similar growth trend this fiscal too. We are proud to have provided a level playing field to all types of travel agents. We would keep on adding new features to enhance the experience at HelloTravel.com.
Similar services are being offered by the leading travel websites in the country. How are you different?
Since long the travel and tourism industry has been perceived as seller centric. HelloTravel.com has brought about a paradigm shift in the industry from being ‘seller-centric’ to ‘traveller-centric’ by focussing on custom travel solutions. Connecting each traveller with upto four credible travel agents, HelloTravel.com provides the most competitive and best customised travel deals to its customers. Also, travel agents who are well versed with the requisite destination, contact the travellers. All in all, we create a win-win situation for both travel agents and customers.
HelloTravel.com pioneered the ‘pay per lead’ concept for travel agents in India, empowering them to purchase relevant leads of their interest which they could pursue and clinch. Travel agents can strategise their monetary investments more efficiently as they need to invest in only those leads which they actually want to buy. Also, HelloTravel.com makes fresh leads available 24*7 for travel agents.
While travellers get choice and mental peace, travel agents can concentrate on their businesses without worrying much about how to acquire more leads.
Why is there no option of online booking on the website?
We facilitate custom travel solutions wherein our registered travel agents connect with travellers who post requests at HelloTravel website. The possibility of online booking automatically gets eliminated here.
At HelloTravel.com, travellers can plan their travel in tree simple steps – share travel requirements with us, get travel quotes from three to four registered travel agents and choose the best deal for an unforgettable travel experience. This way travellers could choose the best offer as per the requirement and pocket size.
In case of online booking, travellers are offered with packaged travel itineraries which may or may not suit their travel requirements.
What are your priorities as the CEO of the company?
HelloTravel.com is still at its nascent stage and therefore, there is a lot to be done to strengthen the product and its presence across markets. The prime motto is to establish HelloTravel.com as the most preferred platform for travellers who are looking for a memorable trip at the best price.
What are your marketing plans for HelloTravel?
At HelloTravel.com, we put our best foot forward to provide our customers with better bargain in quotes/deals and better choices in travel plans and destinations. Last year we helped over 2 lac travellers in planning their travel needs. We are expecting above 5 lac travellers across the globe to use HelloTravel.com’s platform for planning their travel this year.
By providing better experiences to both travel agents and travellers, we wish to market ourselves more and more through ‘word of mouth’ as this is the most trusted one. We also utilise social media to promote ourselves and stay connected to our travellers and travel agents. To quote, we have a fan base of over 3.5 lac on HelloTravel.com’s facebook page who share their experiences and queries with us via this platform.
What are your future plans for HelloTravel?
We are planning to expand our operations to foreign shores in the next few years. We would like to see our strong presence in countries such as Egypt, Singapore, Thailand and Kenya by enrolling more destination agents from these markets.
Also, HelloTravel.com will soon be introducing mobile applications for its solutions in order to make the flow of enquiries fast and flexible for its travel agents. This would enable travel agents to purchase leads of their own choice, size and value on daily, weekly basis, et al on their mobile phones.
We are also looking forward to double the number of travel agents registered with us in the next three years down the lane.