The Gray Hair Speaketh

Advice that is largely Unsolicited.. – an interesting travel portal

Khushnood Naqvi suggested me to review his startup venture,, a travel portal.

What is it about?
In the rather congested space of travel booking sites, aims to be different. Some of the key differentiators include combining air and train travel bookings in a single search instant, more human language search ability and a feature to plan an elaborate trip as well.

What more?
The interface is very clean and uncluttered. Which is really nice. There are options to use a standard interface or go for a simpler interface which can work with a slower connection also. This is a useful feature considering especially that train bookings can be happening from anywhere in the country, and where high speed connections may not be that common. Likewise, while searching for travel options also, there are options, viz. an English language style statement where you can use descriptive language (e.g. ‘Mumbai to Delhi by plane tomorrow’), or a more conventional form based tool, or finally, where you actually build up to an entire, elaborate trip booking.

Other Observations:
While doing air booking, the site sends you apparently, to the direct airline booking site. Unlike most other travel booking portals then, does not attempt to close the transaction on its own site. It could be a matter of awaiting the approvals from the sites, or it might be a conscious choice made by, for some commercial reasons. There is a map interface which shows a chosen route on the map. It is an interesting feature.

Wisdom Nuggets:
1. Ordinarily, I would have hesitated to review “one more travel portal”, as there is already much congestion in the space, and the jury is really out, on who amongst those will survive the heat, and remain around to make money. With several funded startups in the space, what does expect to achieve? Well, I do see them making a difference with their offering, having focused on specific customer needs, like the air+train bookings. I would recommend them to continue focusing on few but well directed features.
2. There is a speed challenge across the site. Specially the Ajax functionalities are slow and can be frustrating at times. These need to be fixed.
3. There are interesting features that can be useful to users. However there is the big question of revenues. How is money going to be made? It does not seem apparent.
4. As it is, travel bookings are a low margin business. The only hope for travel portals is to generate high volumes of business. I am not sure how will manage to do that, in terms of brand building efforts, etc. There may be an opportunity to provide their set of services to another funded travel portal, by being their backend.

On the whole, while I appreciate the simplicity, the specific focus on few value-additions that has taken, it is not clear to me, as to how revenues will come, and especially, serious, large revenues. So that remains a big question as far as I can see, with regards to

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March 5, 2009 - Posted by | Startup, Travel | , , ,


  1. […] We are often asked this question as to why we don’t do booking ourselves on our site. And also what is our business model. As Sanjay asks here. […]

    Pingback by 90DI Blog » Blog Archive » is a travel search engine | March 6, 2009 | Reply

  2. Hi Sanjay,
    Thanks for taking your time out to explore the site in such detail. You have done an effort review – really appreciate it.
    Glad you like the technology, the simplicity of the UI. Also we are constantly trying to make AJAX less annoying (which it is at times & on certain browsers/machine configurations – especially on IE 6 it can be painful. Works well on FF, IE 7, and Chrome). Do share with us what browser you were using.
    The lite version that you noticed is precisely for this reason. Where the main UI becomes a bit heavy. In fact we have a version of mobile too .

    Now for your comments/questions on the business part. I am continuing the remainder of my response on our blog at , as this is a common question asked by people.

    Comment by Khushnood | March 6, 2009 | Reply

    • Khushnood,
      Noted your feedback. Good luck to your further efforts towards improvements.

      Specifically with regards to your clarification that it’s a travel search engine, that is great. I believe then, it is similar to an, I guess.
      Then, the question comes about the revenue model. How are you expecting to make money? Kayak and others have large volumes for one, also I guess, they earn small commissions on the transactions initiated through their search, and work with affiliates as well. And hotels is a big earner for them, since airlines become commoditised quickly.
      Same would be true here. I would not really expect to see dramatic price benefits on air tickets, searching at your portal, as against going directly to a, for example. Then, what is the real pull in to your site? If you were to do a great job of similar searches for hotels, and ensuring best rates each time, then it would be a great advantage that you would offer.
      Anyway, good luck to you once again.

      Comment by Sanjay Mehta | March 6, 2009 | Reply

  3. Sanjay, Yes, you’re right its similar to Our business model is similar to Kayak, etc. i.e. referral from Service providers like Airlines.

    Well lets see about volumes – hopefully, we’ll also have one day 🙂

    You have named ClearTrip – it is definitely a high quality travel site. But speaking on the difference in Airfares, you will typically find a difference of few 100s of Rs in Airfares, when you compare fares on our site with any of the OTA (online travel agent) sites. I believe few 100s of rupees do matter to travelers.

    Also you make a valid point about Hotels. Its also registered with us.

    Our mission is to make finding of any travel information easier. Train+Flight combinations being one example. Also the text based (NLP like) search makes it very easy for the user to find any info. We’ll try to come out with more innovative things like these.

    Comment by Khushnood | March 6, 2009 | Reply

    • Noted, Khushnood.
      Well, good luck once again on all these endavors.

      Comment by Sanjay Mehta | March 9, 2009 | Reply

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