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 | , , , | 5 Comments