Findmycarrots believes that when it comes to holiday planning, choosing a destination is more important and time consuming than choosing other travel products like hotels.
On the bizarrely named Findmycarrots, users will be able to search for destinations by entering free-text. For example: "beaches 50 kms from pune", "hill stations in north India".
Findmycarrots uses semantic search to process the search query, and displays matching destinations in a map. Upon clicking on a destination, various details like weather, pictures, and hotels in the destination are displayed.
Users will be able to search for destination types like hill stations, beaches, temples, dams, parks, lakes, museums, forts, and waterfalls.
Pictures about the destination are retrieved from Flickr, and the hotel booking is powered by HotelsCombined.
Kanwar Sangha, co-founder, tells us why he started the company:
"Last year, during the kids summer vacation we decided to go to a hill station in north east India. After searching multiple travel sites and even googling, it was a nightmare to get the relevant information. There was no option where I could just type in - 'show me all hill stations in north east India'. Findmycarrots was founded due to this frustration on searching for destinations during vacation planning."
The website was beta launched on September 9, 2013 with a self-funding amount of $12,000. There are five employees in the company, three of them are in Bangalore. Key executives in the company include:
- Arijit Mukherjee, founder
- Sivaramakrishnan, co-founder
- Kanwar Sangha, co-founder
The company says that its looking to raise a seed round and it is in touch with some VCs and angel investors in India.
When asked about competition, Sangha notes three key travel brands as their competitors: Hopper (based in Boston), ixigo (based in India), and ZapTravel (based in Europe, TLabs here).
Q&A with Sangha below.
Describe what your start-up does, what problem it solves and for whom?
Findmycarrots is a startup that uses big data and semantic search technology to provide a better travel planning experience to customers.
For example, a customer can enter free text search terms such as “beaches in South India”, “hills 300 km from Bangalore” or “scuba-diving during summer for less than 2000 rupees”.
Findmycarrots will understand what the query means and display relevant results on a map. Clicking on a result will show an overview of the place, modes of transport to get there, weather, local events, popularity among travellers etc.
Then a user can choose to perform a detailed comparison of different results. Once a user selects a destination, Findmycarrots will allow the user to book travel options from providers at no extra cost. Findmycarrots will work with both online and brick & mortar travel agents to provide booking options to customers.
The primary customers of Findmycarrots are end consumers who travel for leisure and use online resources to plan their travel.
A 2012 report by PhoCusWright calls this segment of travellers as “discretionary travellers”. As per the report, 10% of online travellers in India fall under this category.
Why should people or companies use your startup?
OTAs allow travellers to book travel, but not explore places they might want to visit. Currently, there are no solutions to help customers discover destinations based on their interest.
72% of Indian travellers report being frustrated while selecting destinations online due to lack of organized and reliable data. Findmycarrots will fill this gap.
What's your revenue model?
We are planning to provide semantic search for hotels too. For example, users will be able to search "hotel in bangalore with spa, free-wifi and near business district". We will be partnering with OTAs and taking the commission from the bookings.
What if this idea fails?
Till now the feedback has been very encouraging. We are starting with this idea, but I am sure that there will be refinements as we go along.
Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?
We will have a smart advertising campaign aimed at travellers in the target demography. We will also engage with customers on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.
During the first year of operations, we will rely on word-of-mouth and social media to build up a customer base.
We launched beta on September 9 2013, currently average visit duration to the site is seven minutes and we have users to the site from India, US, Germany, Belgium, Malaysia, Singapore, and Australia.
Where do you see yourselves in 3 years’ time, what specific challenges do you hope to have overcome?
In 3 years’ time, we want to be the portal where people can “Google their travel idea” globally.
The technical challenges that we foresee are dealing with huge volumes of data and providing a good response time for search queries.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
Below are the current issues from a traveller perspective:
- I have to sift through too much information
- Is the information I find up to date?
- No easy way to search multiple destinations at once
- Unable to search destinations based on preferences
Semantic search is trending in the market. In addition to the players listed above in the article, we have Expedia's YourVisit, Cheapair, and Adioso that use semantic search to serve customers.
As we write this TLabs, there is another Bangalore-based travel startup in stealth mode that is working on semantic search technology (watch for TLabs soon).
There are also companies like Fact Finder Travel that provides semantic search engine as a pluggable product (obviously, needs quite a bit of tweaking) to existing e-commerce travel portals.
So, clearly, Findmycarrots cannot claim semantic-search as one of its differentiator.
Currently, the startup lists destinations only in India, but it has promised to go global soon.
The visual display of attraction spots in the map is neat. Ability to expand the distance-circle to see more attractions within a distance range is practically a useful feature and it works smooth too.
Findmycarrots lacks quantity and quality of content at this point. For example, a destination is described in 5-6 lines and the site directs to Wikipedia for detailed content. Pictures about a destination are neither attractive nor inspiring.
Overall, a destination has few lines of description, few images retrieved from flickr and weather details are also displayed. With the number of details that a current generation traveller looks before finalizing a destination/holiday, it is not convincing enough to finalize a destination based on what we see in Findmycarrots.
Its interesting to see Findmycarrots doesn't process hotel search queries at this stage. Rather, it is focussed on suggesting destinations before suggesting accommodation options to users. The company seems right in this approach. HolidayIQ proved with their data-based study that trip planning sites should help travellers find the right destination before finding hotels.
Having said all that, lets not forget that the startup is just about 15 days old. Findmycarrots has just begun its journey, hope it adds lot more features to inspire people to travel.