TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring India-based Travelomy, a travel guide using real-time updates and geo-location for the South Asia region.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
Travelomy is a South Asia-focused travel portal that was launched in June 2011. The parent company behind Travelomy is Ciafo, which also has two other consumer web products.
The key team behind Travelomy consists of TWO people – Gurjit Sidhu and Amarpreet Kalkat, who are also co-founders of parent company Ciafo.
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
- Gurjit Sidhu handles engineering for Travelomy. He is a business grad who is a developer at heart. Sidhu has spent almost ten years working at companies like Cap Gemini, Trilogy or doing multiple entrepreneurial activities. He has coded Travelomy almost single-handedly. Sidhu holds an MBA from the prestigious IIM Calcutta and a B.Tech. in Mechanical Engineering from Thapar University, Patiala, India.
- Amarpreet Kalkat handles the product and business for Travelomy. Kalkat has spent almost ten years building internet products at companies like HP, Trilogy and Nokia before co-founding Ciafo. While he still dabbles in coding a bit, his core strength is in architecting and designing products that solve people’s problems in a simple and smart way. Kalkat holds an MBA from the prestigious IIM Kozhikode and a B.Tech. in Computer Science from Punjabi University, Patiala, India.
Travelomy is currently bootstrapped by the co-founders and has not raised any funding yet.
What problem are you trying to solve?
Existing travel experience online is fragmented. There are travel guides that are primarily content plays, booking sites that are primarily pricing plays and half-successful social efforts in between to bridge the gap and build a wholesome experience.
Travelomy wants to build an online home for travellers leveraging social engagement and collaboration, which brings all of the thing mentioned above together in a sublime way.
While Travelomy is initially starting with South Asia, the ultimate aim is to build a global travel portal.
Describe the business, core products and services?
While Travelomy ultimately aims to be a comprehensive travel portal providing services that help in planning to booking to undertaking the trip, it is currently focused on the first phase, trying to build’s the world’s best travel guide.
Travelomy focuses on three key aspects – rich content, geo-location and social media – and uses them effectively to build a useful information source for a traveller.
Travelomy also differentiates itself in the way it collects and presents information. Almost all of the content on Travelomy is crowdsourced and can be updated by any user who is signed-in. There are no advertisements anywhere on the website, making it one of neatest user interfaces in some time now.
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
An active traveller instead of a passive tourist is Travelomy’s core customer. We define a "active traveller" as somebody who like to go and do things rather than purely sight-see around as a tourist.
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
Yes. Travelomy now has more than 20,000 unique visitors a month and we have been getting increasingly better feedback with every new feature and iteration.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
Travel related ecommerce is going to be the core of the revenue model. Working with its partners, Travelomy aims to provide all kinds of travel related bookings – hotels, flights, packages, deals etc.
As building engagement with the travellers is the biggest single focus on Travelomy, we hope to leverage that as a competetive advantage for gaining a bigger share of the pie.
SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
- Technology is Travelomy’s biggest strength and we plan to leverage that effectively across all the product features. An example is the recently introduced "real-time curated travel feeds" based on Twitter which make Travelomy the first-ever travel guide globally to introduce a cool and dynamic element to usually static destination information. See the Kathmandu page on Travelomy to see how this feature really adds value to content.
- Operations is an area of weakness. As any travel product at some point would involve a significant operational aspect, it is a weakness we need to mitigate.
- While our goals are hugely ambitious, it also means that we end up pitting ourselves against many broad and niche players. As a startup, we might end up having one too many competitors.
- The lack of a brand in the travel domain is the biggest opportunity. Almost all major players are either content or pricing plays. Lonely Planet is perhaps the closest travel has to a global brand, but it is almost entirely associated with the guidance phase of travel. There is an opportunity to build for travel what Facebook is to social, and that is what where we intend to take Travelomy.
- Active travellers are a growing tribe in travel. And one that traditional travel heavywieghts have ignored in favor of tourists where the volumes lie. While it is easy to find information or make bookings for a sign-seeing trip to Taj Mahal, it is not exactly easy to find information on motorcycling routes in Bhutan or make arrangements to travel by motorcycle. We are soon launching an Activity module built on top of Google Maps that would increase the quality of information related to things like trekking, hiking, motorcycling, biking etc. by a big margin.
- There is no truly platform company in travel. We intend to make Travelomy one.
Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?
- Technology, which is our strength is not impossible to replicate. Our technology based advantages therefore might not sustain for very long, we would therefore need to pad them up with something else as well
- There are big players eyeing a pie of huge online travel vertical. Their marketing muscle gives them an enormous advantage in taking out smaller startups, how so much innovating. Travelomy would need to beat such players with speed, both of innovation and execution.
Many of our peers advised that travel is a commoditized market with strong incumbent benefits.
We believe in innovation’s ability to challenge the strength of incumbency, so we chose to ignore thir advice and validate our product at a minimal cost.
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
One million monthly unique visitors, with more than 30% direct traffic and a return rate of 30% is our (somewhat) stretch target at this point.
NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.