If you are an active Facebook user, you are bound to be a part of the meme tag revolution and after that, you are bound to receive an automated reply from that Facebook page, welcoming you to its world through its chatbot. In short, you are surrounded by artificial intelligence at such basic level that one-word replies and commands have been your go-to option nowadays.
Beyond this, if you are a frequent traveller and truly Indian, then you are bound to try several mobile applications or websites to compare the prices and find the best option for yourself. However, Ixigo has found a way to make your app-jump a headache of its voice-based travel assistant, Tara.
Ixigo co-founder Aloke Bajpai told us during an Inc42 Facebook Live AMA that the company, which is leading the charge of AI and ML in online travel space, has been introducing new products based on these new age technologies.
Bajpai revealed, “We are using them behind the scenes for a lot of things. We are constantly working on improving hotel curation and ranking based on data science as well as on the user’s past searches, click-throughs or bookings. Through this, we can offer a much more personalised, curated list of hotels, flights and trains that will help the customer save a lot of time.”
Also, the company is using data science to narrow down its results. In 2017, the company had focussed on “providing an end-to-end voice-enabled experience for flight, hotel, train searches, bookings and even web check-ins”. Soon after, Ixigo introduced Tara, short for Travel Assistant and Recommendation Agent.
At the time, Bajpai added, “The next level will be where all apps will need to have a voice-based interface. We want to be the leaders in travel for that.”
Prior to Tara, Ixigo launched “ixibaba, which is a chatbot that works on textual queries and gives you answers related to travel searches.” As ixibaba was built using a rule-based system, it wasn’t able to handle the wide range of queries and the company realised that it was not very scalable. And then came Tara. It was a much more ambitious and interesting project for the company.
Bajpai had said, “We actually launched it (Tara) in the US a couple of weeks back and we won an award for it. We are going to take the product live within the next few months. With it, you can literally do all your travel planning, searching and booking on voice. We are also working on integrating automated web check-in and automated discovery of hotels using voice.”
The award Bajpai is talking about is People’s Choice Runner-Up award for ‘Travel Innovation’ at the Phocuswright Innovation Launch event held in Florida for Tara.
Seems like, the team made their ambition a reality for many dwindling travellers.
So, what is Tara and what’s so good about her, you may ask. Here are the concise features:
- Tara is contextual. She knows your past trips, your family, your seat preferences amongst others.
- She is a part of ixigo’s travel graph, which is a cumulation of its data about preferences of flights, trains, etc.
- Tara uses natural language understanding and is based on adaptive learning.
Ixigo plans to launch Tara in the early 2018 and has a target of reaching more than 500 Mn Indians in different languages.
Founded in 2006 by Aloke Bajpai and Rajnish Kumar, ixigo is a travel search platform that claims to connect over 80 Mn travellers with content and deals from over 25,000 online as well as offline partners. It aggregates and compares real-time travel information, prices and the availability of flights, trains, buses, cabs, hotels, packages and destinations.
The company has raised nearly $25.5 Mn funding from its investors which includes Sequoia Capital, SAIF Partners and Micromax, among others.
In a bid for newer experiences, the company had been adding web check-ins and other such features on its platform and aims to make new age technologies a part of our travel love. Other players in this segment include, MakeMytrip, Yatra, Deyor Camps, ClearTrip, etc.
According to a Google India-BCG report, the country’s travel market (both offline and online) is expected to become a $48 Bn industry within the next three years. As per an IBEF report, the online travel space will likely account for 40% to 50% of total transactions by 2020.
In such a huge market, how does Ixigo continue to lead its bandwagon with AI and ML seems like an interesting happening.