The Internet population of India is currently 0.46 Bn, which is roughly 34.8% of the total country population and 13.5% of the total world internet users. Despite living in a digital age, a major segment still finds comfort in offline space.
Sukhmani Singh and the father-son duo of Jai Raj and Dhruv Raj Gupta, identified this as an opportunity to envelope online travel segment in India and launched Tripshelf in April 2016.
As per Jai, 80% of consumers shopping for travel online surf more than 15 websites before deciding. There is no standard to compare services making it a frustrating task. 50 million travellers have this pain in India which thus makes this a billion dollar opportunity for anyone to cash upon.
On the other side, there are 5,500 registered travel operators who have spent decades in giving excellent holidays to their customers. Often with service and price better than online travel agents (OTAs), but customers can’t find them. This is due to lack of financial muscle, lack of technology capabilities and lack of digital marketing expertise.
Tripshelf bridges this gap between leisure travellers and holiday experts. In April this year, it also raised a Pre-Series A funding of $250K from Delhi-based GEMS group. GEMS is an early stage, sector agnostic fund, servicing companies that are customer centric and leverage technology as a scale multiplying factor for delivering high shareholder value. The raised funds will be used to establish traction with the customer and travel operator community.
The Trippy Tripshelf
Tripshelf is an eclectic mix of youth and experience. Where Jai is a Bits Pilani and IIM Calcutta (1986) alumnus, Dhruv and Sukhmani are SRCC alumni and are also the co-founders of SeekSherpa-a mobile based marketplace which connects travelers and locals-founded in 2014.
Based in New Delhi, Tripshelf is an online marketplace for leisure travellers to discover, compare & buy the most suitable holiday packages from multiple tour operators. With a team size of 10, it aims to be the first point of contact for anyone planning a holiday.
“Customers truly have choice as our offering is not limited to a handful of pre-selected tour packages. For instance, Tripshelf may have 50 options to Manali from 15 operators offering price and service options to help travellers compare in a transparent manner and make an informed choice. Also, multiple tour operators are listed under their own brand name,” said Dhruv.
At present there are more than 600 packages across 60 tour operators available for users to compare and buy on Tripshelf. Currently,the website has more than 10,000 traveller visits a day, generating more than 300 leads a day, with each lead going to individual operators only.
Why Leisure Travel Market Is Important?
The total Indian travel market accounts to $24 Bn of which 41% is online. Leisure travel is a $13.5 Bn market annually of which $5.6 Bn is for holiday packages, 98% of which is currently offline.
With a booming middle class population, travel is among top 3 spends, wherein 42% of the leisure travellers opt for tours planned by a tour operator. Also, it is expected to be in the list of top 6 sectors in domestic travel spending by 2016 and offers high margins on the supplier side.
Other quick facts on the overall online/ offline travel space In India includes:
- Online penetration in travel and tourism bookings is estimated to increase from 41% in 2014 to 46% in 2017.
- The offline segment dominated the travel services market in India in 2014, accounting for nearly 55% of the market.
- The online travel segment is predicted to reach $34 Bn and overtake the offline segment in the market by 2019. The growth is attributed to the emerging popularity of m-commerce within the country.
- 50% of India’s travel population will be booking their holiday online by 2020.
- When it comes to holidays and especially overseas trips, people prefer to browse online but buy offline.
- While Indian users are willing to book travel tickets online, booking hotels and stays are still more of an offline habit.
- 95% of consumers search online before making a travel purchase while 36% consumers make unplanned trips if offered a discount.
- Till August 2015, 52% people in India were booking both online and offline and up to two thirds of travellers in India preferred to book packages when buying their biggest holiday of the year.
A Win-Win Deal For All
Where users can get wide range of options, deals and offers in a transparent and secure manner, tour operators can take their hands on digital customers.
On technical front, the platform offers a fully built product with scalable backend built on RoR and responsive design.
Tour operators can use the portal for launches and promotions as well as for real time CRM and key market analytics. Not only this, being on Tripshelf give them the stamp of credibility and authenticity, thereby increasing the trust quotient of users.
It also offers admin panel for employees and has developed similarity algorithm for package ranking.
Sticking Foot Out Of The Crowd
There are portals like TravelTriangle, Tripcrafters, and Tripfactory, attempting to capture the largest share of consumer holiday package booking space. However, as claimed by the founders, Tripshelf is the only service of its kind in India.
“Tripshelf is a marketplace aggregator. We are not an OTA or a niche player. In fact they will be invited to list on our website. It’s like a premium shopping mall where premium brands such as an M&S, Zara etc, find it more economical to take a shop here than making stand alone stores.” said Jai.
Sukhmani further tells that automation, transparency, and comparison of quotes online allow them to stand apart from their competition. “Our strategy is simple. We will have the largest collection of holiday packages, making it the first port of call for holiday seekers. In fact we would, at an appropriate time, will invite such competition to list their products on our website and sell through us,” he added.
Future Road Map: Innovation In Pipeline
The next immediate step would be to launch a mobile app. The portal is looking for an increase by a 10 fold order of magnitude, reaching 100 operators with a 1000 holiday packages across the world, by the end of this year. “We might be launching an addictive travel deals platform very soon,” said Jai.
Other features that still remain in pipeline include Semantic search, Machine learning for repeat users, automated email based recommendations, Real time package booking module with supplier side integration and more.