Archive for July, 2007

Interview with Aloke Bajpai of iXigo

Written by: gaurav

On Jul 22nd, 2007

Aloke Bajpai is a founder of iXigo, an Indian travel search engine that currently serves domestic airline bookings.

The online travel business is a fast growing market segment due to increased travel in India as well as growing number of travel service providers like airlines and hotels. This market segment is also competitive with multiple players including travel agencies like Yatra, MakeMytrip and travel search portals like iXigo, Zoomtra.

In this interview Aloke talks about the market, iXigo’s value proposition and competitive positioning, revenue model as well as general tips on how to bootstrap and build a successful company.

(Click here to see a list of Consumer Internet companies in India like iXigo)

Transcript of interview with Ixigo.

What is iXigo –
iXiGO is a travel search engine for Indian consumers. It currently focuses on airline ticket search.

Any plans to extend your search beyond airlines?
We are currently evaluating other search opportunities such as hotel reservations, tours/activities, railway booking etc but have no immediate release announcements to make.

When was iXigo founded and who are the founders?
iXigo was founded in early 2006. The founders are Aloke Bajpai, Jens Schutter, Rajnish Kumar and Dharmendra Yashovardhan. The idea was conceived while Aloke was at INSEAD business school. Aloke, Rajnish and Jens are from Amadeus, the world’s largest travel technology company, while Dharmendra is Aloke’s classmate from INSEAD. The entire iXigo team possesses knowledge in what we believe are the three pillars of building a successful company in this space – Business, Technology and domain (Travel) expertise.

Where is iXigo located?
Gurgaon, India

How is the company funded?
Bootstrapped. Before building iXigo, the founders also provided product strategy consulting to another innovative European travel company and the proceeds from this engagement helped fund iXigo’s ongoing operations.

How do you compare yourselves against other travel portals like Cleartrip, Yatra, MakeMyTrip?
These companies are travel agencies that sell tickets on their own platform. We are a travel search portal that searches for the best deals on the web, and then takes you to the airline you select to buy a ticket for. In fact we complement these companies, since we can even search the travel agencies along with the airlines directly for the best price. This will be even more useful for products like hotels and packages, where product differentiation and price differentiation occurs.

Prices for the same air-ticket at the same time on different travel agencies like Yatra, MakeMyTrip will never be the same as they charge additional booking fees based on their relationship with the carrier. We don’t charge additional fees. We simply aggregate ALL available flights and redirect you to the airlines web site for the ticket you wish to purchase. Our unbiased and comprehensive service will almost always provide the lowest price.

Many Indian consumers feel more comfortable entering their credit card on the well known airline’s Web site than a travel agency’s site. We plan to attract those customers to our platform since it eases the search on multiple airline websites.

We also believe that our user experience and superior search algorithms are our points of differentiation. Finally we fall in the search quadrant and not transaction quadrant, and so our product roadmap is likely to be significantly different than those of travel agencies. Stay tuned!

OK, so how do you make money?
We have relationships with the airlines by which they pay us for a transaction. Over time we’d like to move to a pure referral model, where we are paid for each referral to the airline’s Web Site. In addition, we will introduce targeted advertising on our platform.

How do you plan to get users to iXigo?
At this point we are relying on word of mouth and making sure we get repeat usage thanks to a great first-time experience. Today 30% of our visitors come to our site again within a month. Also, we already launched two features that came as feedback from users of our product. We plan to continue doing that in the short term, get feedback from our customers and perhaps in the future, launch more mainstream marketing efforts.

Closing thoughts?
Over 55% of people that buy airline tickets online in India, still buy direct from the airlines. Both the travel agency sites and travel search sites like ours provide means for customer to find their right flight, however, we provide a more direct search and comparison for those 55% who still prefer to book directly. This fact, along with the continuing overall surge of air travel in India, makes it a large market potential and a very exciting space to be in!

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India Internet – status check

Written by: Madhur

On Jul 17th, 2007

comScore recently came out with a report on the Indian Internet industry. Here are some of my observations and thoughts:

Search engines – One of the popular category of sites. This category pretty much reflects the global trends in terms of the popularity of search engines. (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Ask). The interesting thing to note here is that there is no Indian company in the list. Given the variety of different cultures and languages in India, one might think local players might have an edge if they really tried. Currently though, most of the Internet population is English, but this is certainly going to change as the penetration increases. If Chinese search engine Baidu is anything to go by, there is certainly room for a local player in India too. And hey, its not like no one is trying. But frankly, other than Guruji, no one seems to be anywhere close to the standards of the big global players. We have talked about Guruji here and here, let’s see how they progress in the coming years.

Portal/Services – A popular category from the Web 1.0 era. The sites in this category either have day-to-day utility or entertainment value. Lot of early local players here from the 90’s, yet only a few established ones. Google, Yahoo, MSN are again the big players, although the good news here is that there are at least a handful local players in the sector.
news/entertainment/communication – rediff, timesnetwork and sify – decent content but poor user experience (broken links, popup ads, flashy ads)
classifieds – This is one category which has achieved the best success rate as far as the local players are concerned. One of the reasons is the demographics that is online in India and the fact that these players jumped on to the opportunity quite early in the game and more importantly stuck it out at the time of dotcome burst. Naukri, Shaadi, Bharatmatrimony, etc. are a few examples. A few promising sites in this space – mapmyindia (maps and directions), onyomo (local yellow page listings)

Social networking / web2.0 – A rapidly growing category. Very few decent Indian sites. Mostly dominated by the likes of Orkut, Facebook, Youtube etc. Again this is a category where one would think a local player can gain an edge as they would presumably understand the sensibilities of the youth better. Like I mentioned above, once English ceases to remain the predominant language on the web, more possibilities will open up. A few promising startups in this space – Minglebox, burrp.

Ecommerce – My personal favorite but not a popular category in India yet. We really need to catch up here if Internet has to sustain. The reason is simple – the most popular business model on the Internet is advertisments and for ads you need companies who are ready to advertise in the first place. Yes offline companies do want to advertise online, but there is only so much they will do. Real spending will come only from ecommerce players as they can directly affect the sales/branding using this form of advertising. We are seeing growth in this category. Check out some good articles on this space at Darpan Munjal’s blog. Travel is definitely a hot sector which already has a bunch of players (makemytrip, yatra, travelguru, cleartrip etc.) followed by entertainment (seventymm). The next big sector is retail which is currently dominated by Ebay India, but definitely expect to see some action here. IndiaPlaza.in and Futurebazaar are upcoming players. Remains to be seen who will emerge out as the Amazon of India (how about Amazon India itself?)

While on this topic, you might want to check out an interesting discussion here about why Indian companies are lagging behind global players (as opposed to Chinese, Korean, European markets). You can read the complete article for details, but the summary is that dominance of English language and poor user experience of Indian sites are the two main reasons.

Conclusion
India Internet has come a long way just in the last 3-4 years, but I think we are still in early stages. It might still take some time to reach the maturity level of more developed markets. To me, it looks more like the pre-bubble period (’97-98) of the US market. A lot of investment is happening, user base is increasing, new companies are coming up – things seem to be moving in the right direction. What are your thoughts?

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