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!

Sphere: Related Content

Entry Filed under: ixigo, makemytrip, online travel

18 Responses

  1. 1. Neeraj said on July 23rd, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    What compels me to use ixigo and not some other meta search engine like zoomtra, rediff faresearch or Mobissimo? Do we have space for 5 travel meta search engines in India?

  2. 2. Gaurav Kotak said on July 24th, 2007 at 10:01 am

    Neeraj,

    You make a good point. I agree with you that most of these sites have little differentiation today.

    The landscape will get a lot more interesting once A) there is more price discrimination (though Aloke mentions that there is some, I definitely believe its not significant enough today to provide much competitive advanage) and B) these sites start providing hotels in an extremely fragmented market and hence providing bundling options (and special prices).

    In this nascent market although there isnt room today for 5+ players, each company has a shot based on how it adapts to the needs of a growing and fast sophesticating market.

    The key question for these players is whether they want to have a tight relationship with service providers or simply scrape the pages and whether you want to take principal risk (that is buy in bulk before hand and sell for premiums) or simply be a agent/referrer.

    I’ll soon be talking about pros and cons of these business models and what it means for companies in the space.

    For now sites with better usability and better ways to reach out to customers are likely to gain an edge.

  3. 3. Interview with Aloke Bajpai of iXigo « Techtrends.In said on July 24th, 2007 at 10:07 am

    [...] Posted by techtrends on July 24th, 2007 I chatted with Aloke from iXigo, a Indian travel search site. This has been posted on iLeher, another India focused blog that I contribute to. [...]

  4. 4. Neeraj said on July 24th, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    Gaurav,

    Meta search engines would never do bulk buying as that would put them head to head to OLTAs such as MMT and Yatra. So referrals and advertising are their primary sources of income. Yes, I agree with you that some might like to work very closely with OLTAs to bring exclusivity and hence do better than those which just scrape the sites.

  5. 5. Vivek Krishna said on July 25th, 2007 at 9:29 am

    The founder takes some pride in differentiating iXigo from others by putting it in the ’search’ category and others in the ‘transaction’ category. What he fails to realize is that transaction = ’search’ + ‘purchase’

    ‘Transaction’ as available from makemytrip etc is not another category but is a superset category of iXigo

    iXigo seems as of now like a cleartrip/makemytrip/yatra.com sans the ticket booking feature. Not very convincing (unless they have some revolutionary search algorithm for flights)

  6. 6. Yash said on July 30th, 2007 at 6:14 am

    Vivek, you missed something:

    iXiGO doesn’t assume any principal risk (to quote Gaurav), rather, it directs consumers to the suppliers’ own website. The important thing to note is that since iXiGO is an infomediary, there are no intermediation costs incurred by the consumer in case of iXiGO(i.e. they pay the same amount as they would have had they gone straight to supplier’s own website). In case of an online travel agency like Yatra, Cleartrip or Makemytrip, the consumer usually ends up paying intermediation charges.

    So to recapture,

    - in case of an online travel agency
    total cost = cost incurred had the booking been made directly on airlines’ own website + intermediation fees

    - in case of travel search engines like http://www.ixigo.com,

    total cost = cost incurred had the booking been made directly on airlines’ own website.

    Hope this clarifies.

  7. 7. Vivek Krishna said on July 30th, 2007 at 9:35 am

    Hmm,so I did check out the website and the UI seems cool, the SMS search is a good addition.

    However I am not too convinced about the cost reduction part. I tried a sample search for flights from Hyderabad to Bangalore on 6th sep on both cleartrip and ixigo.Both show same prices for airdeccan and a few other airlines :(
    Anyway,I am sure the founders have done their research on the cost part and my observation is just a co incidence.

    But do customers like being directed to another site or do everything on one site even if its a little more expensive? Only time will tell.I do prefer the former if doing it gives me some discount on hotel bookings etc.

    Second, there is very little scope for improvement in search results here.Basically all websites show the same results.For a really price conscious customer the savings on ticket price wont sell much because he/she can search on cleartrip and book the same on the airline website.

    So who is the target customer here..The not so price conscious folks will book with cleartrip/makemytrip .The price conscious can still use *trip websites and then book on the airline websites.To lure these folks to the ixigo website would require ixigo to provide some significant advantage in terms of User experiene. Again here search results are not a differentiating factor. The other aspects of user experience (SMS, single click traversal to airline booking page) are the only selling points . Are these enough to get this segment of price conscious customers? I am not too sure

    And finally,the cleartrips of the world can and will slash the commissions if they are so threatened by ixigo. They’d probably serve ads to make money rather than charge a commission from travellers.

    ixigo needs to provide a very clear value proposition ,something more substantial than cost savings. Even for the cost savings advantage a very visible comparision of savings would be helpful or else users will not be convinced.

  8. 8. vivek garg said on July 31st, 2007 at 2:06 am

    There is no stickiness when it comes to travel booking.

    Two types of customers:

    a. people who call their travel agent and book their flights as they dont have time to research the cheapest prices. Offline offerings as MMT and such gets these customers. Infomediary dont get such customers.

    b. People who would go and look at all possible sites. Once they find the cheapest price, they would go and book with

    1. intermediary where MMT types would get transaction or referral. OR

    2. they might book directly with the airline. OR

    3. With infomediary like iXigo. Where they might get referral/lead generation.

    (3) is still a long way to go in India as yet. But I dont doubt that it will happen. We covered deal aggregators earlier on iLhere. http://ileher.com/2007/01/19/hungry-for-online-deals/

    And iXigo seems to be in the same model catering to a specific vertical (online tickets).

    It will be challenging to create a USP and keep customers loyal. And it will be nice to see iXigo do that.

  9. 9. SuperFlier said on July 31st, 2007 at 11:17 am

    I think what the comments fail to capture is how iXiGO sits on the top of the pyramid by not doing transactions. This allows them to aggregate content across competitors and give consumers a wider choice to look across.

  10. 10. Gaurav Kotak said on July 31st, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    Neeraj,

    I agree with you that it is not the job of a ‘meta-search’ provider to take primary risk. But I think the market is nascent enough and companies are new enough that a meta search provider today could change their underlying business model to adapt to the needs of the market (as they develop)

  11. 11. Vivek Krishna said on August 1st, 2007 at 6:04 am

    The big question to ask is this.

    Does not taking the ‘risk of enabling transactions’ offer any value add to the customers?

    Are they able to search better or provide better service or significantly lower costs( in terms of $$ and intangible effort expended in information retrieval) because they are not burdened with the task of enabling transactions?

    So far I dont see anything better that has been achieved by offloading the ‘risk’.The others in the space enable transactions and still provide the same UX as ixigo.com

    I hope the promoters have something up their sleeve to lure consumers
    Good luck to them

  12. 12. iXiGO Team said on August 2nd, 2007 at 9:02 am

    Wow .. what a lively discussion we have here :-).

    Thanks for all the comments and feedback everyone.

    @Vivek - Thanks for your wishes. At iXiGO, we are channelizing our energies to build a platform that helps consumers discover where the best deals are (in a fast, accurae and transparent manner) as opposed to enabling the transaction, which any offline/online travel agency can do already. To get the point, try a Delhi-Madurai search or a Bangalore- Ranchi search on all travel portals in India today and let us know who can find the cheapest option and what the difference in price is.

    Regards,
    iXiGO Team

  13. 13. iLeher » Interivew with Sandeep Murthy at Cleartrip.com Catching the Internet Wave in India said on August 24th, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    [...] We recently interviewed Aloke Bajpai of iXigo. The following interview is with Sandeep Murthy, CEO of Cleartrip.com. The interviews themselves reflect the difference in beliefs of how to address the market. [...]

  14. 14. Ashish said on August 30th, 2007 at 8:59 pm

    I guess there are more than five travel search engines if you count yahoo farchaser, tolmol.com and a few more. Has anyone done a comparison analysis of these solutions. It would be intresting to know who is the leader.

  15. 15. Rajiv said on August 31st, 2007 at 8:59 pm

    Ashish. I saw a good comparison analysis of travel search engines done on trak.in at http://trak.in/Tags/Business/2007/08/26/indian-travel-airfare-ticket-search-startup/

    Cheers,
    Rajiv

  16. 16. Siddharth Puri said on September 2nd, 2007 at 11:27 am

    Their is a huge potential in travel metra search engine space as differentiation factor will come in based on new analysis oriented model being generated. But i feel people should clearly look at search built up or travel planning segment to include railways and bus as important medium to increase the reach down to B & C category towns.

  17. 17. Abhishek Manocha said on September 24th, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    I love ixigo, mainly because I do get rates cheaper there. And I feel there many many such in India, As mentioned I might fall in category b mentioned by Vivek garg.
    Good Luck.

    Abhishek
    http://www.easysquarefeet.com

  18. 18. abhishek manocha said on September 25th, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    I do feel there is great deal of category B customer in India as poineted by Vivek. And well, transaction or no transaction both basically work, the point is to do any one model right. I am an avid fan of ixigo UI for the record. And search do seem faster and cheaper (as they say on home page, in reverse order)

Comments are closed.