Posts filed under makemytrip

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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What are they doing to attract customers?

Written by: Madhur

On Jan 3rd, 2007

One of the most common answers that I get on asking new startups about their marketing plans is that they are focusing on providing the best user experience and then rely on word of mouth. I beg to differ here. Agreed - awesome user experience accompanied with word of mouth is quite effective, but I think that some clever marketing can give a non-trivial boost to the traffic, more so for startups in the consumer Internet space. If you have big budget, the obvious way is to spend tons of money to make regular splashes all over the media or give away freebies to attract customers or even give big ticket lotteries (this is not unreal by the way). But on the other hand, even some low budget clever ideas can be very effective in driving significant traffic to the site. Let’s take a look at some of the Indian Internet companies to see what they are doing to attract customers. Also presented are tips on how other companies can use some of these techniques:

Traditional media marketing: Air commercials on televisions, billboards, etc. This is of course an expensive way to spread the word. While the reach of such media is huge, the problem is that it is difficult to measure how many customers you have acquired directly because of these campaigns. As a result, only big companies with lots of money can use this technique. For example: media portal Yahoo.in, travel portals MakeMyTrip, Cleartrip, Yatra and job portals Naurki, Monster, IndiaTimes Jobs have commercials on different TV channels and billboards in big cities.

Referral marketing: This is a scheme where you give additional incentive to already existing customers to do referral for your product/company. This is a proven model and the success comes with a cost - the referral reward. Some of the companies that are using this scheme are:

  • SeventyMM referral program: Get one sixth of your subscription fee waived for every new customer you bring in. So after you get 6 customers, your subscription is effectively free (well, as long as your referrals are active members).
  • MakeMyTrip High5 program: Gives you Rs. 500 coupon for every customer you get who signs up and makes a transaction.
  • Yaari referral program: First few members who get x number of friends to sign up on the site every month get an iPod nano.

Online Social Networks: With the onset of online user communities, lot of teenagers/youth spend quite a bit of time hanging out at these social joints. Yaari.com CEO Prerna Gupta is using an interesting approach to use this as a marketing avenue. She has created a profile on Orkut - a social networking site to promote her own Indian version of social networking community Yaari.com ! This is almost a free publicity medium. The key point here though is that it has to subtle. If you directly spam these places by creating a profile just for advertising, no one is going to pay attention. Other startups can take a cue and use this medium in other interesting ways. Like creating communities to start a conversation to introduce their services, get feedback or just to know the customers better. Other social avenues include popular blogs, which a lot of companies already try to have their presence in.

Sponsoring offline events/parties: Using this technique, the companies make an impression on the users’ mind that they are more than just an online service and are actually a part of the community. For e.g. TimesJobs.com organizes job fairs, Yahoo.in, Sulkeha.com were seen sponsoring BlogCamps, Tulleeho.com organizes wine trails, cocktail making sessions etc. The point to note here is that this technique does not always involves big bucks for sponsoring big events/conferences. Events/Parties can be small weekend parties or other relevant small events. Interestingly, MySpace actually built their initial traffic using this medium as well.

Extravagant thoughtless programs: What do you do if you have tons of cash and you do not want to waste any time thinking of effective ways of promoting your site? Lottery! Search engine ByIndia.com recently announced a $5 million sweepstakes program for new registrants to their website. I don’t know what others think, but I think this is the most stupid way to use $5 million for promotion of a website.

Simple creative marketing ideas: Mouthshut.com has recently started using autorickshaws as billboards. What a simple, creative and cost-effective of promoting their site! I think more such creative low-budget ideas need to be innovated/deviced by small startups. One medium that immediately comes to mind that can be effective, yet no one has used for marketing is mobile - more on that later. In the mean time, if you can think of some simple ways of marketing a site/service put it down here and we’ll discuss.

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