Kolkata’s RK Sinha had never expected to be travelling to England to watch the ICC Cricket World Cup tournament. But when his son cleared the board exams with flying colours, he had to make good his promise. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the kind of money needed to take his family on an international trip. Until he spoke to his travel agent who told him about SanKash, a travel tech startup that provides travellers with financing options. “He told me about this option to pay for this travel in 15 months. I applied for it, and walked out from his office with tickets in my hand. My wife, my son and I are now all set for Lords,” he says jubiliantly.
It is customers such as Sinha and his son that today’s travel tech startups are targetting with new-fangled offerings that meet their aspirations and expectations. It is no longer about booking a hotel room or finding the cheapest flight (though this segment too continues to flourish), now it is about how travellers choose where to go, what they want to do on a holiday, that once in a lifetime experience they seek on a trip.
Take Ithaka, for instance. A travel planning app backed by Thomas Cook, it has created a community of influencers who help people plan their travel to destinations in Europe, South East Asia, etc. The target customer here is the millennial traveller who does not book a package but wants to customise and personalise the trip. Travellers sign up on the Ithaka app and are connected to a matching Influencer (someone who has been there, done that) on the platform. The two have a conversation and co-create the traveller’s trip itinerary.
“Right from figuring out where to go, where to stay, what to do, where to eat, how to travel around and trip logistics like visa, forex, etc., you can find information and do bookings for everything around your trip on Ithaka. You can even bring in your friends on a group chat and plan together,” explains co-founder and CEO Rahul Singh, who started Ithaka in 2015 with Mithilesh Said.
Online travel agencies were perhaps the first of the tech startups in India, using technology to reach out to customers, create markets where none existed before and products that have only got better with time. With every wave of tech disruption a new breed of startups are coming up, each trying to solve unique painpoints of different customer segments.
SanKash, for instance, realised that many a holiday plan fell apart due to fund crunch. Founded in 2018 by Gurgaon-based Akash Dahiya, Abhilasha Negi, and Manu Pal, this travel tech startup provides travellers with financing options at the point/time of purchase, with several offers curated from across its banking/NBFC partner network. Once the travel loan is availed, customers can repay SanKash through flexible monthly EMIs. The monthly Payment Plan of SanKash is currently accessible on the vacation package sites of Khwab Holidays, Explorar, Bird Group, Khwab Holidays, Zenith Holidays, Thomascook.in, and OYO Total Holidays.
“The end-consumers are now able to take the much-deserved vacation without a hole in their pockets. We have seen customers moving from domestic tours to international travel and shift vacations from Asia to Europe due to availability of the SanKash proposition,” says Akash Dahiya, CEO and founder, SanKash.
Similarly, Trodly, founded by Ankit Jindal and Vikas Johiya in 2016, realised that while there were many online sites that helped select a destination or a hotel, when it came to selecting what to do once the traveller reached her preferred destination, these sites left her high and dry.
“Trodly is a marketplace but a curated one. An open marketplace will create hassles for customers since products (for example, a trek) from different operators vary on far too many parameters that ultimately affect the overall customer experience. So Trodly does that vetting for the customer and only quality products are shown,” explains Ankit Jindal, CEO and co-founder, Trodly.
With over 3500 travel guides on the platform and support from Trodly Tripmeter, travellers can choose the places as per their personal preferences. Once a trip destination is decided, Trodly helps travellers understand what all they can experience there.
The results are showing. More than 75,000 travellers have used Ithaka. “We offer help in planning trips to countries such as Turkey and Croatia which have not been explored much by Indians. Even in popular destinations such as Thailand, we promote travel to less-known islands such as Koh Tao and Koh Lanta,” says Singh. It has partnered with more than 50 tour operators worldwide, who pay a commission on every booking. Garnering Rs 1 crore in sales in the last quarter, it now plans to grow sales to Rs 5 crore by end of this year.
For Trodly, the target audience is young professionals in 26-38 age group living in tier I and II cities, who travel often for their weekend getaways and yearly long trip. It has served over 2 million travellers till now. It offers over 2000 tours and activities across 400-plus destinations in India and Sri Lanka, and plans to launch services in four more countries by 2020.