Fork My City aims to improve ‘last mile’ vacation experiences
“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign.”
– Robert Louis Stevenson
Everyone needs to take a nice long vacation once in a while to relax and recharge. Though traveling is supposed to be a fun and relaxing experience, it can turn hectic and confusing. There are many who love the chance to experiment with food or experience something new, but there are a few who despise change and want to eat their favourite cuisine or shop for something specific.But planning the ‘last mile’ experience while on vacation in an unknown country or a city is not easy and many find it challenging. Many of us have come back from an otherwise fabulous vacation with a small inconvenience spoiling the entire trip. Fork My City aims to change just that.
Idea behind Fork My City
Fork My City is one of the first marketplaces in travel that connects outbound travellers with ‘in destination’ products such as restaurants, spas, night clubs and shopping venues. Travellers’can search, book and plan their daily desires within their destination cities.
Nakul Bhatia estimated that travel constituted about 75% of the e-commerce space, with 70% of domestic flight bookings having moved to the online space and 40% of international hotel bookings having moved to the online space. Considering this Nakul had no option but to sit down and brainstorm the next best bet in the online travel industry. The last mile is what he chose, ‘in destination services & products’ . He started Forkmycity.com to address these concerns.
The team behind Fork My City
Nakul Bhatia is the Founder& CEO. He is a passionate travel industry veteran with over 12 years of experience in all aspects of travel covering retail and wholesale in both offline and online modes. Over the years, he has made significant networks in the travel industry within the trade, media and industry alliances segments. He had previously worked with American Express and ebookers.com before managing his offline retail and online wholesale travel companies. His family has more than 50 years of combined industry experience, so entering this field was natural for him.
The team also includes Nitin Bhatia who is a travel industry professional with over 10 years in cross geography vertical in the UK travel market. Nitin is the Co-founder & COO. A hardcore sales and operations man, Nitin spent more than a decade of his young, energetic life in the travel industry. He has successfully undertaken multiple assignments in cross geographical travel verticals with companies like ebookers.com, Southall Travel, including senior management roles.
Saurabh Bhasin, who is hospitality professional and currently the director of F&B in Compass Foods, USA, is an advisor.
The company is being mentored by and has secured seed funding from Kapil Dev Kumar, IIT Delhi, IIM A, President Nextrateleservices, and Ex Senior VP Reliance Infotel.
The travel market as such is saturated with similar offerings by hordes of offline and online agents. Competition in the conventional offering is increasing forcing the offline agents to either shut shop or move over to the online medium thereby competing with giants such as MMT, and Yatra.
As far as Fork My City (FMC) products are concerned, the market in the initial phase consists of over 17 million outbound travellers each year, estimated to be over 50 million by 2020. As per industry statistics released by Tripadvisor, over 50% Indians are vegetarians, 40% carry Indian food with them, 40% even change their destination in case of food related issues. As per the Accor group, Indians are the highest spenders on spas (about 80%). Night life & shopping are also highest on the list of Indians.
How Fork My City works
For example, if a person is visiting Dream World in Bangkok and wants to have lunch at an Indian restaurant around that area, the map will show all their partner restaurants around Dream World for him or her to choose from. Apart from booking pre set meals, and spa sessions, FMC also provides flat discounts for travellers who do not wish to pre book and pre pay.
Challenges faced and collaborations
Having started two travel companies earlier, Nakul had the proactive approach towards this one. This time though he had the eco system and the networks to start yet another travel company, however, the art of getting things together has taken the team a full year and many hurdles, both mentally and financially. The biggest challenge till date has been to get suppliers on board just like any new concept does.
They are in the process of tying up with only quality partners at this point of time. They understand that an international holiday costs no less than Rs.50,000 per person, including unavoidable holiday necessities. And the ‘in destination’ products is what makes a traveller’s day. They do not want to spoil that by compromising on quality. As of now they are tying up with 4 and 5 star partners only. Twenty Indian restaurants covering Bangkok and Pattaya, including high-end ones such as Indus, Maya & Bawarchi and the biggest spa group of Thailand, Siam Wellness Group, with brands like Rarinjinda and Let's Relax Spa are already on board. They plan to cover all major cities in Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia by November.
Future plans and long term goals
Their competition remains largely offline with hotel concierge suggestions which are generally biased due to personal and knowledge factors, travel agents who largely cater to only groups in arranging meals and not individual travellers which Fork My City does.
They are currently active in Pattaya and Bangkok and are planning to enter territories like Warsaw, Budapest , Singapore, New York and Prague soon.
In the longer run, the startup aims to take their product global by offering their services to outbound travellers emerging worldwide and not just limited to Indians.
You can check out their website for more details