Between India and the US, this startup combines social networking and ecommerce for travellersAthira Nair
TravelUR aims to make travel more memorable and hassle-free by offering a platform for travel-related services and social engagement.
What Amazon is to retail, TravelUR aims to be for travel.
TravelUR is targeting every traveller who wants to have a record of their travel experiences. Launched in May 2017 in Arizona, US, this startup aims to be a platform for end-to-end travel-related services and social engagement.
TravelUR’s services include online flight tickets, domestic and international holiday packages, bus tickets, hotel reservations, and more on website and app. It also enables digital storage of all travel-related media, which you can share digitally with friends without risking privacy.
Not surprisingly, both co-founders are avid travellers. Sunil Konduru, who has 25 years of corporate experience, is an extensive traveller, and has lived in Africa, Europe, Southeast Asia and North America. Sekhar Kolla, who founded an IT consulting services company, and has single-handedly grown it to multimillion-dollar business, is a keen traveller. Both of them are now settled in the US.
Having worked for global corporates for close to 20 years, Sunil and Sekhar were sure they wanted to do something they were passionate about: travel. They are supported by a co-founding team, advisory board, and technology leadership team with extensive travel domain expertise. TravelUR, which has raised $1.5 million till date from family and friends, now has offices in Pennsylvania and Hyderabad.
Tech for the travel lover
According to Sunil, travel experiences are scattered in terms of planning and memories. “After talking to many frequent travellers and noticing from our own experiences, we came up the idea of combining social engagement with all travel services to make every travel a lifetime digital memory,” he says.
Since the idea of TravelUR evolved from the individual traveller’s point of view, the name Your Travel or Travel UR was a natural choice.
Building a single platform combining social engagement and travel services was a challenge for the team in the initial days. “We developed all APIs that would integrate with other service providers. Doing it ourselves, we understood the inner nuances of the entire value chain,” Sunil says.
TravelUR storage is driven through PostgreSQL with Bootstrap frontend framework (JS, CSS, HTML5), jQuery and is supported by Ajax, PHP backend using Code Ignitor. The hardware is powered by Microsoft Azure web services. They are planning to release native Android and IoS apps in April.
Redefining e-commerce for travel
TravelUR mainly serves as a travel networking space and helps with destination research. Members can create their profile with personal travel preferences, share travel experiences and real-time travel updates, and meet other like-minded travellers just like on a social network.
Additionally, TravelUR combines social engagement and travel-related e-commerce services with an analytics-based platform with AI integration. It aims to give value to both users and travel service providers. They claim to have already established tie-ups with the best hotels, flights, and other travel services providers.
After having studied user-preferred features through global surveys and interactions with passionate frequent travellers, they are developing unique features in this regard. For instance, TravelUR analyses user choices, travel interests, demographics, and behaviour, which enables travel service providers to market their services and offers by targeting the right user base.
“We plan to engage all age groups from various locations with attractive customised vacation packages. We are more focused in socially active members and groups, and would want to leverage from their travel experiences,” Sunil adds.
The vast ecosystem
Being based in the US has given a specific advantage to TravelUR, which aims to scale globally.
Sunil explains, “We would like to get the best out of both worlds and leverage the advantages of getting to know the latest trends in the travel industry and align with global expansion strategy.”
TravelUR currently has over 35,000 registered users and has generated over $150,000 in the last nine months. At present they provide 185 vacation packages across 880 destinations in 32 countries globally.
Apart from all the travel business stakeholders like airlines, hotels, and travel agents, TravelUR aims to include all the socially active travellers/groups for last-mile connectivity. They have developed APIs that would integrate with all the other service providers.
A clear business model
TravelUR faces direct and indirect competition from Trip Advisor, Facebook, WAYN, Kayak, Makemytrip, and ClearTrip. In fact, Sunil says that “revenue vs social traction” was a big dilemma initially.
“We adopted a conservative approach for TravelUR and aimed for both social and revenue traction in the initial days to ensure that the team was motivated towards achieving tangible goals. Our aim is to be social first, and then a service provider,” he says.
To grow the existing product line, scale up operations, and market at global scale, TravelUR is planning to raise pre-Series A equity funding for the next 18 months of growth, especially for customer acquisition and marketing in India and the US. Sunil says that they are in discussions with some VCs active in India. They want to build their technology and expand their 35-member team, while scaling up existing partnerships and building new ones.
In 2018, TravelUR is eyeing one million users and a presence in 2,000 destinations. Way to go!