Get, set, go: here’s how this startup's AI search engine makes planning trips and holidays a breeze
In today’s world, most people follow one mantra: work, travel, save, repeat. And making this possible – and easy as pie – are travel startups such as Bengaluru-based MeTripping.
In the past, the average traveller would visit numerous websites before finalising bookings. This was a necessary evil because they needed to understand non-transactional elements (blogs, reviews, etc.) and transactional information (flight prices, accommodation availability, etc). This then needed to be cross-referenced to fit within their constraints (budgets, travel dates, etc), while still catering to their needs - family friendly, adventurous, luxurious, etc.
MeTripping claims to solve this problem by launching a revolutionary travel search engine that can help users go “from desire to decision” in minutes. Users can figure out everything - destination, flight, hotel, and activities - within budget and on their travel dates.
How it works
MeTripping, which was founded in March 2016 by Varun Gupta, uses an artificial intelligence (AI) search engine to provide recommendations for each user’s needs on where to go, how to get there, where to stay, and what to do.
The startup is “a result of an understanding of consumer needs and learnings from products that have failed trying to solve the same problem”. The 10-member team comprises technologists and data scientists who helps consumers in making the best travel decisions by scanning billions of data points.
Varun Gupta, Founder and CEO, MeTripping, says,
“At MeTripping, there are no static packages created by an ‘expert’, no ops or customer support or call centres to sell packages to you. We use the information from millions of travellers to understand the best fit for each traveller.”
Apart from Varun, Gaurav Bahrani, who is the CTO, comes with over 20 years of experience and has been helping the company to build its vision for almost two years now.
The target audience
MeTripping’s primary target is travellers in the age group of 18–45 years who are looking to travel on their own and explore things along the way. The platform is built for global use, but a majority of its users are from India.
“Those who looking for fixed packages will not find this as helpful, because we have built the platform to be the only aid – there is no operations/ customer-service team hand-holding you through the trip,” Varun says.
The travel platform is currently being used by more than a million users. Of this, around 40 percent are repeat users.
“Given that travel is episodic purchase, we believe the best way to think about customer acquisition is by focusing on consumer retention so they come back for all their travel needs time,” Varun adds.
The monetisation model
“Our B2C revenue comes from commissions from bookings of different travel elements, such as flights, hotels, activities, airport transfers, etc,” Varun says.
Along with this, MeTripping is also making money through advertisements on the site and sale of leads for those looking for additional hand-holding from travel agents.
“For the B2B model, we usually charge an integration fee along with a monthly and per-transaction fee to keep our incentives aligned with that of our customer,” he says.
The startup, which is growing at a monthly revenue rate of 27 percent over the last 12 months, has spent a total of $300,000 over three years to build the product.
Competition and opportunities
Big online travel agencies that offer similar facilities are MakeMyTrip, Yatra, Paytm, Ixigo, Booking.com, Cleartrip, Via.com, EaseMyTrip, and Google’s hotel and flight search among others.
“As a search platform, we believe the solution deserves more attention than purely battling the big (and small) players. Therefore, we are partnering with players in the travel services to provide a much-needed solution through their platforms as well,” Varun says.
In May this year, US ecommerce giant Amazon started domestic flight bookings service in India in partnership with Mumbai-based online travel agency Cleartrip. Since April 2018, Indian ecommerce major Flipkart has also been offering travel services in partnership with Gurugram-headquartered MakeMyTrip.
According to a report published by management consulting firm Praxis Global in 2018, the online travel market in India is likely to grow to $13.6 billion by 2021 led by flight and hotel aggregators, and will account for almost 43 percent of the total travel category in the country.
Where to next?
Since inception, MeTripping has raised a total amount of $550,000 from investors like Haresh Chawla (Co-founder and former CEO of Network18 and currently Partner, True North), Oliphans Capital, Shravan Gupta (Founder of Travel Tours, an offline travel company), and JAZ Fund LLC, among others.
For its next round, the startup is looking to raise around $2 million - $3 million in the next few months to further build the solution and take global distribution channels head-on.
“As of May 2019, we've grown 10x in GMV and 100x in net revenues with only 3x in ad spend since our first angel round in July 2017. This is through a mix of B2C, B2B2C and B2B revenue streams,” Varun adds.