[Startup Bharat] Planning a vacation? Check out Kannur startup FareFirst for affordable flight and hotel bookings

FareFirst is a metasearch engine platform on which multiple OTAs can be compared at a time. It is a one-stop destination for customers to search, compare, and book flight tickets, intuitively and painlessly.
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Frequent travellers are always on the lookout for the cheapest deals to fly. However, in this process, they often waste a lot of time looking for the same on multiple travel booking sites.

Most of the time, they end up searching for the same ticket as offered by multiple online travel agencies (OTAs) and airline websites, leaving more than a couple of tabs open on the browser or instaling multiple apps on mobile phones. Each OTA specialises in specific routes, resulting in variation in price on multiple OTAs, thus leading the user to conduct the search on multiple websites and apps.

Yajnesh T (CEO), Muhammad Jaseel S (CPO), and Vishal Vijay (CTO)

This is where Kannur-based startup FareFirst comes in. The travel booking platform helps travellers save time and money by intelligently comparing and optimising flight search results.

Co-founder and CEO Yajnesh T says,

“We are constantly bringing useful and specialised search options to the platform to make FareFirst the Google Search for travel. We, as a travel metasearch engine, provide a uniform experience to the user while including most of the OTA and airline results on our platform. The customer needs to search only on our platform to view results from the 100+ OTAs and 500+ airlines around the globe we have partnered with.”

Founded in 2018 by Yajnesh, Vishal Vijay, and Muhammad Jaseel S, the startup claims to have gained the interest of 1.1 lakh unique users per month across the globe with around four lakh flight searches happening every month.

Why FareFirst?

According to the founders, while many OTAs like MakeMyTrip, Yaatra, and SastiTicket, and many airline websites sell tickets directly, the concept of a travel metasearch engine in India is new. Yajnesh points out that, globally, there are a few players in the travel metasearch engine domain; Skyscanner, Kayak, and Momondo are a few popular travel metasearch engines. He says,

“But, there was no Indian company that caters to the need of Indian customers and understands the necessities of Indian travellers. We want to grab this opportunity and build a quality solution for this. Our steps to natively integrate with OTA will give the customer a consistent travel booking experience every time, in the metasearch engine domain.”

FareFirst is a platform on which both well-known and lesser-known OTAs and airlines showcase and sell their tickets. It is a one-stop destination for customers to search, compare, and book flight tickets intuitively and painlessly. In fact, FareFirst helps showcase new services and new startups with equal merit as compared to established brands, which creates a fair business model.

The platform requires the user to enter their travel plan after which the system searches the 100+ OTAs and airline sites and presents the results in a sortable, familiar UI. The user can then choose the cheapest and best ticket and book it with a single click. With FareFirst, a user can book flight tickets, hotel rooms, and create a multi-destination planner.

“Today we have reached over eight lakh downloads on the Android platform and serve over 1.1 lakh users monthly. Our next step is to gain the interest of more OTAs and airlines and list all of them on our platform. This is mutually beneficial, as we’ll be selling tickets on their behalf on our platform,” says Yajnesh.

Friends turned entrepreneurs

Collegemates Yajnesh (27) and Vishal (28) had been guiding their juniors in technology and leadership opportunities through workshops and sessions during their college days.

In 2017, when they were taking a session at PA College, Mangalore, Jaseel (23) happened to be an attendee. Jaseel, who was curious to learn how to build an app and backend solutions, went up to them and asked for mentorship for his project.

Once the mentorship started, Vishal and Yajnesh were awestruck by Jaseel’s knowledge of marketing skills, mature product thinking capabilities, and pure passion to build something innovative.

Earlier, Yajnesh and Vishal had failed several times in starting up. The duo, with their small team of classmates and juniors during and after their college days, had tried to build on several unique ideas. Some of them have seen the light of the day, but with mixed results. Jaseel was aware of this and proposed to join hands to build something worthwhile.

Being the youngest member of his family, Jaseel was frequently tasked with booking flight tickets for most of his family members and extended family members. He was aware of the price changes based on the occasion, carriers, and other factors, and saved a ton of money of his family members while choosing the best possible deal. But, even Jaseel had to keep a number of tabs open in his browser every time he wanted to triangulate the deal. Thus, the idea behind FareFirst was born.

“On July 26, 2018, we formed the company along with four other members. These team members have previously worked with Infosys, HP, Persistent, Cognizant, etc., and have more than five years of experience,” says Yajnesh.

Today, the team is nine-members strong, including the three founders, four full-time employees, and two part-time employees, each with an average of over five years of experience in MNCs and startups.

Revenue figures and future plans

“Currently, about one to three percent of the booking amount is earned as a commission from the OTAs. We plan to place targeted ads and generate revenue from non-booking customers as well,” says Yajnesh.

The startup, which is bootstrapped with the founders’ savings, claims to generate about Rs 3.8 lakh per month as revenue earned from commission.

The team aims to reach 15,000 daily active users, onboard another half a million users, and increase the conversion rate by 3x by mid-2020.

“While keeping our focus on the flight booking, we want to give a complete experience to the travellers by integrating new hotel and cab aggregators on our platform. This would make our platform an all-in-one platform for all travellers. We are also looking into paperless visa application processing in countries where it’s available,” says Yajnesh.

(Edited by Suman Singh)