[Startup Bharat] This online travel platform helps users customise their holidays and trips the old-fashioned way
In 2018, Krishna Kumar was working in New York and had to send an important courier to the Bangalore office of the MNC he worked for. But, at the courier agent’s office, he realised that his official travel card limit has been exceeded.
“I reached out to the travel card support desk at the business-class hotel in Manhattan that I was put up, but they could not help as they needed approval from the senior management who were located in a different continent,” says Krishna.
While a few local contacts managed to help him out, this incident made him want to explore the travel space. Krishna spoke to various travel agents and realised that about 1.2 million of them were on the verge of closure due to the rise of online travel booking applications.
“Most travel agents were not using the latest technologies and there was no common online platform for them to sell their products. They did not have enough market intelligence to understand the requirements of their customers. On the other hand, travellers were desperately in need of having a personal connection in unknown destinations,” says Krishna.
This led to the birth of TravelSpoc in January 2019 by Krishna and his wife Kavitha Somasekharan. The startup is an Artificial Intelligence (AI) based ecosystem that makes the best travel experience available to travellers – sourced from multiple travel agents.
What does it do?
Headquartered in Thiruvananthapuram, TravelSpoc has a team of 14. It is a collaborative common platform for tour operators and travel intermediaries across the world to showcase their tour packages and travel products, and sell online in their brand and identity.
Using the platform, users can make their own customised travel plans and get it booked by an agent on TravelSpoc. They can also compare packages from different agents before they purchase it.
“The platform solves problems faced by agents and travellers alike. For the agents, we built a SaaS-based traveller management platform to help them manage and analyse customer bookings and its data to improve business relations with customers, assisting in customer retention and driving sales growth. For the traveller, we help them get the best deals in a single click,” says Krishna.
The process involves bringing both travellers and trusted local and expert travel specialists on a single ecosystem. Since it is a self-sustained ecosystem, tour operators can sell their unique and best deals to travellers by understanding their requirements.
TravelSpoc has an AI-based based bot that understands a traveller’s profile and creates unique packages from different agents.
“The agents in the system are evaluated through a 360-degree stringent evaluation process to ensure the best quality and experience. Travellers have the choice of creating their own custom itinerary with the offers from different agents and pay at a single time through the system. The system will escrow between travellers and agents and provides a hassle-free system,” explains Kavitha.
Krishna has a PhD in Management from IIMC and more than 19 years of experience in management across top MNCs in the IT industry. Kavitha, on the other hand, is an entrepreneur and technocrat with more than 14 years of experience in the IT industry, building full-fledged travel and healthcare marketplaces.
The founders claim to have around 35,800 registered users in the platform until now. It has tied up with 200 registered travel agents globally.
Within one year, the team claims to have served over 1,500 users with their travel plans in India and abroad.
According to Statista, the travel and tourism industry is expected to grow at an annual rate of 5.7 percent from 2019, resulting in a market volume of $15,629 million by 2023.
TravelSpoc considers companies like Travel Triangle, TourRadar, and Thrillophilia as its competitors.
However, Krishna says,
“In the current scenario, tour operators create packages using their experience and exposure. TravelSpoc provides the tour operators business intelligence to create custom packages as per the current trend. It also helps agents to take up target marketing to the right travellers who need it.”
Between January and December 20, 2019, the startup claims to have made revenue of over Rs 1 crore with a 100 percent month-on-month growth in its customer base, booking, and revenue.
Initially bootstrapped with Rs 60 lakh for the product development and initial marketing of the product, the startup later received Rs 12 lakh in a grant and Rs 10 lakh in seed funding from the Kerala Startup Mission.
TravelSpoc was also selected in the first tourism startup competition by United Nations World Tourism Organisation. Also, GITEX Dubai and Innovfest Unbound at Singapore brought the product accolades for the innovativeness and uniqueness.
Talking about the future plans, the Krishna says,
“Our immediate plan is to expand the business to all major cities of India and have maximum travel agents associate with TravelSpoc in selling their experiences. We plan to associate us with various MNCs, NGOs, and others to onboard them to this new travel ecosystem. We will also be discussing plans of associations with various organisations in the Middle East, Singapore and the US.”
The startup is also working towards creating one million new job opportunities in the travel industry by 2025.
“We would like to provide opportunities to disabled people, women, and school and college-going students to set up their unique travel business at their native or home and sell through our platform. This can bring a huge social transformation,” says Kavitha.
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)