Coronavirus: How TravelDilSe is prepping to grab a bigger share of the market amid travel ban and lockdown

Launched in 2015 as an offline travel agent, TravelDilSe switched to the digital model in November 2018 to explore the vast, yet untapped online travel and holiday curation industry.

So, what if a holiday to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands or a tropical tour of Bali and the Maldives seem like a distant dream now? Quarantine is meant to limit your movement for the time being, not put a cap on your imagination (or for that matter, your future vacation plans!)

In times like these, when we put our faith in science and arts and everything wonderful that the world has to offer us, it is hopes of seeing new places, exploring exotic destinations that keep our spirit alive. Hopefully, with the innovations in healthtech and sciences, the novel coronavirus pandemic would be contained, and people will move about freely once again. And when that happens, you might want to feed your wanderlust once more.

This is where virtual travel assistant TravelDilSe comes in. The AI-powered platform is a customised holiday planning and price comparison booking engine that uses a unique matching algorithm to deliver tailor-made holidays with itinerary management.

Unlike many other travel management platforms in the market, TravelDilSe isn’t into metasearch, and it rolls planning, booking, and on-ground services into a single solution.

“We are the only ones who have ‘single window customisation’ for customers to plan, personalise, and book their holiday packages under one screen,” Natesh Rajagopalan and Sumita Tulsiani, the duo behind the startup tell YourStory.

Natesh Rajagopalan and Sumita Tulsiani, Co-Founders, TravelDilSe

“For every change made by the customer, the itinerary gets curated by way of robust algorithms and the price comparison engines showcase the dynamic real-time best online prices instantly,” they add.

The switch from offline to online

At the turn of the 2010s, India witnessed a drastic surge in digital adoption. As Reliance Jio penetrated its way into the remote pockets of the nation, cheap data rates complemented with increased smartphone adoption led a transitional impact on the way businesses were conducted in India.

More so in the travel and tourism sector – which is expected to contribute $492.21 billion to the Indian GDP by 2028 and where brick-and-mortar companies commanded a lion’s share of the market – there has been a slow, but a sure surge in the number of people choosing to plan their trips and even organise their holidays online.  

Delhi-based startup TravelDilSe finds its sweet spot in this space of online travel management.

Incidentally, the startup which today uses AI and algorithms to curate customised itineraries for travellers, had originally been incepted as an offline travel agent. Natesh and Sumita – the entrepreneurial duo who have a combined experience of over 40 years in the travel domain and who have spearheaded holiday businesses with prominent players in the ecosystem like Makemytrip and Thomas Cook – had founded TravelDilSe in 2015 with the brick-and-mortar model in mind.

It was only in November 2018 that the founders decided to pivot and turn the offline business into a tech-driven, AI-powered digital solution.

According to the founders, who crossed paths during their time in Makemytrip, there was a huge window of opportunity in taking the entire holiday ecosystem online. It was an untapped market, where close to 80 percent of holiday bookings were done the traditional way. They add that the opportunity was in offering customers the ease, flexibility, and control to customise their itineraries.

“This common passion of consolidating the fragmented market and bringing a paradigm shift in user behaviour from the traditional way of booking holiday packages to planning and booking it online, made us start TravelDilSe,” the founders quip.

Competitive price, real-time inventories

Built on a competitive price intelligence engine comparing millions of price points offered through multiple APIs worldwide, the TravelDilSe platform – a name with a high brand recall value, according to the founders – offers real-time inventories with best online pricing to its customers.

The startup is a self-standing platform that helps generate perfect itineraries for travellers, where customers can plan and personalise their holiday packages comprising of all bundled components, including itinerary management, customisation of flights, hotels, transfers, sight-seeing, other activities, and travel insurance suited to their taste with instant confirmations.

“Our products include curation of itineraries or holiday packages for destinations within India and across the globe,” the duo explain. These include domestic destinations such as Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Uttarakhand, Kashmir, North East, Goa, and Rajasthan, as well as international packages to places like Thailand, Dubai, Singapore, Bali, Hong Kong, Mauritius, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Malaysia, Seychelles, and Australia. 

“We work on a commission and mark-up based model, wherein payments are collected in advance from customers online and instantly paid to suppliers through online integrated systems. The difference between customer payments and supplier payments is our profit,” the duo adds.
“Our average ticket size for a holiday package is Rs 70,000 – 80,000 per transaction.”

Staying afloat amid COVID-19 pandemic

As a startup, preparing for the worst-case scenario is not just a healthy practice, but also the only way to keep the business afloat. However, the ongoing crisis sparked by the coronavirus outbreak is not something that the world was prepared for.

In the light of this pandemic-induced lockdown in the country, several sectors and industries have taken a hit. And the tours and travel domain is no exception.

Says the founding duo, “With travel bans across countries, tourism has been impacted the most. Cancellations have piled up for both international and domestic tourists, and the approaching vacation time (April to June), that usually results in healthy business and full occupancy, has been thrown off course.”

In this catastrophic scenario, TravelDilSe, which competes with the likes of Triphobo, Holidayme, ITraveller, and Inspirock, is dealing with the blows, one at a time.

While on the business side things are on hold for the moment, as per the founders, they have managed to convince some of the customers to consider postponement over the cancellation. 

“On the product side, we have strategised to advance all our tech projects and be geared up with the new roll-outs as and when the situation stabilises. The new tech projects are an important part of our revival plan post lockdown to help capture a higher share in the market more effectively once the travel restrictions are relaxed,” they share.

The startup has, so far, curated more than 2,800 itineraries for over 7,400 customers, with a repeat and referral ratio of 36.7 percent and a customer satisfaction ratio of 97.3 percent.

As the team hopes to navigate through the ongoing crisis and set new milestones, TravelDilSe is also looking forward to fresh capital infusion. It has already raised Rs 3.11 crore in two rounds to build the platform and get early traction, and moving ahead, the startup is planning to raise a fresh round of Rs 3.5 crore to get economies of scale. 

“The fresh capital will be largely utilised for branding, visibility, and ongoing tech innovations,” the founders add.

(Edited by Suman Singh)