Amitabh Misra is one of the lucky few that got to build Snapdeal from its early days. As the company’s former CTO, he began work on the platform toward the end of 2011. He watched it go from taking a handful of orders a day to becoming a multi-million dollar business. Then, last year, he left.
He’d done the same type of thing before, working at companies like Wells Fargo and startups like CashEdge. His motivation behind each move was the same as that which made him leave Snapdeal to start his own travel startup in India – company creation is his bread and butter.
In June this year, he unveiled Delhi-based GoFro (previously called Bona Vita), an online travel planning and booking marketplace focused on Indian travelers. An end-to-end online travel agent, it combines flight, hotel, and transportation booking with an itinerary planner.
Then, last year, he left.
Users can also indicate a “theme” they want the trip to follow. Themes include romance, beaches, bachelor parties, honeymoons, or budget travel. The startup will even throw in SIM cards for the destination country.
“Where we come in is itinerary – flight, paying, transport, things you would be doing, as opposed to helping people research and learn more about the destinations,” Amitabh tells Tech in Asia. The startup keeps a database of travel operators from which it builds the custom itineraries.
Much like any travel price comparison site, it will give you packages to compare. Some packages are fixed, while some offer customization options like changing the airline, choosing a hotel room type, and picking trip activities.
If you’re not sure whether you want to, say, go on that three-day island cruise in Bali, you may chat or speak on the phone with one of the site’s “destination experts.” They can customize the trip for you according to your instructions, free of charge.
Make my itinerary
India’s travel market is expected to hit US$27.5 billion in 2016 (PDF link), up from US$19.7 billion in 2013. Last year, online travel made up 41 percent of the country’s travel market.
MakeMyTrip has its own customizable itinerary planner – a new feature.
Travel sites like Yatra, Cleartrip, and GoIbibo offer options for booking flights together with hotels. Through the same sites, users can book ground transportation and set travel packages. GoFro has a little bit more going for it there, offering all of those elements together in one website.
Trip packages range from US$736 to US$28,000. From each sale, GoFro takes a 10 to 15 percent commission.
Ctrip-backed travel startup MakeMyTrip has poured US$5 million into GoFro and is its majority stakeholder. MakeMyTrip has its own customizable itinerary planner – a new feature. Instead of a theme, travelers specify the pace they want for their trip. The planner packs it with activities accordingly.
It’s only been six months since the startup’s inception, and GoFro has experienced its own share of growing pains. When I check up on some of the goals Amitabh and his team have set for the company, he tells me that things are growing a little slower than planned. The company had planned to support 30 destinations in 14 countries by the year’s end but only supports around 20.
Some of the learning has come as a pleasant surprise – Amitabh reveals that less likely destinations have picked up more growth than more popular travel spots.
The startup still plans on adding 50 destinations to its travel options next year, with an emphasis on more destinations within Southeast Asia – the most popular territory for Indian travelers.
Converted from Indian rupees. US$1 = INR 67.93
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