From online travel agents like MakeMyTrip and Cleartrip among others witnessing increase of traffic from mobile platforms, to them launching online wallets, to online publishing companies & e-commerce ventures entering the online travel space, 2014 has been a busy year. Let’s take a look at some of the trends in the online travel segment that emerged this year:
1. The switch to mobile
Cleartrip’s search traffic from mobile devices increased from 30% in July 2014 to 40% in September 2014 to 43% in November 2014. MakeMyTrip had also mentioned in its June 2014 investor presentation that 29% of its traffic came from mobile (pdf) in the April-June period this year. Earlier this year, iXiGo CEO Aloke Bajpai had also told Medianama that for most online travel companies more than 25% of their traffic and nearly 10% of their transaction volume is now coming from mobile devices.
2. Online wallets introduced to ease refund woes
Goibibo, MakeMyTrip & Cleartrip all introduced online wallets this year to make the process of issuing refunds in case of booking cancellations easier. Goibibo’s wallet goCash allows users to select between goCash or a direct refund to debit/credit card while cancelling a ticket. Also, users can combine goCash and credit/debit cards to pay for new bookings. MakeMyTrip & Cleartrip also offers users these two features.
3. Online cab booking services introduce mobile wallets to ease booking process & comply with RBI guidelines
Olacabs (September 2014) & TaxiForSure (October 2014) both launched in-app prepaid wallets to offer cashless taxi rides to customers. This was necessitated because RBI had issued a directive in August this year that mandated Card Not Present (CNP) transactions for purchases of goods and services in India had to be processed through Indian banks and payments needed to be made in Rupees. Uber also tied-up with Paytm to enable users make use of Paytm’s prepaid wallet to pay for their taxi rides, to comply with RBI’s 2-factor authentication process.
4. Online taxi aggregators banned in several parts of India
Delhi government transport department banned online taxi aggregators like Uber, Olacabs & TaxiForSure following the rape of a 27-year old woman by a Uber driver, earlier this month. Hyderabad became the second city to ban Uber & Karnataka banned Uber, TaxiForSure and Carzonrent from operating in the state, after the Home Ministry had issued an advisory for all state governments & union territories to ensure that operations of online taxi services are stopped until they register themselves with state administrations. Interestingly, Olacabs has been allowed to continue its operations in Karnataka, as it apparently registered itself at the Electronics City RTO in Bangalore a few days before the ban came into effect.
5. Online publishing companies entering the travel segment
– India.com, a joint venture between Mail.com Media Corporation and Zee Entertainment Enterprises, launched a travel information look-up platform called iTripTo, in October this year. This platform is essentially a revamped version of India.com’s travel section which was previously a travelogue.
– In February this year, Times Internet had launched a travel planning site HappyTrips that provides travel guides and information on things to do across various destinations in the country and worldwide.
6. Companies from other sectors entering the travel ticketing space
– Directory services company Justdial entered the travel and ticketing space, in April this year. The new features include services to book bus tickets, hotel reservations, tour packages, car hiring and cab facilities. The company is also developing a cab-hailing app, that will allow users to book any type of cabs, including traditional cabs, cool cabs, private cabs and branded cabs, Justdial founder VSS Mani has mentioned during the company’s Q2-FY15 earnings conference call. Users will be able to check which cabs are available near their location and check the rates for each type of cab, before booking it.
– E-commerce company Infibeam also forayed into the travel ticketing space with Clickmego.com, in May this year.
7. MakeMyTrip makes losses through the year: Right through 2014, MakeMyTrip has reported losses although there has been some improvement on a year-on-year (YoY) basis. In Q4-FY14 it reported net loss of $525,700 as compared to $6.5 million the same quarter last year. In Q1-FY15, it reported losses of $3.96 million, a significant improvement from $9.1 million loss in Q1-FY14. In Q2-FY15 MakeMyTrip reported net loss of $4.8 million, as compared to $7.5 million loss in the corresponding quarter last year. The improvement has primarily been fueled by the company’s Hotels & Packages business, which registered revenue growths of 43.7% YoY in Q4-FY14, 64.6% YoY in Q1-FY15 and 76.8% YoY in Q2-FY15.
Funding in the online travel space this year
– Tripoto raised $400,000 seed funding from Outbox Ventures & Palaash Ventures, in November. Tripoto is a platform for travellers to discover & share travel stories, plans, itineraries, upload maps & photos, write reviews, and connect with other individuals.
– HotelsAroundYou raised an undisclosed amount in seed funding from over 10 angel investors, including Fame Cinemas founder Shravan Shroff, Amit and Arihant Patni and Bharat Banka among others, via the early-stage accelerator VentureNursery, in October. The startup connects travellers with hotels which have unsold spare rooms for the day.
– WeAreHolidays raised an undisclosed amount in funding from Matrix Partners and existing investors Blume Ventures & GSF Superangel Investors, in August. The site offers travel guides and tour packages to destinations around the world. Each destination page provides an overview and lists packages, hotels, things to do, places to see, nearby getaways, and eateries.
– TravelTriangle.com secured Rs.10 crore in funding from SAIF Partners, in July. TravelTriangle is a marketplace for travel agents, and allows them to create online customized tour packages for travellers. The website also enables customers to connect with travel agents anywhere, get tour quotations, customize the trip according to their preferences and book the plan directly.
– TripHobo (earlier known as JoGuru), a trip planning startup, raised an undisclosed amount of investment from Kalaari Capital, in June. TripHobo allows travellers to browse through a collection of crowd-sourced travel itineraries. One can either make use of the existing travel itineraries or edit the existing travel itineraries to change the listed attractions as per their preference.
– Rail Yatri, crowd-sourced travel service, raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from the early stage investor Blume Ventures & an unnamed existing US-based investor, in February. Rail Yatri provides a range of public & crowd sourced content related to train travel in the country, through its website and mobile app. It also offers train-related information like ticket status, train status and waitlist confirmation and various travel-related services like taxi booking and meals on delivery on the train among others.