How can a new-age travel startup take on the likes of MMT-Goibibo, Oyo Rooms in the hotel booking space…
Started in 2016 along with his college mate from IIT Madras, Pranav Prabhakar co-founder of MiStay, started this two-year-old hotel booking platform in response to a deep-rooted problem faced by travellers.
It was a given that you had to book the room for the entire day, even if you needed it only for a few hours as a pit-stop.
Pranav and the MiStay team set out to break this rigid rule of a fixed check-in and check-out time.
Early Challenges faced by the Team
With many players already in the travel space, the team was initially skeptical about the feasibility of their idea. To understand how the market works, they spent a lot of time on-ground speaking to various hotel owners.
It became immediately clear that hotel owners were apprehensive about hourly bookings as there was a common misconception that it would be used for the wrong purpose.
In order to tackle this problem, they created an algorithm that would enable only certain travellers who fulfilled a particular set of criteria to book the hotel.
The other big problem was achieving fast growth in a space where big players had already captured the market. Again Pranav and his team decided to try innovative marketing techniques rather than spend money that they didn’t have yet.
They used SEO intelligently to reach out to a large audience fast. The first step they took was to target 70% of the lower ranking keywords rather than bidding for the 30% high ranking keywords which were inherently more competitive.
They could then bundle these keywords and use them as content baits. Again creating content manually would be a tedious task, so they used their tech skills to automate content creation for those particular keywords. These disruptive strategies proved to be vital in achieving the quick growth that they have accomplished.
Although on the outside it may seem like a small feature, being able to provide this solution required rigorous amounts of work.
Finding the right aggregators and middlemen who enable hotels to distribute their inventory, and convincing them to get on-board was the big game-changer.
Moreover, they realised then that big players like Make My Trip and Goibibo would be apprehensive to enter a space that could lead to rapid cannibalisation of their business if they decide to provide the same benefit.
Moving to the next stage of Growth
Overcoming the initial hiccups of a startup, MiStay was soon able to provide a good experience to all its customers.
With a highly focused acquisition strategy, the team successfully on-boarded over 600 hotels across 50 cities in a short span of time.
Only hotels that have a rating of 3.5 and above are approached today, and there are several other parameters that help them maintain quality standards.
Finding providers who already had a good database of hotels such asevent management companies, property management companies helped them scale at a faster pace.
MiStay also received seed funding from Axilor. When they saw that their idea was validated by many industry veterans and angel investors, there was no looking back from then.
Getting ready for the Future
With a small team of 15 employees managing end-to-end solutions and an asset-light marketplace model, MiStay is able to keep their focus on improving the technology and solutions for their customers and partners.
Furthermore, they have developed highly evolved partnership funnels and business development processes that ensure the complete onboarding process takes place remotely or through collaborations and aggregators.
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