Travelling back in time to understand where the future of travel startups in India is headed…

Chandramouli Gopalakrishnan, VP of Special Projects at ixigo, explains the evolving trends in the travel industry — past & present, in this conversation with Malini Gowrishankar, founder of F5 Escapes, at the September 2018 edition of Startup Saturday, held in Bangalore.

Chandramouli in conversation with Malini at Startup Saturday Bangalore

1. Between 1994–96, organised online travel agencies starting coming into existence. It used to take around 70–90 minutes to get a confirmed booking in those days.

This was the time where you would pay money for the reservation, but until you got the paper ticket, your flight wasn’t confirmed.

2. Soon retail and distribution agencies entered the online market. Now people could get multiple flight options from point A to B. Travel funnels were born.

“Today it’s possible to sit in Bangalore and book a ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore in a Hong Kong Express Flight which you don’t even know exists, only because of Online Travel Agencies.”

Hotels, interestingly, took a lot more time to get organised.

3. When flight aggregators such as MakeMyTrip, Yatra, and Cleartrip came onto the scene, they simplified the entire flight booking process for travellers.

4. Post this, meta-aggregators like Kayak, ixigo, started popping up.

The ‘Joy of Flying’ characterised by unique experiences offered in Jet Airways, Indian Airlines, and other airlines was now gone, but flying became accessible to a much wider audience.

ixigo helps you to book flights and hotels

5. Individuals who would earlier travel only by trains now had the option of flying, by spending a little extra.

6. The e-commerce revolution further inspired tech entrepreneurs to innovate and build better tech solutions such as faster webpage response times.

User experience and user interface evolved to keep customers involved throughout the booking process.

7. Tech further enabled these online players to target customers from the discovery phase to conversion and finally retaining customers through continuous engagement. It was now possible to accurately track first mile and last mile attribution.

“Creating personas of travellers is the next BIG thing in travel. Travellers will be able to select personas that they relate to, and get a customised travel plan in return. For example — a person who likes trains will be happy to visit the rail museum in Bristol. This is a trend waiting to happen globally.”

8. The Indian government is now opening up newer airports in tier 2 and tier 3 cities, which means people will have more options to reach their destination faster than before.

9. AI, ML, AR, VR and voice assistance are the newest tech trends on the block and are worth watching out for. However, most of them are still in the nascent stage and will take time to hit mass market as companies are solving for the 80% versus the 20% of their audiences.

Here’s how ixigo is experimenting with AR:

“At ixigo, we’re experimenting with AR for location of trains. If a train is coming into a station, a traveller just has to take a picture. Our app will label all the coaches and tell you how far you have to walk.”

Almost 100% of the geo-audience are on mobile and 60% of online searches are via google voice.

Technological advancements are going to open up newer avenues of business opportunities in the travel segment. And these opportunities will be open season for both aspiring and existing entrepreneurs to tackle bigger and even more challenging problems as the travel industry continues to evolve.