FindMyCarrots – Bringing Technology to Travel through Semantics
We all search for travel destinations on the internet while planning a vacation. It’s quite frustrating when we search for a specific thing and the result that comes is distantly vague. Online Travel agents such as Makemytrip and yatra.com do not even have a solid search portal! It will be so much easier if there was a common place where all our search queries will be answered.
FindMyCarrots enables you to make an easy and precise online travel search. FMC is primarily focused on building a semantic search portal for the travel vertical. In the coming future, when you search for ‘mountain vacation with family that is affordable’ at FMC, a comprehensive information about various holiday options across the country would be easily accessible. The information will include everything; from affordable travel option to the hotel you can stay in. The offline travel agent you talk to before a vacation would be replaced by a much more friendly online portal!
Arijit( CEO) has a software and product development experience of over 16 years and has worked for Nortel and Polaris Wireless in the past.
Kanwar( COO) has worked for established companies such as Lucent Technologies and Centurylink and has developed products for start-ups such as Azaire Networks and Mavenir systems. He has been in the software field for about 13 years and is an avid squash player.
Siva( CTO) has been in the software industry since 12 years. He has designed successful products for established companies like Lucent Technologies and start-ups such as Polaris wireless. He loves to learn new technologies and work on them.
Market Research involved
In a recent study in U.K., a lot of people berated the online search for travel and said things like- “Why is there not a Google for travel!” “Why can’t I just enter my query in a search box like Google”. The online travel agents such as makemytrip do not help in vacation planning, they just provide a platform to book tickets. Indian travelers spend about 12 days in merely searching for the requisite destinations and iterations available. PhoCusWright reported that 72% of Indian travelers complain about the vague information available at the internet. A lot of research has indicated that an average Indian traveler yearns for some precise travel information at the internet!
Currently, in the Indian online travel market, travel providers and OTAs help users during the booking stage of travel. In other words, once travelers are sure of where they want to travel and which hotel they want to stay at, they can use an OTA to complete the actual booking. Research has shown that travelers want solutions that can help them plan travel better. These are the trigger points and broader motivation behind launching FindMyCarrots.
Launch and User Response
FindMyCarrots underwent a soft beta launch in Sept 2013. Around 10,000 Unique visitors have spent on an average 5 minutes on the website since then.
Competition and USP of FindMyCarrots
Hopper, a Boston based start up promises similar services. It has been 7 years since its launch though it still lacks semantics. FMC has indexed 10,000 places in India which is much more than other competitors. It has crawled over a million pages in India and plans to go global soon.
“How we are different is that data for us is NOT curated and thus scalability is not an issue at all. We have indexed 10,000 places in India compared to HolidayIq which has 1.2k and TripAdvisor which has only 2.5K places for India.
We have already crawled close to a million pages in India. Also, we plan to go global soon.
Compared to OTAs, we are a “technology” company and NOT a booking service which almost all OTAs are currently. The offline travel agent has just moved online with these OTAs but there has been no innovation in the industry for a long time. We are trying to bring “technology to travel”.
[/highlight], says Kanwar Sangha, COO FindMyCarrots.
How will FindMyCarrots make money?
FMC plans to make money from multiple sources –
> By Providing Semantics(example – kid friendly stay in munnar) for hotels in India and get commissions from bookings
> By Licensing APIs as a service to OTAs who wish to incorporate semantics in their website
Challenges faced in the journey so far
“[highlight]The biggest challenge has been to acquire customers. The travel industry spends more than 40-50% of revenue in marketing. It is very difficult for a small player to come in and make a difference. [/highlight]But as AirBnB showed, there is always a way to create a “new” market.
Also, India as a market is beginning to mature but the scale at which online travel/research is done compared to say the US is still low. Most vacations still happen around family visits. Only recently are we beginning to see people travel for short intervals over a long weekend.
[highlight]For a small startup in the travel space, it is difficult to form partnerships with the big OTAs.[/highlight] We approached many meta-search players for integrating our hotel semantics with bookings on their platforms but they only allow partnerships if you bring in X amount of bookings a day. But without tying up with big players, it gets difficult to offer competitive prices which drive bookings. This is the classic chicken and egg problem! But fortunately we were able to tie up with a big player recently”, says Kanwar Sangha.
Is enough innovation happening in Travel Industry?
When we ask this question, Kanwar tells us that there is lot of innovation but mostly around itinerary planning which becomes difficult to scale after a certain level. Most of these startups involve hand-curated data. After all,how many cities can you curate manually?
He opines that RedBus has been the only true innovator in the travel industry in India but with the internet penetration in India crossing US by Mid 2014 and 30% YoY growth in the Indian travel industry, sky is the limit (India had $10B travel market at the end of 2013).
TTP’s take on FindMyCarrots
As an avid traveler myself, I totally agree with the fact that, where to travel is the first question people spend a lot of time on, rather than how to travel. Providing customers enough and accurate information to make decisions will make them sticky and increase customer loyalty. The fact that data is not manually curated, and the team has managed to clinch in deal with a big player shows that the startup is taking steps in the right direction. It remains to be seen, how the startup manages to attract traveler’s attention with their marketing strategies. We wish FindMyCarrots team all the very best!