Online travel agencies are making a killing for years now with varied services like train and airline ticketing and even customer-friendly hotel deals, giving IRCTC a tough competition.
But, of late, with the mushrooming of several such sites, customers are becoming confused while comparing deals to avail travel and accommodation services according to their budgets.
With an aim to spare travelers the hassles for searching on multiple sites, Aloke Bajpai, CEO and co-founder, Ixigo came up with the idea to launch an aggregator that will work with all travel agencies.
Set up in 2007, the portal allows consumers to choose an agency from the kitty based on discount deals and content that best suits them. “We wanted to simplify the process by aggregating all the data in one place. In 2011, we started building on the content based on travel pages of numerous travel sites. This is still a significant traffic generator for us,” he explained.
Trains Were An Ignored Category By The Online Travel Agents
Bajpai feels train ticketing was a category ignored by online travel agents and nobody was trying to solve the non-transactional problem.
“In IRCTC, you can buy a ticket, but it is not easy as so many things are involved before and after a transaction. You cannot rest till your PNR is confirmed. We started by solving those problems one-by-one and now we are actually the most popular train app in the country. So, we have twice as many monthly active users as any other train information app and even more users than IRCTC for that matter,” he asserted.
For trains, PNR prediction is a very popular feature, the company is getting 60,000- 70,000 PNRs a day on their app, which also means 2 million PNR per month on an average. He highlighted that the PNR feature helped the company make their algorithm better.
“So right now at PNR prediction, we are 93 per cent accurate. If we continue to do so, we can keep growing without spending much money because a lot of growth is also coming organically. Our judicious use of the social media allows us to go viral on the platform without paying anything,” he explained.
For Three Years The Company Spent Zero Money In Marketing
Recalling his rough journey, Bajpai said, “2008-2009 was a difficult period, where even thought of letting go 20 people who worked with us. The only alternative was to come up with means to survive. It was really about survival, but having lived through those difficult times we learnt how to market without money.”
For three years the company spent zero money in marketing. “We have largely grown organically without spending much money on marketing. Basically our team was very supportive and they were ready to work on half salary and it actually worked because we kept on growing,” he added.