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New Delhi: HolidayIQ, a travel content website for Indians that raised around $5.5 million from Accel Partners and Tiger Global in February to expand operations, plans to capitalize on outbound travel to power its next phase of growth. The number of Indian travellers headed for foreign destinations is growing by 15% a year. The company is looking at two rounds of fund raising at least over the next three years. In an interview, Hari Nair, chief executive and founder of HolidayIQ, spoke about strategy and the trends shaping the Indian travel market. Edited excerpts:

How do you position HolidayIQ in the travel content market, which has a dominating player like TripAdvisor?

We are basically into providing information and opinion for Indian travellers. They can also compare hotel prices. We are similar to TripAdvisor, but it is more of how we position and differentiate ourselves. First, we are also a review website, but our primary positioning is that we are for Indian travellers from Indian travellers. All the content on our site is from Indian travellers. Our focus is to generate content which is meaningful for Indians. Second is type of content. TripAdvisor has a global model. But we listen to Indian travellers very closely and then put out what they actually need.

What is your business model?

Travellers can compare prices on HolidayIQ and then go on to one of the online travel agencies to book the ticket. These are our booking partners. They pay us whenever they get traffic from HolidayIQ; however, converting customers to actual bookings is not our responsibility. Similarly we work with traditional travel agencies. Travellers who want to get packages through a travel agent, we connect them to these agents, who then compete and sell packages to the travellers. The third one is our hotel advertisements. We get a lot of traffic, so if a hotelier wants to advertise, we have a section called featured hotels for them. So we have three revenue streams for HolidayIQ, click revenue with online travel agencies, lead generation with offline travel agencies and hotel advertising.

What are you plans and outlook for the next two to three years?

We want to become the No. 1 source of information and advisory for Indian travellers, whether they are travelling within India or outside India. We are doubling every six months. We are now at 45 lakh travellers, who plan their holidays on HolidayIQ per month. Over the next three years, we want to get 2.5 crore Indians to plan their holidays with us. Our revenue is also doubling every six months. That is the nature of Internet. We have reached our takeoff phase.

Currently, a big part of our focus is on travelling within India. With India being what it is, there is an infinite scope to continue doing what we are already doing. Last year 500 million trips were taken by domestic travellers, out of which 400 million were leisure, in contrast with 3.5 million foreign travellers who came to India for leisure purposes. But we are slowly starting our international section as well. It is already on our site, where Indians travelling abroad will get advice from Indians who have already travelled abroad. Our next big phase of growth is going to be international travel, where we are seeing 12-15% growth every year. Last year 15 million Indians travelled to other countries.

What kind of capital is required for the travel content business?

India has not had too many content businesses. We are one of the early entrants into this. We started in 2006 and we have been here a long time understanding content. This is a capital-intensive business, not as much as an e-commerce one, but it is more than what people think. We have to manage millions of pages and reach out to the audience of 500 million people so the technology becomes very complex. Technology in terms of pages, people, infrastructure and access, is very expensive.

The other expense is on the content. For us 100% of the content comes from travellers. India is very early in the user-generated content paradigm. So we spend a lot of effort, therefore capital, creating awareness among the travellers who we think are likely to write. One of the things that we do for people who come to our website and interact with us, we get back to them asking them to write reviews. We have an active contact centre that contacts in excess of 2,000 people a day. We also have HolidayIQ’s branded, proprietary Android tablet, which we give to all level of hotels across India. When people check out from those hotels, tablets are handed over to them and they are asked to rate hotels for Holiday IQ. It has our proprietary software, which directly uploads guests’ ratings on the website. Hotels can’t interfere in the process. We are looking to cover 5,000 hotels under this over the next three years. The last expense is on talent. Running a business like that with multiple vendors and partners, it needs high quality of talent. Talent in Internet in India is global. If they don’t work for HolidayIQ, they can work for any large company that requires same skill set. So if we lose an engineer, we lose him to Google, Facebook or Zynga. Our salaries have to be competitive.

We have recently raised some capital. We have investments from two of the largest venture capitalists in the world, Accel Partners and Tiger Global, so capital itself is not an issue because they believe in the size of the market. We go for fund raising every 12 to 18 months because our scale of growth is that much. Every 18 months the fund raising that we will do will be larger than what we raised recently. We will keep investing ahead of the curve because this market can take investments for a long time.

What are the trends shaping the market?

We usually have lot of user-generated content, which enables us to chart out current trends that can affect the market. At present, there are three trends that we have come to find. First, people now have less time to take holidays, they will go on more holidays but each of these holidays is becoming shorter. Five years ago, people had time to go for five-night holidays but now a very high percentage of holidays are now one-two nights. However, the money people are willing to spend per night is going up. So, India is becoming a time-poor, but cash-rich. Second, majority of domestic Indians travel within the region. For example, people from north will travel within northern region. Indians do not want to cross regions. If they are willing to cross region, they prefer to go abroad. Instead of going from south to north, people will go from south to Southeast Asia, because it is cheaper to do that. The third is the increase in travel by single women travellers. In the last one year we have seen a 26% increase in single Indian women travelling on leisure within the country. In Delhi, it is 45%, which is higher than the national average.

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