90di travel search blog

Travel Search is more ‘green’…!

‘Green’ is the word in vogue, along with other words/phrases like ‘Carbon footprint’, and rightly so, whenever there is talk about eco-friendliness or lack of it.
So here is one simple thought to ponder. Travel Search is more ‘green’ …!
To complete the phrase:
‘Travel Search’ model is more ‘green’ than the Online Travel Agent (OTA) model.
The logic. Its quite simple. First lets define what ‘green’ means in this context. Green means being eco-friendly, which means doing things in a way, which is light on the environment. That is, in simple terms we can define it as: ‘Consume less and produce more’.
People who want to travel need to compare flight (or train) options before buying –  i.e. search the cheapest and the best flight (or train). So some kind of search on top of the Airlines sites and Railway sites, is required. Else the user will have to do the comparison on various sites themselves. Both the Travel Search model and the OTA model fulfill that need.
One thing which OTA also additionally provide to the user is booking. I contest, it is this aspect which makes it less eco-friendly to the entire flight booking eco-system. It creates an extra (larglely redundant) middle layer of providing the booking itself. Which the Airlines themselves do, very nicely.
In doing so, it adds a thick layer of actions, which are largely duplicated and can easily be performed by the Airline itself (Or by the Railways/IRCTC).
To meet this extra cost, it has to charge heavy commissions. So it adds significant cost to Air travel, by charging commissions often as high as 7-8%.
In addition, the OTAs charge their own cancellation fee (or a change fee), in case of cancellation or a change in itinerary. It also has to run call centers, since it does booking. Also it can come in the way of loyalty programs between the customer and the Airline (Some of them make it workable, but its not straight forward).
Last but not the least, all that spam, in the form of mailers, announcing deals and discounts, which are largely useless for you.
Now compare this with what ‘Travel Search’ does. It serves an essential function, of allowing travellers to compare flight options (or train options or both) and choose the best flight (or train or a bus). And doesn’t duplicate the function of booking, which the Airlines do equally well.
It costs less to the eco-system. The referrals paid to travel search players are typically just about 1/10th of the hefty commissions which the Airlines pay to the OTAs. (For this reason its less attractive to VCs, but that’s another story)
It costs less to build. Just a small team of may be around 10/20 people, who sit in a garage (and largely survive on Maggie noodles!) to build a nice and strong search engine. Which allows the users to search the best flight and book directly at the Airline.
Compare this with typically hundreds of employees employed by an OTA, largely to fulfill the additional function of booking.
But don’t the OTAs offer lots of deals and discounts? Yes they do. But in simple terms, it adds further to your average travel cost, as the discount and deals on may be less than 5% of all the bookings/routes, increase the cost of overall bookings. As they have to earn money, and somebody has got to pay for it. The deals and discounts, serve mainly a marketing purpose.
So Travel Search, costs less to build. And gives more value to the user – in terms of providing just what the user wants and then getting out of the user’s way. Less is indeed More – and Travel Search model is yet another example of that!
This is our honest opinion, and would love to debate this, and learn more about it. If you agree to this, then please spread the word about us and this model, to your family and friends (we don’t have the budgets for a TV advertising you see!)
Footnotes:
1. Travel Agents: We believe all the field travel agents (i.e. the ones having a physical presence in form a store, you can walk-in to), serve a very important need, and the above argument does not apply there. Majority of the folks in India, still purchase their travel offline.
2. OTA evolution: It will be unfair to not even mention a bit on the history of this Industry. In the pre-internet days, when travel agents in US had to do bookings for their customers, they relied on Global distribution systems (GDS) – like Amadeus etc. to do the booking. So in a way, the GDSes, used to manage the entire Airline seat inventory. The first generation of online booking sites, didn’t sort of look at the system, from a clean slate view, and just moved everything online –> Online Travel Agent (OTA). Travel Search is a clean-slate perspective, of looking at things overall. It has established itself in US, firmly, with the likes of Kayak. Now, in India, its in the process of establishing itself.
3. Disclosure: We allow users of our site, to compare, flight results from Airlines we show with OTAs. Also we get a commission from the OTA if a booking is done there. So in a sense, you may detect a shade of hypocrisy, in what I say, above.
But I have an explanation for that.  We do see that the majority of the bookings happen through the Airlines itself. Something like more than 95% of the bookings, we see, happen on the Airlines’ site. We give an option to the user, to catch any deals, which may happen at that point in time, which the OTAs do as part of their marketing.
So this blog post is about our world view, but we do accept the reality (of OTAs commanding a large mind share) and we try to make the best use of it. But we totally stand by what we say above, and believe that, it will serve the people better, if ‘Travel Search’ was the dominant model, rather that the ‘OTA’. Since Internet is also about removing redundancies, we believe ‘Travel Search’ is the model, which is going to survive and do well in the long run. Only time will tell…
Acknowledgement: Thanks to Patrick, Sanjeev, Abhinit, Rockey, Kalyan, Bharat, Vijay, Bal, Kiran and Iram for reading and reviewing drafts of this post.

‘Green’ is the word in vogue, along with other phrases like ‘Carbon footprint’, and rightly so, whenever there is talk about eco-friendliness or lack of it.

So here is one simple thought to ponder. Travel Search is more ‘green’ …!

To complete the phrase:

‘Travel Search’ model is more ‘green’ than the Online Travel Agent (OTA) model.

First lets define what ‘green’ means in this context. Green means being eco-friendly, which means doing things in a way, which is light on the environment. That is, in simple terms we can define it as: ‘Consume less and produce more’.

For the uninitiated: Travel Search Engines allow the users to search on their sites and for booking take them to the Airline site (or Railways/IRCTC). Whereas OTA sites give a search option to the user, and also make the users book with them.

Now lets go on and explore why Travel Search is more ‘green’.

People who want to travel need to compare flight (or train) options before buying –  i.e. search the cheapest and the best flight (or train). So some kind of search on top of the Airlines sites and Railway sites is required. Else the user will have to do the comparison on various sites themselves. Both the Travel Search model and the OTA model fulfill that need.

One thing which OTA also additionally provide to the user is booking. I contest, it is this aspect which makes it less eco-friendly to the entire flight booking eco-system. It creates an extra (larglely redundant) middle layer of providing the booking itself. Which the Airlines themselves do, very nicely.

In doing so, it adds a thick layer of actions, which are largely duplicated and can easily be performed by the Airline itself (Or by the Railways/IRCTC).

To meet this extra cost, it has to charge heavy commissions. So it adds significant cost to Air travel, by charging commissions often as high as 7-8%.

In addition, the OTAs charge their own cancellation fee (or a change fee), in case of cancellation or a change in itinerary. It also has to run call centers, since it does booking. Also it can come in the way of loyalty programs between the customer and the Airline (Some of them make it workable, but its not straight forward).

Travel Search is more green

Now compare this with what ‘Travel Search’ does. It serves an essential function, of allowing travellers to compare flight options (or train options or both) and choose the best flight (or train or a bus). And doesn’t duplicate the function of booking, which the Airlines do equally well.

It costs less to the eco-system. The referrals paid to travel search players are typically just about 1/10th of the hefty commissions which the Airlines pay to the OTAs. (For this reason its less attractive to VCs, but that’s another story)

It costs less to build. Just a small team of may be around 10/20 people, who sit in a garage (and largely survive on Maggie noodles!) to build a nice and strong search engine. Which allows the users to search the best flight and book directly at the Airline.

Compare this with typically hundreds of employees employed by an OTA, largely to fulfill the additional function of booking.

But don’t the OTAs offer lots of deals and discounts? Yes they do. But in simple terms, it adds further to your average travel cost, as the discount and deals on may be less than 5% of all the bookings/routes, increase the cost of overall bookings. As they have to earn money, and somebody has got to pay for it. The deals and discounts, serve mainly a marketing purpose.

So Travel Search, costs less to build. And gives more value to the user – in terms of providing just what the user wants and then getting out of the user’s way. Less is indeed More – and Travel Search model is yet another example of that!

This is our honest opinion, and would love to debate this, and learn more about it. If you agree to this, then please spread the word about us and this model, to your family and friends (we don’t have the budgets for a TV advertising you see!)

Footnotes:

1. Travel Agents: We believe all the field travel agents (i.e. the ones having a physical presence in form a store, you can walk-in to), serve a very important need, and the above argument does not apply there. Majority of the folks in India, still purchase their travel offline.

2. OTA evolution: It will be unfair to not even mention a bit on the history of this Industry. In the pre-internet days, when travel agents in US had to do bookings for their customers, they relied on Global distribution systems (GDS) – like Sabre, Amadeus etc. to do the booking. So in a way, the GDSes, used to manage the entire Airline seat inventory. The first generation of online booking sites, didn’t sort of look at the system, from a clean slate view, and just moved everything online –> Online Travel Agent (OTA). Travel Search is a clean-slate perspective, of looking at things overall. It has established itself in US, firmly, with the likes of Kayak. Now, in India, its in the process of establishing itself.

3. Disclosure: We allow users of our site, to compare flight results from Airlines with OTAs. Also we get a commission from the OTA if a booking is done there. So in a sense, you may detect a shade of hypocrisy, in what I say, above.

But I have an explanation for that. We do see that the majority of the bookings happen through the Airlines itself. Something like more than 95% of the bookings, we see, happen on the Airlines’ site. We give an option to the user, to catch any deals, which may happen at that point in time, which the OTAs do as part of their marketing.

So this blog post is about our world view, but we do accept the reality (of OTAs commanding a large mind share) and we try to make the best use of it. But we totally stand by what we say above, and believe that, it will serve the people better, when ‘Travel Search’ is the dominant model, rather that the ‘OTA’. Since Internet is also about removing redundancies, we believe ‘Travel Search’ is the model, which is going to survive and do well in the long run. Only time will tell…

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Patrick, Sanjeev, Abhinit, Rockey, Kalyan, Barry, Vijay, Birla, Gopi, Kiran and Iram for reading and reviewing drafts of this post.

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15 Responses to “Travel Search is more ‘green’…!”

  1. Dhruv Goyal Says:

    I read you article on pluggd.in
    Amazing article and concept.But as you said OTA deals.I couldnt find it on your portal.
    90di takes the data from gds????

  2. khushnood Says:

    Thanks Dhruv!
    If you do a flight search for any given date. Then on top of the results, we show you some OTA links, using which you can check the flight fare/etc. on their flights.

  3. Dhruv Goyal Says:

    Yeah i saw that but i have to go on there site.
    I liked your UI and concept very much…

    Ixigo is one sit that takes the data from OTA s also…But the booking is done on OTA site..

    I have the following questions.

    1)So what is the diff between 90di and ixigo…
    2)You guys take the data form gds????
    3)And why don’t you guys do the comparison of OTA’s also.???

  4. khushnood Says:

    Yes, Ixigo is also a travel search engine, like us. But there are some differences in approach. As our logo says “We are on the traveller’s side!” ;-)

    We are also open to working with OTAs, wherever possible, without compromising on the Traveller’s interests.

    Answers, to your questions:
    1) Think, I have already answered your query above. It will be very lonely, if we are the only players in the Travel Search eco-system, in India. So we like the competition. :)
    But that said, we try to make the search very easy, like our free text (natural language) interface, which majority of our users like. Stick around, and try it out for yourself. And give us your honest feedback.

    2 & 3) Without going into the specifics. We are open to work with OTAs (and are already working to whatever extent possible), but, our default (and obvious choice) will always remain the Airline Sites (or the Railways/IRCTC) for booking. Basically, as direct as possible.

  5. Deepak Says:

    Hi Khushnood,

    I really like your 90di.com and always search and book tickets here only. I have couple of things to share with you about your start up.
    1) You are a good search player in the market but you don’t advertise like others . Why? And if budget is constraint as you have mentioned then can i know your number of transactions in one day which will help me to understand your market position among others.
    2) why VCs are not so much interested in meta search as u mentioned?

    I hope u reply my questions to continue the thread ahead.

    Regards
    Deepak

  6. khushnood Says:

    Hi Deepak,
    Thanks for liking us and for being a returning user. We hope we can continue to meet your expecations, in future too.

    Answers:
    1. Yes, we don’t do much advertising, as of now. We may do it in the future, though. But word-of-mouth has helped us reach this far. And continously striving for more traction via possible routes.
    (Sorry, am not allowed to discuss the specific numbers here, as per current company policy.)

    2. The reason is: Its not as much lucrative as the OTA model, as the cut is much lesser per transaction. But that was a matter of fact statement. The status quo might change in the future. As I’ve argued, that Internet should push the evolution towards lesser redundancy/duplication. And with the new status quo, things might be different.

    Regards,

  7. Deepak Says:

    Hi Khushnood,

    Thanks for your reply.
    Just to continue the thread, I would like to know the technology and methodology which you are using as i am also a technical person and i know it is developed on GWT. But why GWT and any server side technology which you are using here. i also work on a project for an african client to develop a travel site using gwt.

    Thanks
    Deepak

  8. khushnood Says:

    Hi Deepak,

    You are welcome. And thanks for your comments.

    Yes, you are right we use GWT. Its quite good, and allows lots of powerful UI features to be developed. Also, you don’t have to worry about whether your java script will run on a given browser version, as it will take care to generate java script based on browsers/versions.

    How has been your experience of using GWT? Any issues, because of low bandwidth, in Africa?

    We use a lot of Java and open source on the server side. And we are mostly linux based from hosting to the dev environment.

    Regards,
    Khushnood

  9. Deepak Says:

    Hi Khushood,

    No blogs for long time. I think u r busy somewhere else. Anyway how is business going on?
    My experience with GWT is very much pleasant except the loading time and a few things related to UI look and feel which is not so much eye candy. I am working to integrate Sabre GDS for the client in Africa through Spring. google app engine is not supporting many features with Spring. Thats a bit frustrating. Otherwise it is fine. Also, need to implement a customised pay per click system for the client using GWT and spring.

    Thanks
    Deepak

  10. khushnood Says:

    Hi Deepak,
    Things are fine! Oh… so its time for another post. Will try soon, thanks :)

    Yes, the load issue with GWT, is a drawback. But from 2.0, they allow you to break into modules, that helps. But definitely, I think that, such an important thing, should be more core to the design. As Google is so keen on latency on the Internet. Saw one of their presentations some time back, where they argue for rectangular corners (and against rounded corners) as HTML doesn’t support it directly. In my opinion, that was going a bit too low level, for normal apps. Mentioning that, because, if they apply that kind of strict criteria and thought for GWT load times, then it will help everybody.

    Regards,
    Khushnood

  11. 90di.com Blog » Blog Archive » Travel Search actually saves you money, and more … Says:

    [...] also did a post explaining our travel search model some time back. Here is a fresh take on [...]

  12. Parakulam Says:

    After a very long period I logged into the familiar 90di site and wanted to ascertain the timings of various long-distance Duronto trains as also other express trains. However I was surprised to find the old trains numbers(the numbering system has since changed) being exhibited in the otherwise impeccable user-friendly site. Kindly arrange to set right the apparent wrong train numbers with immediate effect.
    Tendering an ADVANCE Thanks for the early rectification
    Parakulam

  13. khushnood Says:

    Hi Parakulam,

    Sorry about that. Will check it up. Also it will help if you can point out faulty or missing train numbers.

    Thanks a lot!

  14. Parakulam Says:

    KHUSHNOOD Ji,
    I unconditionally offer my humble apologies !!
    I had not at all scrolled down to the bottom of the website
    (which I did just now)to find to my astonishment !! all the revised(from December 2010)train numbers have been systematically displayed along-with the old train Numbers side by side for easy reading!!
    Once again thanks for the quick response !

  15. khushnood Says:

    Hi Parakulam Saheb,
    Not a problem at all. Thanks for confirming that it is fine.

    Best Regards,

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