90di travel search blog

90di home page is now as light as a feather!

January 18th, 2010 by kiran

Hi Folks!!

We didn’t write any blog for the last two months as we were working on some of the important items. (But to balance our silence here, we have been quite noisy on twitter).

But now we are back on the blog as well and with some good news for the new year 2010! 🙂

Have you observed the load time of our main site 90di.com today? It should be around 80-90% faster than what it was yesterday.

Our main page was earlier 500 Kb in size which used to make it seem a bit slow (it was only on the home page though). This was a major problem for users, particularly worse for users with slow Internet connections and also those who still use IE6!

All the users had to wait for some time to get the page loaded, and this was one feedback from many users, who love us otherwise.

The good news is that, we have addressed this problem now. The initial download size of our home page is now only 40Kb! Yes, only 40Kb!! which is  around 90% cut from the earlier 500+ Kb!!

However, you might notice some (very little compared to earlier) delay when you do the first search. This is when it loads some additional java scripts. But overall we think it yields a significantly better user experience.

So we are very-very ecstatic about it!! Please try it out at 90di.com and to tell us your thoughts on the same.

Some details on the tech aspect of it: Thanks to GWT (Google Web Toolkit). They have recently released version 2.0. This time they have introduced the concept of ‘code splitting‘. Using this the GWT applications can be split into multiple java script files and hence can minimize the initial download time.

Where online users in India go to book their flight and train tickets?

November 18th, 2009 by khushnood

First up the Greeting:

To you dear users, who took part in our survey: A big ‘Thank You!’. Now please go ahead and look up the survey results, Ye enlightened ones! 🙂

The rest of dear users/readers: We ran a survey on our site to find out, where people book their train and flight tickets, after they have searched their train and flight here on 90di site. We got around 1000 responses and below are the results.

For flight booking, figure 1 shows the results below.

90di flight booking survey results

Figure 1: 90di flight booking survey results

Not surprisingly the Airline sites are the most popular place for travelers who book their tickets online, with a lion’s share of 54%. This is followed by OTAs then Travel Agents. Flight booking through other sources meant – booking through their corporates or booking via Airline counter. Big surprise was that a significant 17% of people, book their tickets through travel agents (after searching online).

Some inferences from the flight booking survey data:

1) Perhaps the survey reflects the dynamic nature of Air-ticket pricing. As people want to get the best-deal, from whichever option they can get, they go to multiple sources. Hence Travel Agents score surprisingly high, quite close to OTAs (23%)

2) People are using OTAs too for search, primarily. To be honest, Travel search is still establishing itself in India, and perhaps there is an issue of trust (in terms of whether it really is comprehensive and the cheapest). So people do end up searching an OTA site along with a travel search player like us.

3) But one thing is clear, that given a choice, people would eliminate the middlemen and go directly to the source and book i.e. the Airline in this case. Makes for very good common sense too.

Over all: It does make a very good business case for travel search players like us. When most of the people like to book with Airline site directly. And of course everybody would want to compare their options, hence the need for travel search.

Now lets look at the train booking survey results (Figure 2 below):

90di survey train booking graph

Figure 2: 90di survey train booking graph

IRCTC website had a whopping 82% of market share in online bookings. Leaving quite little for Travel Agents and OTAs, with 8% and 5% respectively.

Key Inference based on train booking survey data:

Static pricing of Indian Railways, shuts the door on all the other players. And there is not much scope of adding value to the traveler, atleast as far as pricing is concerned. Means that once the traveler checks the availability and the price (which is also kind of known beforehand), it makes sense for the traveler, to book their tickets with IRCTC, thereby even saving on some service charge, with OTAs or travel agents might apply.

Would love to hear, if you are able to make any useful inferences, from this data we have. As for the proof that we actually did the survey, and not made this numbers up, here is a screen shot of the survey page.

Vertical Search on Indian Railways data (and any and every kind of data)

October 27th, 2009 by khushnood

The number of web sites in the world is already around 250 million and growing very fast. Also almost every body who sells something wants to have a web front end too. In this scenario of e-commerce website explosion, it is becoming increasingly difficult for a user to find the relevant information based on her needs. Below are some questions for which we will seek the answers:

  • How does an Internet user know which site to use to pull out the information?
  • Will the user get the best price and the best fit for her needs, just by searching the few sites she knows?
  • How does the user know which sellers (sites) have what she needs?
  • Also if she wants to compare the price (or other attributes of the product) from multiple vendors (web sites) how does she do?
  • Won’t she be overwhelmed with data after just accessing a handful of seller web sites?

Read the white paper on Vertical Search to know the answers to the above questions.

We wrote this white paper a while back and sent it to some people, with the intent of introducing them to vertical search concepts and hoping to cause a change in how people think about their websites and data on the Internet.

Now trying to reach out to a wider audience, with the same intent. So please do read it and feel free to circulate it to anybody.

Key messages are:

1) Vertical Search is the future way of how people access any information on any domain, including travel.

2) Railways organizations like CRIS/IRCTC can really help catalyze the growth of innovative travel applications by making all their data public. There is already a precedence in the form of dataSF.org  (this guardian article covers the benefits that the city of San Francisco is already reaping by putting their data out in the open)

The link to the white paper, again, is here. Also you are invited to discuss it freely by putting your thoughts/comments on this blog Or in the twitter sphere or anywhere you chose.

Check Indian Railways Tatkal availability on 90di.com

September 15th, 2009 by kiran

Our users have been telling us to include the Tatkal availability details for Trains at 90di.com. Yesterday we released this feature.

Now you can get the availability details for both General and Tatkal quota for trains. We have kept the UI simple, just select the appropriate  radio button in the availability column.

Example: Bangalore to Mumbai by train tomorrow

See the below screen shots for more details.

Train Availability - General Quota

Availability details for Train 1014

Train Availability- Tatkal Quota

Tatkal availability details for train 1014

Please  try out this at 90di.com and give your feedback on this.

microreviews.org reviews 90di; interviews me – Thanks to twitter!

September 2nd, 2009 by kiran

Heard that @Infosys recently closed a deal on Twitter? @90di got a review and interview done.  Thanks to twitter.

Arkid Mitra from microreviews.org contacted 90di.com on twitter for an interview as part of their new series “start-up reviews and interviews”.  The interview was conducted on the same day. The very next day they published it. You can read the full article on microreviews.org.

They have done a wonderful job by doing a comprehensive review of 90di.com. There have pointed out some of the shortcomings of 90di. We need these kind of reviews and feedback. We will address these points.

But couple of things we wanted to clarify:

  • Mumbai to Nazira: Yes we do not show routes from Mumbai to Nazira. But we do ‘Near Search’ for this. Nazira doesn’t have Train or Flight connectivity. So we give options where users can choose a ‘big place’ near to Nazira. This list includes Dibrugarh. So if user chooses Dibrugarh, we show routes from Mumbai to Dibrugarh.
  • Mumbai to Jammu via Lucknow: 90di understands this query as the user wants routes between Mumbai and Jammu which passes through Lucknow. Since there are direct Train/Flights available between Mumbai and Jammu, we show the direct routes first. We also show the routes which have transit at Lucknow. But we agree that  in order to not confuse the user, we can remove the direct routes (being extra nice can confuse the user 🙂 just give him what he wants)

Thanks again to Arkid and microreviews.org folks for doing an effort review. All the best for your site folks!

Get your software implemented by 90di

August 18th, 2009 by khushnood

Greetings!

We are happy to announce a new initiative – of that of venturing into custom software development for other people i.e. for our clients. We look forward to  work with a few clients at a time, alongside our travel product development.

The rest of the details are explained as a FAQ below.

1. Why are you starting to do consulting?

Short answer: For revenue.

Long answer: We are a boot-strapped/self-funded Internet product company and look forward do do some software development/consulting to fund our efforts for product development by sharing our knowledge and expertise with others.

2. What kind of consulting work will you pick up?
We can do anything related to software ranging from software development, to design and architecture of systems. Some examples of the nature of work we would do:

a. Software Design & Development

b. Architecture consulting

3. What Technologies can you provide consulting in?
Although we have thrived on FOSS (Free and Open Source) software for a large part of our career. But technology is not a barrier.

We are comfortable in languages ranging from Java to C++ and C.

Operating systems from Linux, to any kind of Unixes (Solaris, AIX, HP-UX) to Windows.

Web servers like Apache, IIS, etc.

App Servers like Tomact/JBoss to Databases like MySql, Oracle, SQL Server, Ingres.

So in one short phrase – ‘Technology no bar’

4. Why should we chose you?
If you like 90di.com travel site and would like to get a site or any other application of the same kind of quality get developed for you, then you should contact us.

5. How do we contact you for consulting?

Just write in a hello mail with small description of your need to sales@90di.com and we can take it forward from there.We ensure a response to your mail within one business day.

[On a lighter note: We read all our mails and are hyper communicative in general, so don’t worry about your mail getting lost in pile of other mails. We reply to each and every mail we get, even try to reply to cold call marketing mails]

6. What would the engagement cost me typically?
One liner: It may not price you the cheapest, but it would be one of the most cost-effective solutions for you.

First up: We don’t compete on price. If you are looking for just low price ‘web development’, we recommend to you upfront that we may not be the best people for it.

We look forward to compete on quality and productivity, and these are not just marketing words for us. Here’s our one liner for the two words:

Quality – Clean code with elegant design which solves the most of complex problems in the simplest of ways.

Productivity – Quality code written fast.

As per Joel Spolsky, productivity between programmers can vary by some 10s of times and more! Just for an example: It’s rumored, that companies like Google have an average productivity per programmer/per month of some 2500 lines of code. We make a promise upfront to at-least double that for you.

So hopefully, it should be the most cost effective software that you can get written anywhere. We will even refuse work and advise you to go to other people, if we think we are not the best guys for you.

7. You arrogant fools, you fancy you are more productive than Google, eh?
Not at all. On the contrary, we are overwhelmed by what companies like Google have achieved. And we are sure they have genius programmers in their ranks. Seems the Page Rank algorithm was just implemented in two weeks. Paul Buchheit (no longer with Google), wrote the initial version of Gmail in just a day, yes just a day!

But we also believe, that average productivity per programmer comes down in a inverse proportion to number of programmers you have in the company. Example 37 Signals had just 5 programmers till about some time back, and their revenue was in millions of  dollars (don’t no exact figure).

So we suspect Google’s productivity might have have been as high as some 25000 lines of code per programmer per month when it was running in a garage.

Our mention  is about  this supposed number of 2500 lines of code per month per programmer. As this looks seriously less to us (as I am sure to many other programmers). On some good-bright-sunny days, we do reach upto couple of 1000s of lines of code our selves. Honestly.

8. I am a loyal visitor of your travel website 90di.com, won’t quality of that be affected?
In one word, No.

Just to elaborate, we actually have been doing some consulting in the past year, did you notice the website quality going down or the pace of feature addition being reduced?

We assure you that 90di Travel product is our first love, and we will continue to do full justice to it. Also please do not hesitate to give us a piece of your mind, in case you feel us lagging or lacking in any way.

9. Okay so what’s the secret of your claim to such good productivity?
That’s a secret! 🙂

But seriously we think there are several. Like our experience working for the very best of Indian software companies (Please check the team page to see our brief profiles).

Also to name one best practice we follow: Less meetings. Yes, we try to have as less meetings between us as possible. We just have a few stand-up meetings like 10-15 minutes meeting, when we feel the need for it. We have a bias for asynchronous means of communication like email (yes email still works for us) And as said earlier, we do read our mails.

10. Hmm… you people look like you can be given a try?
Thank you! Please do so and we promise we will strive to make you one delighted customer. just write a mail to us at sales@90di.com with a short description of what you want.

11. BTW, Doesn’t Paul Graham say that product Startups should not do consulting? 😉

First up: A lot of our work culture has been picked straight out of Paul Graham’s essays. So we do respect and pay a lot of attention to his views. But we also think ourselves, and so we don’t agree to all the things he has to say. Two examples of where we disagree with him:

a. Product Startups should not do consulting work:
We believe in the philosophy of  ‘to each his own’ meaning each startup can not run on one fixed formula. And people can do some tactical stuff to avoid other time wasters e.g. Running after VCs.
(NOTE: If a VC approaches you its a different matter altogether)

b. Another example where we disagree with him is with the use of Lisp.
Again we believe: ‘To each his own’ meaning language is but just a tool and we won’t shy away from using Lisp if we had to.

But seriously, come on…,  Java has got so much momentum behind it and you can easily get so many great piece of software for free e.g. Double MetaPhone implementation.

And we also try to remember that finally what matters is how fast you can convert your ideas to code, and languages like Java are simply, and equally, great for that purpose.

Finally, we look forward to working with you on your upcoming software projects. Do tell us, even if you have a need which you think may come up in a few months time. Also please do tell about us, to a friend who you think can benefit by you recommending us. In any case, please do not hesitate to write to us for any more information at sales@90di.com

NOTE: Comments on this blog entry are closed.

‘Near Search’ on 90di

August 4th, 2009 by khushnood

Greetings,

Its been fair amount of time since the last post, as we have been busy implementing stuff. And now its time to announce one such feature, which has been out there silently for past few weeks – Its called ‘Near Search’.

Let me explain how it works.

Often you want to travel to destinations which do not have a railway station or an airport, but have very good road connectivity from nearby big places. To give two examples:

Delhi to Munnar

Mumbai to Kasauli

Like this there are thousands and thousands of small (and/or tourist) places like –  Panchgani, Mahabaleshwar, Puri, Konark, Kedarnath, to name just a few, to which we now will be able to show connectivity and provide help in reaching there.

Behind the scenes the 90di search engine, works hard to find all the better connected places nearby and prompts a list of such places to the traveler.

Near search screen shot

Figure 1: Near search screen shot

Figure above shows a sample screen-shot of the search Bangalore to Panchgani .

In this case the user can chose the best route (train/flight/bus/and their combination) in two steps.

In the 1st step traveler can chose the best place near to Panchgani, default we give is Satara, also Pune (another nearby big place) is in the list.

In the 2nd Step user can do a route search to the place chosen.

So please do give it a try and let us know what you think. We can’t have enough of your encouragement and improvement feedback.

And if you find a small/tourist place in India not there, just tell us (Give feedback or just comment on this blog) and we promise to add it real-quick!!

Taragana interviews Khushnood

July 1st, 2009 by kiran

Taragana have started a series of interviews with prominent entrepreneurs from India and all over the world.

Last week they interviewed Khushnood, our co-founder.

You can see the full interview here.

Showing the train availability for next 5 days

June 26th, 2009 by kiran

If you are checking for train availability on 90di.com, you will now get the availability details for 6 days in one single click. Once you click “get availability” link, we will show the availability for that particular date and a link for remaining 5 days availability.

Thanks for the feedback. They really help us to improve.

The following screen shots explain this feature.

before clicking the availability link

before clicking the availability link

availability details - shows link to next 5 days availability

availability details - shows link to next 5 days availability

next 5 days availability details

next 5 days availability details

Mail based search – now get search results in your inbox!

June 19th, 2009 by Abhinit

We have launched mail based search feature on 90di, wherin you can send your travel search queries in subject field of email to the emailID 90di.com@gmail.com and you will get your search result in your inbox within minutes.

Search query should be normal free text based search query. For example if you want to find flight fares between Mumbai and Delhi on next Friday, you can send an email with suject Mumbai to Delhi by flight next friday and you will get the results in your inbox.

Along with the booking link tele booking numbers of all the airlines are provided so that you can call the airines directly and book your ticket.

For train availability, just start your query with keyword “AVL” and provide all the required information. For example for availability for train number 1014 between Bangalore and Mumbai your query should be AVL train 1014 SBC to LTT on 07/Jul/2009 2A

Try it out and let us know your thoughts! 🙂