90di travel search blog

Posts Tagged ‘travel search’

1021789

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Yes, 1,021,789! That’s the number of travel searches you did, dear users, on 90di.com in the last month.

We are ecstatic to reach the million search mark. And thank you all all for it. We love you for it. And hope that you celebrate with us, by doing more searches on 90di.com, and by spreading the word about us to your family and friends.

We believe in our model, and think its the best model to exist for travel bookings using the Internet.

We would also like to thank our partner Airlines on this occasion.

Indian Railways, we would request you to help us more, by being open. Give everybody an API. It will allow innovation to happen in this field. And people will love you more. Also allow us to make some commercial use of it.

Our Bus partners, we thank you.

Also open source software communities, we love you. We thank:

1. Linux: Where we develop, host and run our stuff.

2. Java and its eco system with lots of other open source libraries, created by the erstwhile Sun. Oracle, please-please don’t screw it up.

3. Apache web server – You never crashed in some 4/5 years of run! Need anything be said in your praise. We love you.

4. Tomcat and Jetty: We have used both of them, in various mixes at various times.

5. GWT: Thanks Google and GWT team for building such a cool piece of software. That said, the roadmap does look uncertain, and we will be forced to move to JQuery, or such, if you don’t dispel the doubts with actions in terms of some solid releases.

6. Demo Recorder: Its a brilliant piece of software to record stuff on linux. And it has helped us saved the day, during one presentation, when Internet connection died.

7. libevent: In our experience, libevent provides an excellent base to serve requests, if you want to code in C/C++, with perhaps 1/3rd the memory requirements of Java and twice as fast.

8. Eclipse: The IDE we use to generate our Java code.

9. vi: The best editor in the world, if you conquer it. For those, who have not had the pleasure of using it – Its the editor for coding C++, and shell scripts, and what not!

10. Memcached: The fastest way to cache some objects, and any thing. With the lowest possible memory & CPU footprint.

11. subversion(svn): For help managing our source code control (I know, I know, some people might say “You are not on ‘XYZ’ yet!”. The answer would be ‘will the change the shoe if it pinches me some where, not because some celebrity said, it pinched him!’)

12. MySQL: The best open source RDBMS, in the world.

Also, although not open source, we would like to thank Amazon AWS, for providing the best cloud services in the world. Which allows guerilla fighters, to more effectively compete with the corporates with armies!

Travel Search actually saves you money, and more …

Monday, June 27th, 2011

The inspiration for this post is, some of the feedback, we got on our facebook page recently regarding savings some travellers, were able to make while using us to find the best flight/train and booking directly (at Airline or Railways site).

One user was able to save Rs. 2018/-. Where as another found a flight for 3.5K on our site, where as some of the big Online Travel Agents (OTA) were showing it for much-much higher!

We also did a post explaining our travel search model some time back. Here is a fresh take on it:

  1. Internet is about removing redundancies, and also superficial intermediaries. And that is primarily by virtue of making the information flow, easily possible, between entities (peoples & systems).
  2. In an ideal scenario, on the Internet, when user wants to book a flight, information from all the Airlines should just flow into the user’s tool (computer/any thing), without any intermediary. There is a seller there is a buyer. The two kinds are sufficient for the trade to happen. And both need each other. Every thing else, can be dispensed with, if not helping the trade, by adding value.
  3. Let’s say for the moment, that no intermediary exists, whether its the OTAs, or travel search engines like 90di. This removes the intermediaries, but then what happens is: User has has to open 10 tabs in the browser, one for each Airline, and one perhaps for IRCTC. So it will be kind of painful for the user.
  4. So basically, some kind of tool is required to make the travel booking process easier. To assist and assimilate the flow of travel information.
  5. But the question is where should the tool stop – meaning what all features it should not have. If it goes on to do booking on behalf of the user, and by that it adds to the cost of travel – hefty commissions; and the double cancellation charges (one to the Airline and one to the OTA). And thereby starting to drain the travel booking eco-system.
  6. More over, Airlines can’t pass on some of the advantages to consumer as part of the booking – For example purchasing food at the time of booking. This particular aspect is a lose-lose proposition for both the Airlines and the traveller. As user is constrained by the limitations of the “generic-for-all-Airlines” features provided by the OTA. And the Airline can’t ‘demonstrate’ more value to the consumer upfront.
  7. So it seems obvious to us, and hopefully to many of you reading this, that travel search engines are the kind of tools you need for travel planning, and nothing more. Anything more – like the booking – and the tool starts to come in your way.

We are glad to be of value to our users. And although, there are some difficulties(+), we try and continue, in the belief, that we are instrumental in the travel search model getting established in India. Which, we believe, is in the best interests of both the suppliers (like Indian Railways and Airlines) and, equally if not more important, for the consumer. We didn’t just say it when we said ‘We are on the traveller’s side’!

 

+ Difficulties like not getting paid by all the Airlines yet — it’s taking some time. And not making anything on the trains’ search – Indian Railways does not yet support the travel search model (although we are hopeful, and have been patiently following up with them). But there are silver lines. Big Thanks to the Airlines that pay us, we are able to keep ourselves motivated and, which reinforces our belief in this model.

Travel Search is more ‘green’…!

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011
‘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.

How to specify return flights?

Friday, November 19th, 2010

One common question asked to us, is:

“How do I specify the return date for flights in the natural search?”.

Below are a few examples which explain how:

1. Say if you are traveling from Bangalore to Mumbai on the coming 2nd returning on the 5th. Then you just say:

BLR BOM flights 2nd return 5th

2. If the travel is immediate, and in the next few days, then you can just say:

bom del flights monday return Thursday

3. For same day travel you need to just put the same date after the return:

BOM BLR flights 25 return 25

BLR CCU flights 10/Dec return 10/Dec

Now Choose your flights using the flight fare calendar on 90di.com

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

We have launched the flight fare calendar/outlook yesterday.

This feature was there in our pipeline since long time, and demanded by quite a few users. Earlier, we used to show the flight routes for a default assumed date when the user did not specified the date, which was causing some confusion to our users.

Also from a user-interface point of view it is much more intuitive to  show a big calendar which contains either available-fare, or a link to check fare, when the date is not specified.

So, for flight searches, If you do not specify the date then we will show you the fare calendar. If you specify the date, then we simply show the flight details for that particular date.

More details on Calendar:

We show the calendar for 5 weeks starting from ‘today’. You can click on “Next Week” and “Prev Week” links to see the fares for other weeks. From this calendar you can easily find out the lowest fare in that 5 week period. We show “Check Now” link when there is no data for a cell. By clicking on that link, the flight routes for that particular date is displayed.

For example when you search for “Mumbai to Delhi flights” we will show the fare calendar, which looks as shown below. Since these two are popular airports, you will see that most of the calendar cells are filled up (with the help of searches made by other users earlier).

Mumbai to Delhi flight fare calendar

Mumbai to Delhi flight fare calendar

Another example is “Bangalore to Jammu flights“. In this case the calendar looks a bit sparse — not many searches done for this route perhaps. So, it can be used as date select calendar. Click on any cell, and you will see the flight routes for that particular date.

Bangalore to Jammu flight fare calendar

Bangalore to Jammu flight fare calendar

We think that this feature will be useful for you. Please try it out and let us know what you think.

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

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

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)

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

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

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

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!

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

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!

‘Near Search’ on 90di

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

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!!