iTraveller is a cloud based platform for the travel and tourism industry. It’s about automating the activities of a travel agent or a tour operator and automating the manual activities what you follow in the industry, both internally and externally. In short, it is an automation platform for the industry altogether.
It automates activities like handling the enquiries from clients, dynamically creating self serviced customized packages on website, dynamic hotel inventory management, all the payments, customer movement tracking and follow-ups along with a host of business intelligence and other things to improve the experiences of travelers.
Shiju Radhakrishnan, the man behind iTraveller shared his comprehensive information about his business with Startoholics.
What Motivated this Startup?
Process automation and workflow has been a part of my career for the last 10 years. Automation has got a huge amount of scope in the fields which are purely manual in nature. The travel and tourism industry in the country has about 2.5 lakh travel agents but not a single automation platform, an ERP platform which could help in improving their efficiency. After studying about the industry for about one and a half years, I have come to a conclusion that this industry is very disorganized and there is huge opportunity in terms of automating it.
There is a huge scope in improving the way our next-door travel agent can deliver his work and handle his operations. Being experts in process automation, we are good at decoding the complex workflows that travel agents perform and capture all of them on a platform.
Has iTraveller got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?
We did a pilot of almost about a year. In Sept 2011, we registered our company iTraveller. We created a small pilot prototype version of the product which was unfortunately not successful. I resigned in Jan 2012 and came back to India from Singapore to form a team. Then for a year we worked as a travel agent to learn the process, to create the workflow and algorithm and build the product parallelly.
It took one year to create 6 modules of the product, to make it completely live and functional for the industry. We did our beta launch on 1st April, 2013 and till the month of May, did not charge and offered the platform free of cost. But from June 1st, we started collecting set up fees from customers. Right now we have 21 travel agents on-board. When we worked as a travel agent, we did a performance testing for the platform to see if it can really function well for the travel agents. Our platform is the result of more than yearlong worship and diligence in blending travel & technology.
Would you like to tell us about your Revenue Model?
iTraveller is a Pay Per Usage platform. If you are a travel agent and want to use this platform, you just have to come to the website and sign up. Once you sign up, you can start using the platform. There is also a 7 day free trial period where you can use it the way you want, without any restrictions. After 7 days, you will have to pay a set up fee which is Rs. 8, 435 + taxes which comes to something like Rs.9, 478. After the payment, the platform is all yours.
There are also 4 modules which are monetizable right now i.e. Planner (Quick tour package creation module), Reservations (Performs hotel & transportation bookings), Client Experiences (Helps efficient ground handling of clients during travel) and Sales (Helps track & monitor monthly sales & incentive management). You have the freedom to add each of the modules, based on the nature and size of your business at the time of configuring the application.
How involved are you with fundraising?
For the last couple of months, we are actively looking for raising funds but have not been substantially successful yet. But there are few people with whom we are interacting and in the next couple of months we should be successful in raising some funds.
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced?
The last 1-2 years have been an amazing roller coaster ride. If you don’t have patience, you’ll probably get a heart attack every day. It’s been a very exhaustive and tiring journey. The biggest challenge has been to find the right kind of guys. There are millions of engineers, sales people and talented professionals in the market who can really do a bang up job. But you don’t find people who are willing to put their efforts right now and wait for the results which may come after a year or two. You don’t find commitment and perseverance in a lot of people.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
To be honest I’m not quite content with what we have right now but then they are some joys that we get on a daily basis. When you successfully launch your product, you have achieved something substantial by overcoming various hurdles. When you get the first few customers, you feel satisfied and confident that people are willing to use your product. I’ll be excited when we reach about 5000 businesses in the next 5 years and that is what we are targeting as of now.
We are depending on Facebook, blogs, email campaigns to promote iTraveller. We are looking forward to participate in Travel trade fairs where most of the active travel companies join together. This one way of offline promotion through which we are planning to reach the target segment.
Shuji believes that in a startup, you can’t work from 9-5 and then forget about your work. You should be willing to dedicate 24/7 of your time for a startup journey. You can’t make 10 million in just 2-3 years and becoming rich is the last priority of a startup. If you think you have an unwavering perseverance and the capability to withstand pressure from family, society friends and employees, only then you should enter in the field of startups. Before jumping into entrepreneurship, you should ask yourself if you are ready to risk 5 years of your life without any guarantee of earning sufficient revenue and if the answer is Yes, you are certainly bitten by the entrepreneurship bug!