Holiday-packages marketplace TravelTriangle is hoping to put itself at the epicentre of a multi-year, multi-billion dollar growth opportunity in the outbound holidays market. Chief executive officer and co-founder Sankalp Agarwal says the company is stepping up its investments in product, technology and brand-building to achieve a double-digit market share in the sector.
With monthly traffic of 2.5 million unique visitors and close to 700 active travel agents, the platform also raised a Series C round of funding earlier this month.
The $12 million (Rs 78 crore) round in Holiday Triangle Travel Pvt. Ltd was led by The Fundamentum Partnership, a growth-capital firm floated by Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani and Helion Ventures co-founder Sanjeev Aggarwal.
In an interview with TechCircle, Agarwal talks about the holiday travel market and the factors that TravelTriangle believes give it an edge over other online travel agents. Edited excerpts:
How will the fresh funds be predominantly used?
As a next step, we want to concentrate the funds into business growth, improving customer experience and product, and also providing better solutions to the travel agents. We would also be investing significantly in broadening the amount of destinations that we offer. Currently, we offer a total of 65 destinations and we will be offering a lot more shortly. In a nutshell, we are gearing ourselves up to solve more holiday problems, thereby continuing our efforts to become the number one holiday player.
What are your expectations from Fundamentum, which made its debut deal by investing in your firm?
Fundamentum is a one-of-a-kind scale-up platform committed to building enduring technology companies in India. Fundamentum’s co-founders have prior experience dealing with investments in disruptive travel firms like MakeMyTrip, RedBus, and RailYatri. So, the Fundamentum team comes with a lot of learning and experience in the industry. This is a huge advantage for us. We look forward to an enriching learning and working experience with them.
What is the market opportunity that TravelTriangle is chasing?
We are in our growth phase currently, and the travel segment is poised for exceptional growth. The market opportunity is huge, with India’s outbound holidays being a $6.4 billion opportunity today.
Outbound holidays are expected to grow to $15 billion by 2021 and $35 billion by 2025. It is a great time to be in the industry where India’s outbound holidays are growing and our highly curated marketplace model is able to serve both travellers and travel agents.
For Indian leisure travellers, TravelTriangle is a one-stop shop to discover, plan and book a customised holiday. For the travel agents, TravelTriangle provides ever-increasing access to business and empowers them with technology to grow their business profitably.
Therefore, it makes sense for us to align our strengths and work towards occupying a double-digit share in such a humongous market. In many of the destinations, we do occupy a higher double-digit market share. We have the confidence that, in the next four to five years, we are going to occupy double-digit market share in overall Indian outbound holidays. That in itself is a multi-billion dollar opportunity.
Travel is one market where the competition is pretty intense. How do you think TravelTriangle can reign over the industry in the long run?
Holidays is one of the most competitive sectors in India. It’s one of the top e-commerce businesses. However, we are a very different business from other online travel agents (OTAs).
Technically, we are a marketplace where people can discover locations, packages and travel agents; and compare holiday packages, not only just from our call centre, but from the rich database that enables us to serve our customers better in so many ways including recommendations and reviews.
We have a very different value proposition for travellers and a unique strategic positioning because we are helping travellers with comparison, assisting them with recommendations and offering them a marketplace approach towards holidays.
There are various use cases for customers in holidays. First, these are $1,000-$2,000 items, not cheap purchases. So when they spend so much on these, they have very different and unique kinds of preferences.
Second, holidays are not a one-click purchase. It’s an activity which people indulge in for a few days ranging from a week to 20 days. It doesn’t end with holiday planning but expands to holiday financing as well. So all of these are key aspects of holidays and your normal OTA doesn’t really address them all.
Currently, the market share of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in holidays is 80%, so there’s enough room for us to bring really good SMEs online while catering to the online customers and, hence, occupy a prominent share of the market. We are solving a different use case that we believe will help us gain that double-digit market share eventually.
We are growing very rapidly and we have positive unit economics. We are recovering all the costs, including marketing, payment gateway and service tax, from our markets. When we start investing more in product, tech and brand, we are sure the company will become all the more profitable from where we stand today.
Achieving a positive Net Promoter Score (a measure of customer satisfaction) is a tough task in the holiday segment. How do you claim to have the highest NPS score in the holiday segment?
Yes, a positive NPS in the holiday sector is a very difficult thing to achieve. We have been able to achieve a greater score here because, in terms of planning, we provide travellers with a lot of expertise. We are the only player that provides comparison from multiple travel agents and all our listed travel agents have really a large number of reviews.
This is the kind of experience people don’t get elsewhere. An Indian customer paying nearly $1,000-$2,000 for seven days of holidays wants to have some clarity on how these service providers are. In terms of planning and booking, they can compare and talk to multiple providers out there to pick the best one. They can pay on the platform and can do part payments across the marketplace.
Most importantly, we are not just connecting travel agents, but we provide a complete suite of SaaS-based CRM (customer relationship management) to our agents to help them manage their work. (SaaS is software as a service.)
With this solution, they are able to manage their operations and customer service and, hence, are able to carry out an organised way of managing the customer’s experience. We also have a system of addressing unexpected complexities. These help us to achieve the highest NPS.
What is your vision on future fundraising and possible acquisitions?
With the last round of funding, we are looking at a runway of about two years or more. That’s a lot of positivity around the runway. We are always open to exploring our options and we do meet up interesting teams and ideas to see what works. However, at this point in time, we are not looking directly at acquiring some company. We haven’t made any acquisitions so far. We are really focused on building new products and features for our customers internally, which will help us foresee the trends and needs of the holiday industry, and we are not currently talking to any companies for acquisitions.