Startup Spotlight: Trip Tern – India Based Global Trip Planning Service
The most time consuming and confusing part of a travel is the planning stage. Decisions like – where to go, when to go and how to go takes a lot of traveler’s time at planning stage. Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a website help you in generating an itinerary for your trip? India based Trip Tern provides this service. We had the opportunity to meet Shailendra Sason, Co-Founder of Trip Tern. In this article, he discusses about the services of Trip Tern, differentiators, challenges faced and plans ahead. Read the interview below.
What’s “Trip Tern” into? Why was this product needed and what problem are you trying to solve?
Trip Tern is an automatic algorithm based trip planner, customized to the user’s interest, duration and budget. It provides detailed information about the places of attractions, allowing the user to know the place before visiting. User can also share and view their friend’s albums/trips from their profile.
Our market research found that following are the biggest pain points for any traveler:
1. Lack of end-to-end trip planning solutions
2. Limited custom solutions
3. Limited information on events / nearby places
4. No language conversion apps
5. Books / manual guide don’t consider transit time between places
Current solutions in the market are trip booking solutions like Yatra, Expedia but they do not customize the trip according to user’s need. As a result, an average traveler visits around 22 websites and talks to 6-8 friends to prepare his trip and it takes about 30 hours only to prepare the trip itinerary.
Further our thoughts were backed by following facts from recent survey by Travelport:
1. There’s a dire need for collaborative planning tool for travelers
2. Prospective travelers expect their trip planners to provide them information not only about famous destinations but also about unexplored places nearby
3. Lack of centralized ticketing, booking, itinerary makes the process time consuming
4. No dedicated social platform for travel to organize trip info (pictures, videos, blogs etc).
When did you launch the product?
We sent invites to our registered users on 6 Dec 2012 and formally launched on 15 Dec.
Tell us about your founders?
An ex-Microsoft and Oracle Employee, Anupam has worked on a number of complex applications ranging from creating classifiers for the search engine queries to developing Neural Network algorithm.
Worked at India Software Labs and IBM on a number of projects in the web/desktop domian. He was the Single point of Contact for Composite Applications in Expeditor Team. He had an admit to pursue Masters in Financial Economics from Oxford University, but instead decided to work on Trip Tern.
An ex-Oracle Employee, Anand is responsible for designing user interface for the website and integrating it with the backend. With more than 4 years of experience on front end development, Anand has gained experience in Web scripts, JS, PHP, CSS and web technology such as Ruby on the rails, django.
Any information you can share with us on your funding?
We are currently bootstrapped and looking to raise a seed amount for further development.
How is Trip Tern different from other auto-itinerary-creation portals?
If you look at the travel industry, currently there aren’t many websites that work on auto itinerary creation. Ixigo does not have a planner, they just provide a listing (as tripadvisor) and showcase it as a trip planner. Internationally, solution like Tripomatic only suggest the first 3 places and expects the user to prepare his own itinerray. Then there are other sites like Trippy (ask your friends for suggestions), Tourist Eye ( manually create the trip).At Trip Tern, we have our own in-house developed algorithm (to generate trips) that also collects data and ranks the places in a city based on the popularity. We do not require any manual intervention from the users end.
When companies like MyGola.com have a travel expert team to help travellers plan their itinerary, how accurate you think your algorithm based trip creation is?
Our system does not need any manual intervention and is available FREE to the users. We are constantly optimizing the backend algorithm to increase the accuracy of our algorithm. Solutions like Mygola use travel experts to build itinerary, but the “experts” bias always comes into play (assume you have never been to Paris and ask the expert about the best bars in Paris so their reply would be based on their interests).
We are currently trying to add social information of the user into the algorithm to improve the trip experience (likes / dislikes, interests, places where friends traveled). These factors when implemented would give a better customized itinerary to the user. Also, we would be getting traveler / local guide feedback to provide more information about the places.
Did anyone discourage you that Trip Tern is not needed or social-travel / itinerary-creation is too crowded space and why you still went ahead and launched Trip Tern?
Initially when we started the venture, we got feedback from our mentors. The travel space is a bit crowded but considering the fact that the online travel industry is about 330+ billion worldwide there is a lot of opportunity. Also the current focus is only on trip bookings and the user wants more information to build his perfect trip, which currently he has to do manually.
We were told if over a period of time we could optimize our algorithm further by incorporating human factors (using AI / datamining techniques to understand the likes and dislikes of the user) and also adding more features Trip Tern could develop into a major force as it will reduce the planning hassles. So, the result lies in the execution in coming months.
Who are your competitors?
If you look at the main solutions provided, currently they are divided into two sections:
Static: Tripadvisor, OTAs, Mygola. They are recommendation based sites and do not provide the optimized solutions. We have discussed the issues with them earlier i.e. the most visited places are the one covered the lesser known get lost somewhere in all this.
Dynamic: Here comes solutions such as Tripomatic etc. They too are still in nascent stage and are not automatic (require the user to pick destinations, therefore is not beneficial for a user who does not have information about the place)
What’s the plan for Trip Tern for next 18 to 24 months?
Over the next 12-24 months we are planning to focus on becoming the single source of information for any travelers need. Trip Tern will aggressively gain breadth by adding more cities to its database and depth of information by adding more city specific information such as weather, transport, local language glossaries, more sites of interest etc. Also, the team plans to release its interactive mobile based planning solution next year for our users while on travel.
How are travellers reacting towards Trip Tern so far?
The feedback we have received so far is encouraging. We have got requests to add more cities and also more features like integrating reservation systems. We even got people asking us to add some African cities into the solution.
Author: Karthick Prabu